As promised, Ubisoft has begun making changes to a recent expansion to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that upset many players and led to an apology from the developers. The first of those changes appears to be in the process of rolling out, as PS4 players can now see a new name for the trophy that they earn when the chapter concludes.
It’s impossible to talk about the trophy change without spoiling the game’s downloadable content, so reader beware.
AC Odyssey’s downloadable expansions are being released in chapters, and when the first expansion’s second chapter, Shadow Heritage, was released in January, it delivered a surprise ending: the player’s character becomes a parent. If they player is going through the game as Alexios, then they have a son with Neema, the daughter of the Persian assassin Darius. If they are playing as Kassandra, Neema isn’t in the game and instead Darius has a son named Natakas with whom the protagonist has a kid. Originally, that surprise baby ending triggered a trophy called “Growing Up.”
That is no longer the trophy’s official name. Some time in the past several days, Ubisoft changed it. Players who earn the trophy now (as we did when we tested it this weekend), will still get an alert that they’ve earned “Growing Up,” but clicking into the PS4’s trophy interface reveals a different name for the achievement. It’s now called “Blood of Leonidas.”
The name change may seem minor to some, but it is likely to be impactful to others who saw the unfolding of Shadow Heritage’s parental plotline as a betrayal of the developers’ promise to not force any type of romance or sexuality on player characters. It may also avoid serving as a painful reminder, as some players said it did, that there are people who consider homosexuality or even the choice not to have children as some sort of youthful phase that a person grows past.
The game’s creative director, Jonathan Dumont, told Kotaku last month that the “growing up” phrase was not intended to deliver a hurtful or dismissive message. “It was definitively not written with that intention,” he said in a statement. “This was an oversight in the review process and we very regrettably missed it.” He added that the developers “share the frustration of players who find this offensive.”
We were unable to check if “Growing Up” has yet been changed on Xbox One and PC, but it presumably will as the game’s patches are released.
The game’s next big patch, 1.14, is rolling out for consoles and PC at some point over the next 24 hours. The hyped changes include the addition of New Game Plus and 22 more fast-travel points, but there will also be some changes made to the content of Shadow Heritage. It’s likely those changes will be minor, as Ubisoft has repeatedly emphasised that the actual ending – having the kid – won’t change. The patch notes read: “Adjusted a cutscene and tweaked some dialogue in Shadow Heritage.”
Prior to launch, the game’s developers had stressed the idea that players will have choices about who to romance and who to avoid in Odyssey. Regardless of whether people played as a man or woman, the game gave them the same cast of men and women to flirt and sleep with. That liberty won the game support from those who hoped to roleplay their characters as gay or bisexual and even led to a nomination from LGBT advocacy group GLAAD.
The required relationship in Shadow Heritage left some players feeling misled. At best, players can stop short of having their character actively pursue romance with Natakas or Neema, but even those who play it with the most ice-cold dialogue choices will still find their character exchanging longing or flirtatious glances with the other person and getting tearful over the prospect of never seeing them again. Regardless of the player’s choices, Shadow Heritage ends with the protagonist and either Natakas or Neema in a house of their own, happily talking as their swaddled baby squeals. They’ve achieved a certain view of domestic bliss.
Ubisoft’s defence had initially been to encourage players to wait for the DLC’s next chapter for narrative clarification about why Kassandra or Alexios would choose the relationship and to have a child. Later, Dumont admitted to fans that the scenes had indeed been handled badly. On the Assassin’s Creed forums he wrote: “Our goal was to let players choose between a utilitarian view of ensuring your bloodline lived on or forming a romantic relationship. We attempted to distinguish between the two but could have done this more carefully as we were walking a narrow line between role-play choices and story, and the clarity and motivation for this decision was poorly executed.”
We’ll be checking out Shadow Heritage’s other changes as they are implemented in the game and will see how the game concludes this controversial story branch when the third and final part of the Legacy of the Hidden Blade episode releases next week.