Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was released in October 2018 for Xbox One, PS4, and Windows. In this game, Layla Hassan returns as the modern-day protagonist, researching the Spear of Leonidas. Players are able to choose between a male protagonist, Alexios, and a female protagonist, Kassandra, to play the entirety of the ancient storyline with. They are also able to choose the protagonist's romantic relationships without limitations on gender, which was a draw for many LGBTQ fans.
The plotline of Odyssey features whichever character the player picks as the older of two siblings, who was separated from their family at the age of seven and then raised by a man named Markos. As the story begins, they are a mercenary on the island of Kephallonia, and soon leave on a grand quest while Athens and Sparta wage war. Whichever character was not selected as the protagonist is their younger sibling, and later becomes known as Deimos, a warrior who is linked to the antagonist organization The Cult of Kosmos.
Kassandra/Kyra became a popular ship even pre-release, due to a cutscene teaser video featuring the two. As of November 2019 the top tagged romantic ships on AO3 for Kassandra are Kassandra/Kyra, Brasidas/Kassandra, Daphnae/Kassandra, and Aspasia/Kassandra. The top tagged romantic ships for Alexios are Alexios/Thaletas, Alexios/Brasidas, Alexios/Lykaon, and Alexios/Reader. Kassandra/Kyra and Daphnae/Kassandra are also common on Fanfiction.net.
Ubisoft staff repeatedly emphasized the key focus of Odyssey was player choice. The plotline is non-linear, differing hugely from prior AC games which had the player live out a mostly-fixed series of historical events. This is explained in-canon as the Animus doing "extrapolated data reconstruction" from a very old and degraded DNA sample with an estimated accuracy of 76.3%. The player can freely choose to support Sparta or Athens in war-related missions, up to changing which side the nation-states within Greece will be controlled by, and can even support Sparta one mission and Athens the next.
As part of its non-linearity, Odyssey is the first AC game to offer the player different dialogue options when speaking to NPCs, including romantic dialogues which can lead to an off-screen sexual encounter. This led some fans to compare Odyssey to Bioware's Mass Effect series.
In an interview with GameSpot, Odyssey's game director Scott Phillips said:
Ultimately, giving more players the chance to feel that the protagonist is their character and that they are making their choices is key to what we set out to deliver with Odyssey--a game where promoting player choice was central to every decision we made. [...] From player dialog, to NPC lines, to player gear, to animations--the choice to pursue male and female protagonists certainly impacted many aspects of the game.
As an example, on Odyssey we built a huge new interactive dialog system, and this actually gave us the ability to build it from the get-go with that option for male or female protagonists. So in a way it was easier than it would’ve been to try and retrofit it into an existing system.
Another example was on the writing side where any line that used a specific protagonist name or mentioned a gendered pronoun had to be written and recorded twice and had to be selected at run time to match the choice the player had made. For example "Get him!" needed to have an alternate line recorded and technically set up to allow for the NPCs to say "Get her!" when the player was playing Kassandra. This certainly put additional work on the audio and writing teams but because of our experience on Syndicate we already had the technical knowledge and basis for how to accomplish this.Ultimately, everyone on the team was fully invested in this from the beginning and did everything they could to make it happen--which has given us the great results we have in Odyssey and allowed players to be more connected than ever to their protagonist.
Phillips also indicated that future AC games would continue to feature protagonist choices:
I think it would be a mistake to limit our players, limit our fanbase from as many people as possible. I don't know why we would go back. We should continue pushing in this direction, bring in more players, more fans to enjoy this experience and make it their own experience.
Shadow Heritage controversy
Despite Phillips' assurances that player choices were of utmost importance, the second episode of the DLC "Legacy of the First Blade" ("Shadow Heritage", released January 2019) ignores any character choices with regards to the protagonist's sexual relationships, and forces them to have a child with a specific NPC, even if the player refuses the romantic dialogue option. The storyline trophy/achievement given when this happens was named "Growing Up". LGBTQ and feminist gamers across the internet took offense to this plot decision.
In a Reddit thread created within a day of Shadow Heritage's release, star621 stated:
I am so pissed about the ending. I chose not to romance Natakas and they still made me have a baby with him. I sent his ass on his way and rejected the bullshit “mercenary settles down” story. This is fucked up. It’s sexist to force your first playable female character to have a child. She can’t just be a mercenary and a fighter, she has to be a mother. On top of it all, to call the trophy “Growing Up” because you decided to let some guy knock you up is even more sexist. Women who choose not to have children are often told that we need to “grow up” and have kids. Or, even better, we’ll grow up and then realize we want kids.
