The game developer Ubisoft recently came under fire with reports that several of its leading executives had been actively resisting female protagonists in the Assassin’s Creed series under the assumption they would not sell. This included preventing Elise from being playable in Unity and a significant reduction of Evie and Aya’s roles in Syndicate and Origins from what was originally planned. Also frustrating was the reveal that the choice between Alexios and Kassandra in Odyssey was not an attempt to accommodate gamers with varying preferences as originally advertised, but a choice forced into the game by the same executives who did not like Kassandra being the only protagonist.
To Ubisoft’s credit, they have taken the backlash seriously and attempted to respond appropriately. They have already been taking action against the people responsible, but the knowledge of how much misogyny has existed in such an influential game company has sparked a lot of discussion on the subject of how women have been represented. And in particular, it inspired Assassin’s Creed Sisterhood, a movement based on highlighting strong women of Assassin’s Creed.
One especially egregious detail in the scandal is the fact that executives were claiming women would not sell, despite there being quite a few strong female characters throughout the Assassin’s Creed series. One of the Assassins’ core values is equality, and in playing the games one quickly gets the sense that they use the term “Brotherhood” more in reference to their tight-knit structure than any specific policies about gender. These are some of the most badass female assassins that have appeared in the series so far.
Kassandra was an assassin before the assassins were even a thing. Admittedly her attitude did not always line up with the later creed. She could be rude, selfish, and vindictive, even cruel; and as a mercenary, she obviously cared more about money than later assassins. But underneath her hardened exterior and Schwarzenegger muscles, Kassandra also had a hidden softer side- she could also be kind, compassionate, and loving. She was angered by injustice and was especially ruthless against those who abused their power. While it may be hard to find the line between how much of her quest is for justice and how much is for personal revenge, Kassandra shows an impressive determination.
And unlike many later assassins, Kassandra was mostly working on her own. She had allies such as Herodotus and Barnabas, but none who were really proto-assassins in the same way. The Cult of Kosmos, the entire Peloponnesian War, an endless line of bounty hunters, and four different mythological creatures weren’t enough to stop her.
It’s important to note that one of the co-founders of the so-called Assassins was a woman and a pretty tough one at that. She excelled at the stealthy approach compared to her warrior husband, but she also knew how to handle herself in a brawl and refused to go down without a fight. Aya also had strong managerial skills that proved valuable for making contacts and recruiting new assassins, not to mention founding the Hidden Ones’ first branch outside of Egypt. She is a crucial part of the Assassins’ formation, perhaps even more than her husband.
Among Aya’s accomplishments was instigating one of history’s most famous assassinations- that of Gaius Julius Ceasar. A task that would have required meticulous skill and co-ordination to pull off. She was taking a huge risk by reaching out to the Roman senate, but actually convinced some of them to join the Hidden Ones and devised a plan that included the entire Roman senate. Aya herself was not only present when the plan went into motion, but actually managed to infiltrate the Roman senate (an impressive feat considering Rome only allowed men to be senators), and placed the first blade into Caesar.
Although the assassination did not succeed in its intended goal, and in fact had the opposite of its desired outcome (the intention was to preserve the Roman democracy by killing Caesar before he could claim absolute power, but it instead made possible Rome’s transformation into an empire), Aya took part in a moment that changed history and showed great skill in doing it.
5 Evie Frye
Contrary to the views of some Ubisoft executives, Evie Frye was the real draw for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate making it frustrating that she was given less screentime than her brother. Jacob was a hotheaded brawler with a habit of jumping into situations without thinking. Evie, by contrast, was the real brains of their operation. Without her, Jacob’s efforts to free London from Templar control probably would have ended much more disastrously. This also meant that Evie tended to have a much more interesting playstyle than Jacob. Where he tended to brawl them outright, Evie’s were more focused on outwitting her targets which required talents for observation and finding less obvious paths. In so many ways she was really a much better character.
4 Aveline De Granpre
Aveline was notable for being the first female protagonist in an Assassin’s Creed game, and while she definitely deserves more screentime the work she did in Liberation was still quite impressive. She did have some more unique methods compared to other assassins. Of note was her reliance on disguises to blend into different environments. While other assassins have used disguises, it was not usually with the same regularity nor did they develop the detailed personas for each one.
But her real strength is her determination to fight one of the worst atrocities ever committed by humanity- the global slave trade. Whether it’s striking from the shadows or breaking it up from the inside, Aveline proved to be resourceful and unwilling to give up. Even when it all seemed hopeless, and everything was against her, she still found a way to overthrow the elusive “company man” and end their operations. Standing up to something so large and organized globally takes nerve, something Aveline has no shortage of.
3 Mary Reed
Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag boasted a wide variety of real-life pirates- Blackbeard, Bartholomew Roberts, Jack Rackham, Benjamin Hornigold, Stede Bonnet, to name a few. But one of the standouts in the cast was real-life pirate Mary Reed, who also happens to be an assassin. Although it takes some time for her to reveal her connections or even her real name (in both the game and real-life, Mary Reed initially disguised herself as a man) she proves herself a dedicated member of the Brotherhood and one of Edward Kenway’s strongest allies. She is the one who sees more in Edward Kenway than just a treasure hunter even after he accidentally sold out the Brotherhood.
2 Claudia Auditore da Firenze
Assassin’s Creed II introduced players to Ezio Auditore, who became a well-liked and very influential member of the Assassin Brotherhood. But he was not the only one in his family to take up the famous hidden blade. His sister Claudia Auditore also followed in his footsteps. Even before she was formally initiated, Claudia proved herself to be quite intelligent and tougher than she looked. After all her first job was managing Ezio’s estate, before going on to run a successful Brothel that also doubled as a spy network for the assassins. She even managed to single-handedly defend herself against several of Cesare Borgia’s soldiers using only a knife while wearing an extremely restrictive dress. And when she was initiated, she took up arms and joined in on overthrowing the Borgias.
1 Rebecca Crane
This modern-day assassin, alongside her best friend Shaun, has been a valuable ally since Assassin’s Creed II, and played into nearly every game since. Rebecca has quite the character arc, going from a nerdy tech expert working on the animus to becoming an assassin in her own right to eventually becoming one of the Order’s go-to people for dealing with really strange and unexplained phenomena She has a wide range of talents that prove quite valuable. When she’s not actually tracking and eliminating Templars herself, Rebecca is typically helping the order through her computer or engineering skills. This was the person who built a fully functioning Animus on her own without the resources of Abstergo and actually managed to improve on their design.
And that is not even getting into the crazy things Rebecca has faced over the course of the series. As the games progressed she has had plenty of run-ins with Isu artifacts, possibly more than most Assassins ever face. She also played a role in stopping an apocalypse… TWICE! These experiences have given her something of a unique reputation in the Assassin Order, something that becomes valuable when helping Layla Hassan.