Assassin’s Creed Shadows’ Best Weapon Is Absolutely Brutal

Naoe, the shinobi playable character of Assassin's Creed Shadows, is a force to be reckoned with, and we got an inside look at her gameplay.

Naoe in Assassin's Creed Shadows
Photo: Ubisoft

A week after sitting in on a hands-off preview for Assassin’s Creed Shadows at Summer Game Fest, I still can’t stop thinking about the very best weapon in shinobi Naoe’s arsenal: the kusarigama. Plucked right out of 16th century Japanese history, the time period in which the game is set, the chain-sickle is a devastating tool of death that adds interesting (and impressively acrobatic) variations to classic Assassin’s Creed melee combat.

The lethal combos Naoe can perform with the kusarigama even had me reminiscing back to my Castlevania days, when chaining attacks together to dispatch monstrous bosses with the Morning Star was the ultimate way to spend your weekend in the ’90s. Of course, Assassin’s Creed Shadows is coming out in 2024 and brings modern flourishes to its chained weapon, such as the way Naoe can use the kusarigama to restrain enemies and flip them over before finishing them off with a sickle to the face. Or if you prefer showing off, she can use the kusarigama to slide between her enemy’s legs and bring them down with a quick pull of the chain.

The 45 minutes of gameplay the press watched behind closed doors at SGF followed both protagonists—samurai Yasuke (the first playable character in the series who is based on a real historical figure) and Naoe—as they navigate a city under the grip of a corrupt daimyo named Lord Hayashi. After tracking Hayashi to the walled off Fukuchiyama Castle by following a series of clues, the Ubisoft dev behind the controls showed us how players might approach the assassination differently based on which character they choose to infiltrate the castle.

Yasuke takes a more direct and brutal approach, taking on guards head-on, smashing through doors, and using his heavier weapons—such as a spear and a war club called a kanabō—to dismember and behead his enemies. Oh yeah, the Yasuke playthrough showcased just how far Assassin’s Creed is really pushing gore in this installment. Yasuke’s finishers are gruesome as hell, as heads roll and blood splatters everywhere.

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Meanwhile, it’s clear Naoe is meant to be the stealthier of the game’s two protagonists and the one who more closely resembles earlier assassin protagonists in the series. Naoe’s style favors taking down enemies silently from the shadows, bushes, and rooftops with a combination of shuriken, kunai, and her hidden blade. She is the better climber of the pair, even outfitted with a grappling hook that helps her quickly get above ground and away from danger, with stylish animations to boot, as she performs somersaults from one rooftop to the next.

The first go-round for Naoe played out in the familiar Assassin’s Creed style, as Naoe sneaked past guards from above and by going prone and crawling through the grass (a new movement mechanic for the series) to reach her target undetected. Lord Hayashi was dead before he ever knew there was an intruder in his castle. But then Ubisoft showed us an alternate path for Naoe, one that saw her walk right up to the front door of the estate with her katana and start slicing her way through the daimyo’s men before pulling out the kusarigama to wreck house—literally, since the game features destructible environments, a welcome leap forward for the series.

When surrounded by sword-wielding opponents, Naoe can swing the chain over her head to push her enemies back before launching the metal ball at the end of the chain at one of their heads. She moves lightning fast during these sequences, thrusting the sickle part of her weapon into one guard before turning to disarm another and wrap them up in the chain. For Naoe’s foe, it’s now too late.

The gameplay presentation left me wanting to spend a lot more time with the kusarigama. It’ll be neat to (presumably) feel the weight of the swinging chain as well as the impact of a direct hit to an enemy’s face through a controller’s rumble. Like the best Assassin’s Creed protagonists, it’s clear Naoe has a few unique tricks up her sleeve that I can’t wait to put to good use.

Assassin’s Creed Shadows is out on Nov. 15 for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.