It’s been well documented that Ubisoft has had major issues with how certain employees treated others (especially women) as well as HR not doing all they could for those impacted. As a fan of Ubisoft’s games, this is hard to bear. My heart goes out to the many people who have already come forward to share their story. Stay strong. Hopefully, this leads to significant change in the industry.
Over the past week, another story has come to light that impacts many of the recent Assassin’s Creed games from certain (now former) leaders at that company. I was shocked to learn that in many of the recent titles, the company reduced and minimized the roles of certain female characters.
What’s crazy about this is that a bunch of characters mentioned were ones that I always believed should have had a bigger role in their games. Badass women who, at the time playing each game, I really believed would be featured in some way, either later in the game or perhaps a DLC expansion. According to reports, that may have once been planned for the characters below but was nixed in favor of male leads or a different story direction entirely.
Let’s dive into this subject a bit.
Assassin’s Creed Unity – Elise de la Serre
While Assassin’s Creed Unity launched with a great many issues, one bright spot that stuck out to me was Elise de la Serre and her relationship to protagonist Arno Dorian. Meeting as children during a business trip to the Palace of Versailles, the two became fast friends and eventual lovers. What’s ironic is that Arno’s father was a member of the Assassin Brotherhood while Elise’s dad (and Arno’s adoptive father) was the Grand Master of French Templars. While the two were on opposite sides of the conflict, they saw through their differences to work together for the greater good.
What I personally loved about Elise is that she was pretty much the exact opposite of Arno. While he was quiet and reserved, Elise was more outgoing and lively. She was also incredibly adept at swordfighting and fighting for what she believed in. I won’t lie, I was crushed when she didn’t survive the end of the game.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – Evie Frye
Okay, as we all know Evie was actually part of the twin protagonists in Syndicate alongside her brother Jacob. For me, I loved these two characters as they had personality and wit, something that reminded me a lot of Ezio. I liked Jacob a lot, but when you really think about it, Jacob was less Assassin and more brawler.
Evie, on the other hand, was about as close to a classic assassin as you could get, which really made me gravitate to her playstyle. More tactical and thoughtful than her brother, Evie also looks the part of Assassin, wearing the traditional cloaks than her brother’s choice in top hats and belts. She had access to throwing knives, a really cool cane sword, and an ability called Chameleon which let her essentially blend into her surroundings.
Yes, you could switch between the two, but there were times that you couldn’t. According to reports, the original plan was to feature both twins evenly, though at the end of the day, executives forced the developers to change it to a 60/40 split in favor of Jacob.
Since we’re talking about Syndicate, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lydia Frye here as well. She’s a character that, knowing all we know now, seems like she beat the odds that she’s a playable character at all. So who is she? For those who are unaware, Lydia is the granddaughter of Jacob Frye and can be found as a playable character during sequence 6 of the base game. A time anomaly transports the player to World War 1 and a mini-sandbox where Winston Churchill and Lydia work together against a faction of German Templars.
Assassin’s Creed Origins – Aya of Alexandria
The wife of protagonist Bayak immediately left an impression on me. While I enjoyed Bayak as a protagonist and his journey, Aya always proved to be a scene stealer in the limited segments she was featured in. She was a strong willed warrior who, again, committed herself to the assassin’s way of life, unlike her husband who continued to adhere to his status as Medjay. The two were united in finding justice for their murdered son, but their tactics typically had them going in different directions.
If that’s not enough, she took on the name Amunet later in the game, basically the Egyptian goddess of invisibility. She’d go on to create the Hidden Ones (alongside Bayek) who were an ancient assassins order and even took out the likes of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. What did I say, badass, right?
What’s interesting here is that recent reports indicated that Aya was originally going to take over for Bayek who was going to be killed at some point in the story. Instead, her role was reduced significantly and Bayek secured as the primary lead character. I, for one, would have been really intrigued to have seen what sort of force of nature Aya would have turned into attempting to not only avenger her son, but husband as well.
There’s also been discussions about Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey originally being the only protagonist, with Ubisoft Editorial eventually stepping in and having Alexios made playable as well. From all accounts, including myself, Kassandra seems to be the better option and Alexios serving as a better antagonist.
Now, obviously these are not the only women of Assassin’s Creed. I mean, you could make plenty of arguments for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag as well with NPCs like Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I picked these women because they were ones specifically mentioned in the recent reports and, as I mentioned, I specifically thought they’d get more screen time in some way.
Hopefully this is a lesson that the Ubisoft management can learn from. Women protagonists shouldn’t be feared and clearly don’t impact sales in the way at least a few people thought they would. Kassandra alone is proof of that.