Almost a year after publisher Ubisoft made headlines for not including female protagonists in Assassin's Creed Unity, today we've got news that there will be a playable woman assassin in the next entry of Ubisoft's mega-series, according to two people familiar with the game.
This fall's Assassin's Creed, which will be officially announced tomorrow as Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, will give players access to two main characters: Jacob and Evie (pictured above in concept art leaked to Kotaku). They're brother and sister, said a source, and they will be heavily involved in the criminal underworld of Victorian London, where the game is set. (We hear it will be out this fall for PS4, Xbox One and PC.)
There have been playable female heroes in Assassin's Creed games before, most prominently in 2012's Assassin's Creed: Liberation, which starred an assassin named Aveline and was reissued for consoles last year. Still, Ubisoft ran into backlash last year during E3 after Assassin's Creed Unity creative director Alex Amancio said in an interview that the dev team cut female assassins from that game's co-op because they'd require "double the animations". Amancio's comments were mocked by those who felt that the couple hundred or so developers working on the average Assassin's Creed game could surely have managed. A subsequent statement from Ubisoft noted that "we recognise the valid concern around diversity in video game narrative," and pointed to the diversity — in terms of gender and ethnicity — of past Creed protagonists.
Shortly after Amancio's remarks at E3, Far Cry 4 director Alex Hutchinson said that his team was close to adding a female hero but "[didn't] have a female reading for the character" or "all the animations" in place. He described the omission as frustrating and predicted that such options would be easier to implement in the future.
These soundbites, extrapolated and turned into headlines that didn't always do justice to the complexity of the issue, led game developers and critics to speak out against Ubisoft on Twitter using the hashtag "#womenaretoohardtoanimate". So it wouldn't be shocking to see Ubisoft play up Evie's role as they start marketing Syndicate tomorrow and at E3 in June.
From what I've heard, Jacob will still likely qualify as the game's main character. The balance in story missions may favour the brother about 75% to 25%, according to a person familiar with Syndicate, who spoke under condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk publicly about the game. Syndicate will not have any multiplayer modes, according to that source, but you'll be able to swap between Jacob and Evie while exploring the world between missions.
Ubisoft did not respond to a request for comment this morning.
Whatever workload issues were affecting Unity don't seem to be slowing down the Assassin's Creed series; Ubisoft seems committed to releasing at least a handful of Assassin's Creeds, big and small, every single year, and in fact, there are already three others planned for 2015: last month's Assassin's Creed: Chronicles: China and two upcoming sequels, set in India and Russia (the China game stars the female assassin Shao Jun). Last year's main entry, Unity, was a mess in many ways, although the last-gen Rogue was lauded by critics. We're all hoping this one will be more like the latter.