“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey” Forced My Lesbian Xena to Have Sex With a Man and Have His Baby and YIKES

With one elfin exception*, I have a hard rule when it comes to video games: I won’t play an RPG unless I can play as a woman. And if there are romantic options within the game, I’ll only romance other women. That was my main problem with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which was otherwise my favorite video game of 2015 — it gave the very first playable woman assassin, kickass tenderheart murder maven Evie, a built-in romantic storyline with a dude, while her twin brother’s storyline was just assembling his own gang and refining his swashbuckling. But last year’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey promised to change all that. With an emphasis on choice and a guarantee that players could spend an entire playthrough as a woman or a man who could romance women or men, it seemed like the Ubisoft had finally heard the cries of the legion of queer fans who wanted to put their money where their protest tweets were and just see themselves reflected in one of the most popular video game franchises of all time.

(*Link of Breath of the Wild, of course, who never even opens his mouth to speak and is easy enough to imagine as a soft butch ninja dreamboat.)

Cassandra: Warrior Princess

In 2014, Assassin’s Creed Unity creative director Alex Amancio infuriated fans when he revealed that Unity was meant to have women assassins but they were cut because “it was really a lot of extra production work.” Four years later, Odyssey‘s creative director Jonathan Dumont was singing a whole new tune. Not only was a playable woman a given, but: “Since the story is choice-driven, we never force players in romantic situations they might not be comfortable with. 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.”

The main game paid off Ubisoft’s pledge, and thirty minutes after meeting Kassandra, my Greek mercenary just trying to survive and make a dime during the chaos of the Peloponnesian War, I had imprinted all over her. A tragic childhood (dropped from a cliff by her own father!), a magical pet eagle (Ikaros!), an option to play as an archer (my favorite style of combat!), and an empathetic disposition despite the trauma she endured as a youth (😭). Plus, she looks and fights and sasses so much like Xena that the first time I started Googling her name to figure out how to upgrade her gear, Google’s first autocomplete suggestion included our favorite queer Warrior Princess. Within two hours of gameplay, I already had the option to flirt unabashedly with another woman.

There are eight entire ladies Kassandra can romance between sowing discord among the Spartans and Athenians, tracking down and assassinating mercenaries who are trying to do the same thing to her, recruiting lieutenants for her ship, waging war on the open sea, and running errands for hungry villagers. All eight of Kassandra’s potential babes are well-written, and sex is even on the table with some of them. I played the entire game as a chaotic good misandrist lesbian do-goody stabber, and by the time I was done, I was a legend in Greece for my skills in battle and my women-wooing abilities. A very satisfying $60 well spent!

And then the second episode of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey‘s DLC, Legacy of the First Blade, landed and ruined everything in one of the most egregious video game storylines I’ve ever seen. Episode two is called Shadow Heritage; it continues Kassandra’s exploration of her feelings about life as a mercenary and allows her to go adventuring with Darius, the first assassin, and his son, Natakas. Unlike the main game, Kassandra can’t ignore romantic storylines completely in Shadow Herritage but she can rebuff every single one of Natakas’ romantic overtures — which I did, of course, because my Kassandra is a lesbian. Despite turning him down repeatedly over the course of the DLC, once we defeated our final enemy, a scenario played in which I was sent to the market to buy groceries and then returned to a formerly abandoned home in the game that had been completely refurbished by Natakas’ so we could comfortably live there together with our son, Elpidios.

I played an entire game as a woman romancing other women, played an entire DLC saying no to the man who was trying to have sex with me — but the game still forced me to have sex with him, have his child, and settle down to be his wife! I cannot overemphasize how jarring it was, what a sucker punch it felt like, to spend 60 hours playing a game as a lesbian, only to have her decision-making ability and lesbianism stripped from her, despite the promises of the game makers and the gameplay up until that point!

The message this sends to the millions of men — especially young men, so many of whom experience the majority of their socialization in gamer culture — is, frankly, shocking. Choice, choice, choice, choice was Ubisoft’s main selling point of Odyssey, aside from the fact that it was an RPG first (and an Assassin’s Creed game second).  So either it never occurred to the developers that a woman character wouldn’t want to end up with a man, or it did occur to them but the player’s (and therefore Kassandra’s) choice didn’t matter. Either “no” wasn’t an option, or “no” didn’t mean no. I honestly almost couldn’t even believe what I was seeing when the ending of Shadow Heritage played out. Presumably not a single lesbian was consulted in any capacity about this highly touted potential lesbian character.

