Ubisoft dispels rumor claiming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was meant to have a female protagonist only


It is one of the biggest video games coming out this year, but there has been quite a bit of scandal surrounding the making of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the next entry in Ubisoft’s long-running Assassin’s Creed franchise.

It all began with Ubisoft removing creative director Ashraf Ismail from the project, him having been game director for 2013’s superb Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the more recent Assassin’s Creed Origins, one of the best games in the series to date.

This was all part of a big sexual harassment scandal at Ubisoft which also saw the removal from the company of bigwigs like Serge Hascoet, the company’s all-powerful creative director, and also of others like PR boss Stone Chin (who apparently was only guilty of being a jerk in the first degree).

Later a Bloomberg report outlined how the company’s sexist culture prevented the female leads in Ubisoft’s games from getting more “screen time”. For instance, in 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, players were meant to spend as much time with both protagonists (Jacob and Evie Frye), but in the end Jacob ended up dominating the proceedings, while poor Evie also got sidelined in the game’s cover, this being one of the biggest video game controversies of 2015.

It has also become known that the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins (Bayek) was meant to die early in the game and his wife Aya take over, but this did not come to be due to sexist decisions made by the higher ups at Ubisoft.

But perhaps the most grating case is that of the most recent Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. While in the final game players could play as either Alexios or Kassandra, it seems that Kassandra was meant to be the only choice in this game, and once again the execs prevented this.

I believe, though, that an epic, enormous game like Odyssey was made better by giving players a choice between leads, and actually two thirds of players did choose to play as Alexios as one Forbes contributor has pointed out, seemingly vindicating Ubisoft.

But despite all the heads that have rolled at Ubisoft recently, the controversy continued recently when Sebastian Dell’Aria (an illustrator who worked with Ubisoft on the Assassin’s Creed Symphony Tour) had posted information from Ubisoft developers working on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This claimed members of the team wanted Valhalla to have a female-only lead, as was recently reported on GameSpot.

According to the man’s posts on Twitter (see below), Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s developers were not allowed to make the game with a female lead only, the execs apparently wielding the same reason as in earlier projects, namely that the game wouldn’t sell well if it only had a female lead. As was the case with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the top brass at Ubisoft insisted the marketing campaign focused mostly on male Eivor.

However, the game’s narrative director Derby McDevitt has said on the Assassin’s Creed Reddit that these claims are “not wholly accurate”, and that the game was made from the ground up with both male and female versions of the protagonist in mind. “When you play the game you will understand that there is no way the male could have been added at the last minute, or whatever version of this story you have heard”, said McDevitt.

“We started ACV [Assassin’s Creed Valhalla] knowing full well that Ubi wanted to give players the ability to select characters, and we worked hard to make sure that it honored our lore”, added the Ubisoft man.

And it’s likely that like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey before it, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be more interesting due to it having both a male and female lead, even though in this case you’ll be able to switch between the male and female version of the character whenever you want, and choosing one or the other won’t have any impact on the story. It would be a good thing, though, and given the recent turmoil at Ubisoft, that Valhalla turned out to be a great entry in the Assassin’s Creed series, something we’ll find out when the game lands this fall.

Note: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be released on November 17, 2020. Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS5, Xbox Series X and Google Stadia.