Assassin’s Creed Odyssey offers more player freedom than any other game in the series, including letting you steer your protagonist’s sexuality. As a feature, it was widely praised, and Ubisoft have proudly marketed the game on how much it respects and reacts to player freedom. Unfortunately, the latest chapter of the Legacy Of The First Blade DLC undermines this in favour of leading the player into an inescapable ‘canon’ heterosexual relationship. Understandably, some players are upset, to the point where Ubisoft have issued an apology and a statement on the issue. Potential spoilers abound below.
Update: Kotaku have a more detailed statement from Odyssey creative director Jonathan Dumont, which you can find below.
While I’ll try to avoid spoiling too much (Eurogamer go into more detail here), during the second episode of Legacy Of The First Blade, the game remembers that it’s got that whole plot thread going about lineages and genetic memory and even extraterrestrial bloodlines. In allowing Kassandra or Alexios to be as gay as they want, Ubisoft appear to have written themselves into a corner, and their solution is for your hero of choice to settle down – albeit briefly – and have a kid. That’s one heck of a twist, and a very major character choice taken out of the player’s hands.
Responding to Eurogamer’s questions on the issue, Ubisoft gave two statements, provided here together:
“We strive to give players choice whenever possible in Odyssey and apologise to those surprised by the events in this episode. Without spoiling it, you will engage in an important relationship as part of a set story. The motivation behind this relationship is yours to explore in game and will be reflected in your character’s story arc. There is one episode left in Legacy of the First Blade which will tie your character’s actions together.
We don’t want to reveal too much right now, but we have always tried to keep the story inclusive of people of all sexual orientations, and players will be able to choose their motivations behind this particular narrative depending on their sexual preferences. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was developed by people of all sexual orientations, backgrounds, genders and beliefs, and we have tried to reflect that within the game.”
While it’s nice that they’ve acknowledged this revelation may have caught players unawares, I’m honestly not sure what kind of quirk of writing could extricate them from between this rock and a hard place. The die is cast, and Alexios or Kassandra (whichever you played) now has a child. If their answer is that the child was conceived entirely out of necessity, that’s arguably even worse. Personally, I’d have resolved it with some ancient cloning/gene-splicing device – voila, instant baby! If it’s good enough for Homestuck (I’m only half joking), it’s good enough for Assassin’s Creed.
And here’s the extended statement from Jonathan Dumont, credit to Kotaku.
“Alexios/Kassandra realizing their own mortality and the sacrifice Leonidas and Myrrine made before them to keep their legacy alive, felt the desire and duty to preserve their important lineage. Our goal was to let players choose between a utilitarian view of ensuring your bloodline lived on or forming a romantic relationship. We attempted to distinguish between the two but could have done this more carefully as we were walking a narrow line between role-play choices and story, and the clarity and motivation for this decision was poorly executed. As you continue the adventure in [the] next episode Bloodline, please know that you will not have to engage in a lasting romantic relationship if you do not desire to.
We have read your responses online and taken them to heart. This has been a learning experience for us. Understanding how attached you feel to your Kassandra and your Alexios is humbling and knowing we let you down is not something we take lightly. We’ll work to do better and make sure the element of player choice in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey carries through our DLC content so you can stay true to the character you have embodied throughout.”
As Ubisoft say, there is another episode yet to come in the Legacy of The First Blade arc, followed by a second three-episode run – The Fate Of Atlantis – to wrap things up. Of course, that’s just the paid DLC, included in the season pass. Ubisoft’s free updates for the game have been impressive so far, including a number of new side-stories and several mythic monsters to go hunting.