Star621's OP in the Reddit thread was later removed by r/assassinscreed moderators, and the thread was locked, although the moderator did state "This post did not violate our rules".
In the same thread, other users commented:
Glad I decided to risk the DLC spoiler to read this, I'm definitely gonna skip the DLCs now. This is just really lazy and dumb on Ubisoft's part. Either stick to linear stories or give us total freedom. This weird in-between bullshit just makes all the optional dialogue and "choices" feel like a complete waste of our time.
Some AC fans defended Ubisoft by saying that regardless of orientation, the Misthios needed to have a child in order to pass on their genetic memories for the modern-day Assassins to view in the Animus, but other fans rebutted this by stating that current AC lore didn't require this, and that staying true to the lore was not more important than being respectful of diverse players. As summarized in one Tumblr thread:
everyone trying to come up with all these in universe lore friendly explanations for why its okay that ubisoft forced players that were playing a lesbian or bi character to marry a man and have a baby can choke tbh
Nymphomachy on Twitter stated:
I mean, narratively sexually violating somebody's player character by forcing them to mother a child with a man is pretty much the kind of thing that only happens because the developers are way too chickenshit to subvert cisnormativity and provide trans representation
Like, really? In your ultra-stylized game world in which there's magical bloodlines that people access via quantum time travel, you can't come up with a way for two chicks to make a kid? Or two guys? Really, motherfuckers?
Maybe not a way that makes 𝑔𝑔ers happy, but who caresAnd that's without unpacking the entire conceit of being FORCED to have a baby in the first place...
The hashtags #notmyKassandra, #notmyAlexios, #notmymisthios, #notmyOdyssey, and #PatchOdysseyEpisode2 began to be used on posts about this issue. Some writers quickly turned out fix-it fics to resolve Ubisoft's mistake.
Odyssey's creative director Jonathan Dumont had stated in October 2018 that "Since the story is choice-driven, we never force players in romantic situations they might not be comfortable with." After the "Shadow Heritage" upset, Dumont issued an apology, saying "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." An unnamed Ubisoft representative told Kotaku "We share the frustration of players who find this offensive and the achievement/trophy name will be changed when DLC 1.3 patch is available."
On January 25, news came that not only would the "Growing Up" trophy be renamed, but Ubisoft would also be working with GLAAD to make changes to dialogue and cutscenes of the DLC "to better reflect the nature of the relationship for players selecting a non-romantic storyline" and "to improve aspects of future content releases."
On February 19, the "Growing Up" trophy/achievement was renamed "Blood of Leonidas", with the description changed from "Start a family." to "Continue the bloodline."
- How Odyssey is changing the face of Assassin's Creed, James Batchelor, GamesIndustry.biz, September 26 2018
- Why Assassin's Creed Odyssey Lets You Play As A Man Or A Woman, Eddie Makuch, GameSpot, October 16 2018
- Assassin's Creed Odyssey's newest DLC ignores gay characters, Kirk McKeand, VG247, 17 January 2019
- (Spoilers) The DLC Ending... (RANT (Archive version from January 15 2019) (Archive version from February 8 2019)
- Tumblr thread by lezzyharpy, saxypunch, dadmondmiles, and fanciestdesmondstache
- Twitter thread by @Nymphomachy, January 17 2019
- Hey #NotMyKassandra followers, I sort of finished a new pair of fix-it fics. You can find em on http://ff.net or AO3., L.M Juniper, January 20 2019
- Nick Romano (9 October 2018). "Ok, Cupid: An ode to same-sex romancing in 'Assassin's Creed Odyssey'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- Totilo, Stephen (16 January 2019). "Assassin's Creed Odyssey Director Says 'We Missed The Mark' With Controversial DLC Relationship [Update]". Kotaku. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
- UbiPhobos (25 January 2019). "[SPOILER] DLC 1.2 - Production Update | Forums". forums.ubi.com. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
- Shea, Brian (25 January 2019). "Ubisoft Worked With GLAAD On Upcoming Changes To Assassin's Creed Odyssey Shadow Heritage DLC". Game Informer. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
- Rebecca Smith (February 19, 2019). "Controversial Assassin's Creed Odyssey Growing Up Trophy Renamed". TrueTrophies. Retrieved February 25, 2019.