Assassin's Creed Shadows isn't even out for 6 months, but Ghost of Tsushima ate its lunch 4 years ago and the superb PC Director's Cut rubs salt in the wound

Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut review
(Image credit: Sucker Punch, Sony)

I've just finished writing PC Gamer's Ghost of Tsushima Director's Cut review and the experience has confirmed one thing very clearly—right now, I couldn't be less excited for Assassin's Creed Shadows.

If Ubisoft had dropped Shadows 10 years ago, when gamers first started asking for a Land of the Rising Sun outing for the series, it might have set my heart ablaze, but in 2024? Not happening.

The problem? Ghost of Tsushima, as my replay of the game has driven home, already did an Assassin's Creed-style game set in Japan four years ago. And it set the bar so high, improving on so many of the typical flaws found in the long-running Ubisoft series and delivering a game of such immense class, that I can't see Shadows even approaching it, let alone improving on it.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Ghost of Tsushima offers everything good that an Assassin's Creed game set in Japan can hope to, and feels like it's already done it better. From the deep and brutally satisfying sword play, the slick and dynamic options for assassinations and ranged combat, through to the diverse collectibles and beautiful open world environment, and onto the cinematic historical narrative: Ghost of Tsushima is a thrilling, mature gaming experience that, from what we've seen, I just can't imagine Shadows matching.

PC gamers also get the complete experience with the Director's Cut, which as well as the main game includes the Iki Island DLC, alongside a smorgasbord of new graphical options such as unlocked framerates, ultra widescreen support, DLSS3 and FSR3 compatibility. This was always a beautiful game but, freed from the console, the old samurai is looking and running better than ever, and the PC version is inarguably the definitive gaming experience.

(Image credit: Sucker Punch, Sony)

The apprentice has become the master

It should be said  that Ghost of Tsushima is blatantly indebted to the Assassin's Creed series, reappropriating large swathes of its open world third-person action adventure experience, tower climbing and all, but that's kind of the problem. It didn't just take huge inspiration, but cut out a lot of the cruft atop it. Why would I want 'Assassin's Creed Japan', but with all the typical Assassin's Creed series nonsense then thrown back on top? Because that's what Shadows looks like, and 17 years of Assassin's Creed games have shown that Ubisoft simply cannot break free of this particular formula.

You know what I mean by nonsense. The overly long, filler-stuffed runtime that seems to prize quantity over quality, the multitudinous staid fetch-this go-there sidequests, the cavalier treatment of historical narrative, the two-dimensional NPCs, the persistently boring Animus Project sections, the MacGuffin-packed conspiracy plot that never actually goes anywhere, the lurching writing quality and voice acting, the microtransactions. It's all so drearily predictable.

Could Assassin's Creed Shadows launch without any of these issues? There's a chance, sure. And could it also outdo Ghost of Tsushima with jaw-dropping swordplay and shinobi power fantasy assassinations? Again, not impossible. But come on: look me in the eye. This is moonshot level improbable, and why I'm struggling to get excited. Isn't Shadows just going to be a slightly worse version of what we've had already with Ghost of Tsushima?

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Where Assassin's Creed Shadows can get the drop on Ghost of Tsushima

Replaying Sucker Punch's Japanese epic has however shown there are areas where Shadows has a chance to best it, though. Ghost of Tsushima was a looker when it originally launched back in 2020 but now, despite the bevy of extra visual options PC gamers have access to in the Director's Cut, there's no doubting that it has limitations. From character models to textures, NPC density to landscape draw distances, Shadows could certainly be the best-looking action-adventure game set in Japan to date, one with real time ray-traced lakes and gorgeous atmospheric particle effects.

Assassin's Creed Shadows could also improve on Ghost of Tsushima's slow pacing, and especially the opening of the game. Everyone loves a well-written story that isn't afraid to go at its own pace, but equally I want to get to the meat of the gameplay as fast as possible. Games that take 10-20 hours to unlock their core moveset can really drag, and Ghost of Tsushima does suffer from that. When you've unlocked multiple blade stances, got a bow and the ability to assassinate and special moves, then Tsushima's combat begins to open up: but before this, you're in dullsville. Ghost of Tsushima railroads the player at a slow pace, and Shadows could definitely improve on that.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Shadows offers two protagonists, which is another story opportunity, though I'm skeptical that we'll get something markedly removed from the usual Templar vs Assassins hokum. The strongest storytelling in the Assassin's Creed series so far has been in parts of Valhalla, so hopefully Shadows can build on that with narratives that make us feel for the two leads, and communicate believable motivations for their actions beyond some rubbish like "the Holy Grail is in Tokyo!"

(Image credit: Sucker Punch)

The final cut

At the end of the day, Assassin's Creed Shadows will sell plenty of copies and be a success: from some, it will even be their first Assassin's Creed game, and there's no denying that coming to the series fresh is going to be a lot of fun. But as for me, I've played almost all the Assassin's Creed games since the original, which these days just looks like a tech demo.

However, I played those games because for a long time there was nothing similar to what they delivered, and certainly nothing actively better. But Sucker Punch lived up to the name and landed one with Ghost of Tsushima, doing an 'Assassin's Creed Japan' years before Ubisoft and delivering a true samurai epic which has now been elevated in the PC Director's Cut. It ate Ubisoft's lunch, to the extent that replaying this is more exciting than the prospect of playing Shadows.

(Image credit: Future)

I'm sure Shadows will be slick, beautiful, and have its own surprises. It just feels like it's a little late to the party, and arriving long after another studio made the same idea, but better. Assassin's Creed has always been, to put it politely, an iterative series. But Ghost of Tsushima has already leaped beyond the Ubisoft model, and shown another way that these open world action games can work. Shadows may well be the setting that Assassin's Creed fans have wanted for some time: but it's going to face a direct comparison with one of the best games in this style of the last decade. Perhaps Ubisoft will surprise us all. But right now Shadows feels like too little, and far too late.

Print Editor

Rob is editor of PC Gamer magazine and has been PC gaming since the early 1990s, an experience that has left him with a life-long passion for first person shooters, isometric RPGs and point and click adventures. Professionally Rob has written about games, gaming hardware and consumer technology for almost twenty years, and before joining the PC Gamer team was deputy editor of, where he oversaw the website's gaming and tech content as well its news and ecommerce teams. You can also find Rob's words in a series of other gaming magazines and books such as Future Publishing's own Retro Gamer magazine and numerous titles from Bitmap Books. In addition, he is the author of Super Red Green Blue, a semi-autobiographical novel about games and gaming culture. Recreationally, Rob loves motorbikes, skiing and snowboarding, as well as team sports such as football and cricket.