What’s love got to do with it…
For the last three weeks I have to admit I have not been doing much else in my free time besides playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. I am far from being done. In fact, according tto my Uplay stats I am only about 56% through with the main story and about 40% through with exploration. It surely is an absolutely massive game that I am thoroughly enjoying. I even have to say: Of all the triple A titles I’ve played in the last 5 or 6 years I am definitely enjoying ACO more than all of them so far. I have very little to criticise and so far have not experienced anything that threw me off.
I did experience something that made me think though. Alright, not just “something” – many things but I wanna talk about one specific thing: The romances teased by the E3 gameplay footage. And from here on there will be spoilers for the lvl 25 Mykonos Sideqeust.
I’m not gonna lie, the footage hyped me up good! I was beyond excited to get to know these characters and especially to romance Kyra. What the gameplay footage leaves out though… is a lot and it changed my perception drastically in a very short time.
The set up is simple: Kassandra is asked for her help via a letter from Kyra, who leads a rebellion against a tyrannical Despot that has everyone on her island live in poverty and fear. Kassandra arrives on Mykenos with only that knowledge and goes ahead to find out more and to see how she can help. Thats when she meets Thaletas. A Spartan General who has also gotten a letter from Kyra to ask for help and who is all too happy to give it. Kyra and Thaletas are a couple. And it is very quickly established: Not an unhappy one!
Now, the E3 demo had a dialogue option about telling Thaletas that you are interested in them both – and my dumb ass of course hoped for a well done poly relationship. (Pathfinder: Kingmaker just implemented one and did a marvellous job with it -so not a completely unreasonable thought.) But of course this is decidedly NOT the case here. In fact: If you want to romance either of them you have to ultimately break them up. Which in itself is something I feel rather iffy about. To make things worse: each respective romance starts while they are NOT broken up yet. No matter whom you are romancing, you are explicitly cheating with them on their partner. That is when it turned really sour for me to be honest.
I put down save games at important bits because I wanted to know how those stories unfold. I thought “maybe you are overreacting” and just went to see what would happen. I was definitely not overreacting. Turns out that if you want to romance Kyra you at some point have to kill Thaletas as a consequence if you want a somewhat happy ending with her. (I say happy ending as if the romance has a long term consequence – it has not and after the questline on the island is done you’ll never talk to Kyra again.) It is not just that the other love interest dies, no, you have to actively kill him.
On the flip side if you romance Thaletas instead and you are a decent person towards Kyra and support her emotionally and help her through a very traumatic event they will get back together in the end no matter how serious you and Thaletas were. (And it gets pretty serious. “Join me an come back to my home country” serious.) But it doesn’t matter – as long as Kyra is there they will always end up together and it gets made pretty clear that they are basically made for each other. If you want Thaletas for yourself? You basically have to be so shitty to Kyra that she sees no other way but to kill herself. You then have to subsequently lie to Thaletas about what happened to her or he will no longer talk to you.
Everything about those romance options is absolutely off putting to me. The cheating, the murder, the being an absolutely horrible person or you get dumped aspect… I can’t really understand why this is even an option – let alone the one that they used to promote this game… There is my own complete lack of understanding for anything that involves cheating. I can’t imagine how someone could do that. And I especially can’t imagine wanting to be with someone capable of doing that.
If you decide to romance neither one of them though… that is when the story suddenly becomes really good in my opinion. Kyra still came on to Kassandra who let her down gently in my playthrough. Kyra seemed sad for a moment but she got over it almost immediately. Thaletas is still heavily impressed by Kassandra and it feels like there is an honest and wonderful camaraderie developing between Kassandra and each of them. In the end Kassandra helps Thaletas and Kyra to free Kyra’s home and helps her through one of the saddest moments in her life – as a friend. A good friend. The scene you get where they hug it out after Kyra is ready to get up again and start a new part of her life is absolutely beautiful. And together with the attempted flirting in the beginning it feels like both Kassandra and Kyra know that this is the right choice. That they almost made a stupid mistake that could have cost someone a lot but they didn’t – and they came out close friends that can rely on each other through that. There was a beautiful scene of quiet support and a moment that touched me more emotionally than any of the romance specific content on that isle.
For me Kassandra is actually not capable of the other choice. There is a sort of morality to her that I could not have her betray. Kassandra is there for her friends in the end, she shows up but refuses to be complicit in the emotional betrayal – even if it is at that point of a stranger she doesn’t know very much yet. Yes, she losses out on a chance for some romance but she is still emotionally involved and shows her support. Probably as one of the only people ever who actually understand Kyra in that moment given how they both have a bit similar family issues to a degree. She clearly cares.
And so in the end my Kassandra left Mykonos without finding love but also without having the blood of one of them on their hands and ultimately leaving the other one alone and fending for themselves at the end of the day. She left with some maybe bittersweet memories and the knowledge of having gained two friends who mean a lot to her. Who clearly belong together and came out stronger for it.