Odyssey‘s creative designer ultimately issued an apology that made me even angrier. He told EW, essentially, that Kassandra didn’t have to love Natakas to have sex with him. Choosing to rebuff his romantic advances was actually choosing a “utilitarian view” of “ensuring [the assassin bloodline] lived on.” I’ll hand it to him: That’s a way to say “forcing a lesbian to have sex with a man” that I’ve never heard before.

I’ve watched almost every show featuring a lesbian or bisexual women in TV history. I’ve been playing video games my entire life. I have scarcely come across a story that felt like a slap in the face. The best Dumont could offer, in terms of future story, is that Kassandra won’t have to stay with Natakas in the next Legacy of the First Blade episode. That doesn’t matter to me; for the first time ever, I won’t finish a video game I started.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle managing editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 864 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. The base game is giving me such queer delight (Kissing ladies! Travelling to Lesbos! Fighting with a labrys! Riding a unicorn!) and is one of my favorite games I’ve played in a long time. I was very bummed to hear about the DLC and only slightly cheered up to see it had immediately caused outrage.

  2. Ugh! I’m currently playing Dragon Age – Origin for the hundredth time and this makes me appreciate it even more. I decided to try Equal Love mod and romance Morrigan this time. Only problem was she wanted my female rogue to impregnate her, I couldn’t get her to have Alistair to do the ritual. So, I had to load an earlier save and romance Leliana once again. I love her most anyway. (Yes, even more than Josephine 😀 )

  3. Thank goodness I heard about this because I probably would have bought the dlc at some point after I finished the main game because I am enjoying it so much. I had no idea you could rebuff his advances for the same outcome, that is so awful. I was surprised to learn that this massive removal of agency got through a writer’s room (I assumed when playing the base game) so full of women. So, I looked it up on IMDb to find that none of the female writers worked on the dlc (in fact, there was only one writer for this dlc).

    (Side note: I always appreciate video game content on Autostraddle, you’re awesome)

  4. I love this game so much that I went against my better judgement and bought the season pass back in November. Now I’m out thirty bucks for dlc I’ll never play. That’ll teach me. Back when this dlc dropped in January I did some organizing on Reddit and spread awareness. Gay male gamers were really pissed too. I’m glad we made enough noise to give Ubisoft a black eye at the very least.

  5. There was an update on this last month where they eventually said the following,

    “After hearing player feedback and discussing within the development team we are making changes to a cutscene and some dialogue in Shadow Heritage to better reflect the nature of the relationship for players selecting a non-romantic storyline. These changes, along with renaming a trophy/achievement, are being made now and will be implemented in an upcoming patch.

    “We’ve also been carefully looking at the next episode, Bloodline, to ensure the paths that players experience mirror the choices they make in game.”

    This is supposed to be in the patch coming this week.

  6. super disappointed to hear about this, especially in the context of the message about their diverse design team when you start up the game. thanks for saving me from wasting my money on this crappy DLC!

  7. I believe the first playable woman assassin was not Evie from Syndicate, but Aveline from Liberation. Also Liberation is entirely played as a woman, while in Syndicate you had to play as the brother (I mean wtf ubisoft why was he allowed to take on a whole bunch of bosses and the only big solo fight for Evie was the woman templar?!)

  8. WTF? Wow, I won’t be getting that DLC, although I’m glad the main game finally has female romance options.

    That “bloodline” stuff is really something I strongly dislike about the Assassins games, and I really don’t like the apparent tone in that DLC, involuntary child-bearing and all.

    If they insisted on that crap, and you denied all the stupid hetero romance options, why not have a baby deposited on his doorstep from some chick he romanced in a tavern or something? (Literally thought up a solution while typing this, and I’m not creative. What on earth is wrong with the story writers?)

  9. This is bothering me so much, especially because they said that they’d fix it and they super did not. They made it seem SLIGHTLY less romantic, but you don’t get to say not. I’m just tired of whenever lesbians like things, they get snatched. Either one of them dies, or the show is canceled or they just sideline the gays into nothingness (maybe one will have a baby alone or something, idk). It’s so depressing and I was deeply looking forward to this game and had it slotted for a time I knew I’d need a distraction and now there’s just…nothing.

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