Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s third DLC chapter Bloodline wraps up its Legacy of the First Blade arc with barely a nod to the controversy surrounding January’s episode, and a final conclusion that does nothing to correct the clanger Ubisoft dropped. It’s perhaps unsurprising – this expansion was planned out and worked on before the main Odyssey released, long before the eruption of fan fury at the start of this year, and leaving promised tweaks to January’s episode minor at best – and yet I continue to be amazed Ubisoft never sense-checked its script before signing it off.
Bloodline begins with a few short scenes showing the quiet life Kassandra/Alexios settled down to at the end of January’s episode. The hero has a new family now – a young baby to protect, a partner (romantic or not), and Grampa Darius to lend a hand. And it’s during these quiet moments I expected some explanation for the previous episode’s baby plot twist. Why did your hero feel the need to settle down now? Why did they feel the pressure to continue their magic bloodline, if not romantically interested? How did they feel about doing so? None of these are explored.
The story Ubisoft has tried to tell here – that, like their mother, the hero has had a baby for a pragmatic yet mystical reason – is an uncomfortable one, especially so in a game which boasts of its ability to role-play heroes of different genders and sexualities. I had hoped Ubisoft, having opened the door to all this, would venture at least a toe over the threshold to engage with the questions it brings. But no, unfortunately not. Your partner continues to be poorly written, and the closeness of your relationship whether you’re romantically involved or not seems pre-programmed as the default. (It’s worth noting how many fans role-playing straight heroes hate this relationship option too, for simply being so monumentally lacklustre compared to others in the game, like the brilliant Kyra.)
There is one single line of dialogue which lets you clarify your choice at the end of the previous episode – but only to say whether you fancy your partner or not. If you tell them they became a parent for you but you don’t love them, they look sad. You get the feeling your hero should have had this conversation quite a while ago. You get the feeling being romantically involved with your partner was designed as the expected choice. And, once again, you get the feeling Ubisoft’s writers for this storyline were in over their heads.
With that one brief line of dialogue said, the chapter’s storyline quickly moves on – and any chance to have those conversations is firmly left behind. And while I won’t spoil Bloodline’s story here, it’s safe to assume you soon return to your wandering mercenary ways, family once again in the rear view mirror.
I sympathise with Ubisoft somewhat – by the very nature of this DLC being accessible throughout the main game’s campaign, your hero’s moment of settled life was always going to be fleeting. This storyline was never going to chronicle a lasting shift for your character, or an in-depth exploration of parenthood a la God of War or The Last of Us. There’s discussion of what your character’s legacy will mean – the usual Assassin’s Creed struggle of chaotic freewill over peaceful tyranny – and how your non-choice to continue your bloodline makes you and your child dangerous. There’s also some genuinely terrific voice-acting from Kassandra’s Melissanthi Mahut, who sells the love and pain and anger of being a mother whose child is put in mortal danger with terrifying success. As her Kassandra rails against her situation, her enemies chasing her family, her desperation of being a mother in this position, you get a real sense at what Ubisoft could have gone for here.
I would love an Assassin’s Creed storyline which delves into this stuff fully, which does so in a way that does not feel forced, with a proper set of narrative choices for how it all unfolds (and if you can have macguffins that grant eternal life and mind control, you can have one that creates a baby for you to look after without ruining player immersion). But when all’s said and done – when the episode’s generally enjoyable target chasing and fort clearing is over, and you’re left with a generous set of post-DLC quests to mop up – you get the real reason Ubisoft set off down this path in the first place. There’s a brief but revelatory cutscene at the very end of the episode designed to give fans of the Assassin’s Creed saga a surprising reveal – but it’s a moment which feels more like a Marvel mid-credits scene than a considered plot choice. Let this be a learning point for Ubisoft as it continues Assassin’s Creed’s role-playing future – and something Odyssey’s upcoming Atlantis DLC arc does not repeat.