E3 2014: No Female Assassins in ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’ Isn’t As Bad As You Think

By June 13, 2014
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As you’ve probably all heard by now, Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed: Unity have come under fire for abandoning the idea of female assassins in co-op mode because “it was too much work,” which caused an immediate backlash from the gaming community (myself included).

Now I’m here to eat my slice of crow. Know how they say, “Always look before you leap?” I should’ve followed that very good advice.

Allow me to explain.

The Monday before E3 (known as “Day Zero”) is filled with media briefings from Sony, Xbox, EA, Ubisoft, and more. So when Ubisoft unveiled footage from the highly anticipated Assassin’s Creed: Unity (set during the French Revolution), some questions were raised about the absence of a female assassin in the game’s four-player co-op mode.

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When Megan Farokhmanesh of Polygon spoke with Ubisoft’s creative director Alex Amancio, she was apparently told that initially female assassins were planned but the reality was, “It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work.” Level designer Bruno St-Andre admitting in a different interview with the site that, “We started, but we had to drop it. I cannot speak for the future of the brand, but it was dear to the production team, so you can expect that it will happen eventually in the brand.”

So of course the backlash was immediate, but after seeing the demo up close and personal yesterday while at E3, I’m changing my tune just a tad. Check out this footage of the co-op gameplay:

 

As you can see, EVERYONE plays as lead assassin Arno dressed in the gear of their choosing – and while a female Arno would’ve been nice, it doesn’t change the beautiful graphics and improved gameplay Ubisoft has put into the game. I mean, severed heads, people.

The reason I wish I would’ve looked at the footage before jumping on the “F Ubisoft” bandwagon is the fact that you’re really only viewing your customized Arno from the back and even when you do rotate, all you see is chin…so what does it matter what gender it belongs to? And if I’m going to play as a female assassin, I want her to speak and look damn good while taking out suckas before they even knew I did it.

In an official statement to Kotaku, Ubisoft made it known that:

We recognize the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative. Assassin’s Creed is developed by a multicultural team of various faiths and beliefs and we hope this attention to diversity is reflected in the settings of our games and our characters.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is focused on the story of the lead character, Arno. Whether playing by yourself or with the co-op Shared Experiences, you the gamer will always be playing as Arno, complete with his broad range of gear and skill sets that will make you feel unique.

aveline de grandpre

With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline de Grandpre (pictured above), Connor, Adewale and Altair in Assassin’s Creed games and we continue to look at showcasing diverse characters. We look forward to introducing you to some of the strong female characters in Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

That last bit brings up some valid points; last year, gamers and journos praised Ubisoft for their diversity, this year it’s, “how DARE you?!”

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Honestly, ladies, what would you rather have: a co-op character who doesn’t speak OR the possibility of the appearance of Charlotte Corday, aka l’ange de l’assassinat (“The Angel of Assassination”) – famous for murdering politician/journalist/sh**stirrer Jean-Paul Marat (above) by stabbing him to death while he was in the bath – in a DLC?

Many other women I spoke to on the showfloor at E3 agreed, with many of them talking more about the POV from the freshly severed head and how vast the game’s world truly is, and I must admit, I watched most of the demo with my mouth agape in fascination.

I know my views are going to draw some fire from my sisterhood, but I’m telling y’all: good things come to those who wait. I have a feeling Ubisoft’s going to make this right. Until then, I reserve all future judgment until the game’s release this October.

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What do you think? Do you agree, or am I to be sent to the guillotine?

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee
  • apocryph

    While these are all good gestures the crux of the response seems to be the notion of women as a feature rather than a core element. Yes, Aveline was a great gesture, but the game still represents a deviation from the norm rather than the norm. Those who want to play as a woman character have one option in a series of men characters. Most of us know that to be the status quo and even accept that things are changing slowly.

    However, it’s a backward step to continue to be treating women in the game as disposable features rather than essential components. The fact that the idea of a playable woman charecter was suggested is progress. The fact that it was tossed in favour of other game aspects demonstrates the perceived importance of the demographic to Ubisoft (and other makers who pull the same stunt).

    I’m sure it’s a pretty game, and I’m sure this was all more PR gaffe than representative of the reality of the decision-making process, but it’s hard to discount the message it sends to women gamers and the feelings it evokes.

    • This is a very well-measured take. I like it. Here’s hoping Ubisoft can step it up and actually make some real progress on their next entry instead of just talking about how much they’d like to.

    • Cricket Lee

      They’ll come around; I’ve got a feeling.