Friday, April 12, 2024

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey Fumbled It All Away

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We love Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey here at The Fandomentals. It received the most votes of all the entries on our list of the best games of 2018. Then yesterday happened. For those who haven’t heard, a new DLC dropped. A DLC that forces your Kassandra or Alexios into parenthood. And not just parenthood, but parenthood and a relationship with specific characters of the opposite sex. You don’t even get to choose who you have your baby with.

After dozens, if not over a hundred hours playing Kassandra and Alexios your way, the choice is stripped from you.

assassin's creed: odyssey kass and rox

Odyssey spent a not-significant amount of its promotion on player choice not just in the narrative, but in the love life of its main character, whichever one you chose. Want to have sex with men? Women? Both? Neither? It’s up to you. Your character’s sexuality was entirely up to the player. The game offers plenty of choices and opportunities, as well, to shape your character however you want them to be.

This didn’t work out perfectly. Many of the romances feel a bit shallow, and there are plenty of players lamenting that they can’t settle down with their favorite romance (Roxana, I love you). Still, this was a huge draw for LGBTQ gamers. The chance to have your Alexios or Kassandra be gay, bi, pan, or whatever you wanted. You could be a badass, buff, queer mercenary trekking around ancient Greece and even staff and decorate your ship to fit your sexual preferences. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey went a long way in giving queer gamers the kind of representation I’m not sure exists anywhere else.

Then Ubisoft stripped it from them with Episode 2 of Legacy of the First Blade. There are problems with this narrative choice far beyond its dismissal of the player’s romantic choices, such as its placement within the larger narrative, its inconsistency with the impact the shared past for Alexios or Kassandra has on them, or the fact that from what I see, barely anyone even likes Natakas, let alone wants a family romance with him.

Worst of all, the Achievement/Trophy unlocked upon completion is named “Growing Up.” It’s the final nail in the coffin for the disrespect shown towards LGBTQ gamers who already had good reason to feel upset. To imply that your Kassandra or Alexios only truly “grew up” after settling into heteronormative romance is the ultimate sort of disrespect and invalidation. Because clearly any queer thoughts simply mean you’re immature and just need a baby. I doubt Ubisoft meant it that way, but the implication exists all the same.

Some may think that the backlash from those who play Alexios or Kassandra as gay is dismissive of those who do not. However, Legacy of the First Blade also dismisses their choices as well. Speaking for myself, my Alexios is only sexually interested in women. That doesn’t mean I want a baby with this particular woman if I want a baby at all. My Alexios would never do to this child what he will have to do later within the narrative. This isn’t just a bad choice because of the disrespect shown to a specific set of gamers. We all had the choice taken from us in a game heavily promoting player choice.

But why isn’t that enough? Does it not say something terrible when the instinct exists to dismiss the anger of LGBTQ gamers? Their anger and betrayal should be enough of a controversy all its own. Odyssey promised them something and then took it away.

Ubisoft quickly apologized and stated that the final chapter of the DLC will make sense of this development, but I can’t see how it repairs the damage done already. Short of making it a weird dream your Alexios or Kassandra has before waking up next to the love interest of your choice, there’s no taking back the way your choices were dismissed and insulted by both the plot and the name of the Achievement/Trophy.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey still exists as significant progress for representation in gaming. You can avoid the DLC entirely and maintain your Kassandra and Alexios as whoever you want them to be. Suffering a significant sales disappointment for this DLC would be exactly the response needed for Ubisoft to understand their blunder. Make no mistake; this was a huge blunder. There were so many ways they could have included this plot point without completely invalidating and insulting the identities Odyssey’s players. I hope Ubisoft and everyone else learns from this.

They were so close to perfection. And just like that, so far away.

Images Courtesy of Ubisoft

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