We Spoke To Assassin’s Creed Shadows’ Director About Finally Bringing The Series To Japan

Plus more on the dual protagonists and dynamic weather.

It might be one of a handful confirmed Assassin’s Creed titles currently in development, alongside Hexe, Jade, and others, however none are as imminent as Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the developer’s long overdue first foray into the culture and storied history of Japan.

Following its leak and subsequent reveal last month, we were able to partake in a behind-closed-doors, hands-off presentation on the game. 

It’s shaping up to be a mammoth project, sharing more similarities with Valhalla than perhaps any other game in the series, and we were lucky enough to speak with the man with his hands on the wheel, the game’s director Charles Benoit. 

I get the sense that, more than any Assassin’s Creed game before that Shadows is taking some big swings. Can you go into some of the things you’re doing differently this time around?

CB: First of all, we’ve got the dual characters, that’s our big thing where we’re able to split the gameplay into two parts. There’s also the dynamic world, also the seasons, so it has a new impact on gameplay but also how you see and unlock missions. 

There are also a few new things that play into the stealth, which you would have seen in the demo. There’s the grappling hook, as well as an entire dynamic perception that’s affected by light and shadows. Those are just a few of the things we’ve changed. 

assassins creed shadows

I feel through Yasuke I’m validated as a brute force sort of player. I’m no good at keeping to the long grass and hiding. Did the decision to include dual characters stem from story requirement, gameplay requirement, or both? 

CB: It’s really both, when we looked at the two fantasies—the samurai and shinobi—both were equally cool for us so we wanted to have both. They come from different places, from different social hierarchies so story wise it makes total sense to have both. 

But for gameplay it’s also something I wanted for players to kind of challenge them. Because if you can fight as well as you can use stealth there’s real no consequence to trying and getting caught and so we’re able to push both respective options. 

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And what made Yasuke the most compelling lead for a game set in Feudal Japan? 

CB: There’s a couple of things. Looking at him, he’s clearly a presence. If you compare him to any other samurai, he stands out and so including him to, again, split up that gameplay experience is one of the reasons. 

In terms of story, when we were reading about this character, Oda Nobunaga, there’s a relationship there between the two so it gives one perspective on the events of the game to have one on the side of Oda in Yasuke, and the other in Naoe on the opposite side being crushed by Oda’s tactics. 

It allowed us a great perspective on this historical character. 

A lot of effort always goes into realising the cultures in Assassin’s Creed games, what lengths did you go to in realising Japan? 

CB: From day one we have a historian with us to read up and help pinpoint what’s interesting. She had plenty of expert contacts around the world—and in Japan, obviously—and we’d lean on that to validate and confirm any questions we had about the period. 

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The last few games paid special focus to their mythologies—Egyptian, Norse, and so on. Can we expect Shadows to take a similar approach? 

CB: For now we’re leaving it aside because we feel like the samurai and the shinobi are kind of mythological in some way, the imagery of both are really strong so we didn’t feel like anything else was needed.

I also feel like people are already familiar with the myths of Greece, more so than they’d know of Japan. But you never know, maybe in the future. 

One of the complaints people levelled at Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pertained to the game’s content bloat. Was there an effort to trim up the experience and add value to every minute spent there? 

CB: So the way we structure the story we give the player a lot of autonomy on what they want to tackle, and in what order. You’ve got the targets you’ll need to pursue on the main path—I obviously don’t want to spoil the story—but it’s up to you to just complete what you want, whether that’s everything or focusing on the storytelling is up to you. 

And with so many irons in the fire right now for Assassin’s Creed is right now an exciting time to be a part of the franchise? 

CB: Yeah, it’s really exciting to be a part of, especially for Japan. 

It’s been a long time coming…

CB: Yeah, and I remember when I first started in the video game industry I saw the first Assassin’s Creed, and I thought: “I want to make this game.” Of course, I was imagining it in Japan all the way back then. So I’m super happy to be working on this project.

Onto the seasons and how they impact the gameplay, to be clear I’m imagining Banjo-Kazooie’s Click Clock Woods here. Can we expect variation in the map to the extent that something might be available in Summer that isn’t quite gettable in Winter? 

CB: Using the demo that you saw, I’ll give you an example of some things you might expect. You would have seen there’s a pond you can use to infiltrate. In winter, it’s completely frozen over so you can’t use this and if you run on it you can even slip. 

It does change the layout a bit season to season and switches up where you can hide, enemies have different patrols—they also have different behaviours in the winter when it is cold. But yeah, there’s little things where you’re able to use different things in your surroundings. 

So is it possible for players to play that mission we saw at different times of the year in different seasons? How fast do the seasons elapse? 

CB: Well we’re still tweaking it, but as you play in the background we have a timer similar to the day-night cycle which we divided in these chunks and so it creates the opportunity and possibility for outcomes like you’ve described, depending on the order in which you tackle things.

You can read our in-depth preview of Assassin’s Creed Shadows right here.


Brodie was a guest of Ubisoft with travel and accommodation covered for the purpose of this interview.