You guys know that I have been a fan of Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed was one of the first games I ever truly played on a console and it pretty much has been my favorite series, despite the haters and despite the blunders. But a couple of days ago, Ubisoft announced a new DLC Pass for Assassin’s Creed Unity that includes a new game set in China called Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China.
And honestly, while I am excited to see Chronicles come to life, it is disappointing and ultimately a little infuriating. It’s infuriating not because Ubisoft is charging a $30 price tag for this, or even really that it is a sidescrolling platformer instead of an open world action-adventure Assassin’s Creed game. It’s that we are getting a half-assed attempt from Ubisoft.
Ok, I am happy that Ubisoft built their Assassin’s Creed storyline off of ethnically characters like Altaïr, Desmond, and Connor. I applaud them for not always falling back on broody white dudes (Edward Kenway, I’m looking at you). However, the series has left a lack of diversity for a story that should always foster the most diverse of characters. After all, that’s the story they’re trying to tell with their games, that Assassins and Templars are all over the globe and have been around since the very beginning of mankind.
And sure, you have diverse characters starring leading roles in the comics, films, and assorted additional media, like Arbaaz Mir from Assassin’s Creed Brahman or Aveline de Grandpré from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. My problem is that these characters are inevitably second string compared to their full game counterparts.
So let’s go back to E3, when Ubisoft announced that they were not including female assassins in their co-op because of all of the work they’d have to do. Like many people, including other game developers, I didn’t really believe that slapping a set of boobs on a character really took that much time away from the developers, especially of a game that they have literally had almost a decade to perfect. It felt like a cop out, and a lot of fans were stating that they not only wanted to play as a female but that Ubisoft weren’t acting on that diversity that they touted so proudly
After the outcry, Ubisoft issued a response, saying “With regard to diversity in our playable Assassins, we’ve featured Aveline, 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.” (Kotaku)
So, is the non-playable Elise De LaSerre the new strong female character, because I wouldn’t exactly call a character made to romance the protagonist a strong female character. Especially since her livelihood relies on the existence of Arno. Or is Shao Jun, the protagonist of Chronicles the new strong female?
We’ve met Shao Jun before, in the animated movie Assassin’s Creed Embers, where she was mentored by Ezio Auditore after her entire Brotherhood of Assassins was murdered in China. Born a concubine, she was freed by an assassin and therefore pledged her loyalty and her alliance to the Assassins. After her entire order was purged by Templars, she and her mentor escaped and moved west to find the legendary Ezio. Her mentor was killed along the way, and she was forced to confront Ezio alone. Despite initially appearing prickly and rejecting Shao Jun’s request for help, stating that he was done being an assassin, the two eventually bonded and even fought alongside one another. She left his villa in Tuscany with a gift from Ezio and the knowledge and wisdom that Ezio was able to pass on to her.
In Chronicles, Shao Jun is taking revenge on her order. Now knowing what we know of her backstory, does that not sound like she would make an awesome protagonist in a main story? Not only could we be getting flashbacks of old man Ezio teaching her life lessons, but we’d be getting badass new assassin that has hidden blades in her freaking shoe!
In this new teaser for the DLC that includes Chronicles, Ubisoft creative director Alex Amancio said that they “always try to innovate” and Chronicles is suppose to be evidence of that. I’m sorry, but the only form of innovation I’ll accept with a gem like Shao Jun is going to have to be a full game. But maybe in terms of gaming development and style, they are innovating. Though Ubisoft did launch Child of Light last year, a game that looks visually similar to Chronicles if not identical in the fact that they are both Ubisoft platformers. But even then Child of Light was a full game.
It’s been voiced to you multiple times, Ubisoft. We want a female protagonist. Why are you pinning on Shao Jun to another completely unrelated game? Again, no matter how proud you are of your “innovation” slapping on an additional DLC is inadequate. It makes the character second tier. It makes her story second place. I get that you want to talk about the French Revolution, why did you have to add on a completely unrelated title?
AC has always had a strong theme in their stories of vengeance, isn’t Shao Jun’s story the perfect example of that? It is honestly disappointing that this is a side scrolling platformer, instead of a fully fledged game. I know it would be hard for them to have to create and animate the entirety of Ancient Beijing, but could you not debase my country by putting it into a freaking side scroller? If you made this into a full game, you know who else other than me and your regular fans would play it? China. You’d get that kind of publicity. Just saying.
There has been requests from fans for years for more diverse territories. From the far east to the middle east, I am tired of playing European characters. I’m tired of a company saying they support diversity but half-assing a delivery. I love you, Ubisoft, but you are seriously getting on my last nerve.
Am I going to play Chronicles? Yes, of course I will. Would I rather you scrap this whole story and start anew, with Shao Jun as a main title character in an open world China? Hell yes I would. Is that ever going to happen? Maybe when Ubisoft gets some new creative directors, or when hell freezes over.