Last year’s entry into the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, recently received its first piece of DLC expansion, Legacy of the First Blade. This DLC contains three separate chapters, each exploring the history of the first person to ever use the ‘Hidden Blade’ and the formation of the titular Assassins. To developer Ubisoft’s dismay, Shadow Heritage, the recently released second chapter of the Legacy of the First Blade DLC has sparked a massive wave of criticism due to the chapter’s ending.
[SPOILER WARNING: The below features spoilers for the ending of the Shadow Heritage DLC chapter]
In the first chapter, Hunted, players are introduced to Darius, one of the earliest precursors to the Assassin Brotherhood. Players are also introduced to Darius’ child: If playing as Kassandra, players will meet Darius’ son Natakas. If the player has chosen to play as Alexios, Darius will instead introduce his daughter Neema.
At the end of Shadow Heritage, upon defeating The Tempest, players are then presented with a series of cut scenes depicting their marriage to Darius’ respective offspring. Players are then shown, after a quick fetch mission, that Kassandra or Alexios, and thus the player character, has had child with either Natakas or Neema.
However, this outcome is in no way affected by the player’s choice. Regardless of how many times you rebuff Darius and his child’s attempts to bond with you, or whether the player had pursued a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, the player will automatically marry a partner of the opposite sex and conceive a child.
Criticism for revoking play choice
Many fans were quick to criticize Ubisoft for revoking player choice in regard to such monumental life events, with many noting the blatant erasure of gay identities the ending forces upon players. Some fans pointed to a statement made by Assassin’s Creed Odyssey creative director Jonathan Dumont in an interview with Entertainment Weekly as hypocritical and even a blatant lie in the face of the DLC’s ending:
“Since the story is choice-driven, we never force players in romantic situations they might not be comfortable with,” Dumont says. “Players decide if they want to engage with characters romantically. I think this allows everybody to build the relationships they want, which I feel respects everybody’s roleplay style and desires.”
Melissa MacCoubrey, the game’s narrative director, explains the “goal from the beginning was to create an experience that could please the long-time fans of the franchise while encouraging new players to step inside the Ancient Greek world and discover the franchise for the first time themselves.” She continues, “As Jonathan says, same-sex romance in our game is part of the roleplay options and is there if you want to engage with it. From the first reviews and impressions we’re reading it seems our players are happy with the way it’s presented.”
Addressing negative backlash
In the face of the negative backlash being leveled at Ubisoft, Dumont issued a statement on the Ubisoft forums apologizing for the error and explaining why the compulsory heterosexual marriage was forced upon players:
Reading through player responses of our new DLC for Legacy of the First Blade, Shadow Heritage, we want to extend an apology to players disappointed by a relationship your character partakes in. The intention of this story was to explain how your character’s bloodline has a lasting impact on the Assassins, but looking through your responses it is clear that we missed the mark.
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.
Since issuing the above statement, Ubisoft has confirmed to Kotaku that Shadow Heritage will not be changed, but the achievement/trophy obtained for completing the chapter, ‘Growing Up’, will be renamed as to avoid inferring that being gay or not having children is not ‘grown up.’