I love Aveline.
But wait, I don’t think you understand.
I love Aveline.
And sure, it might have to do with the fact that she is the only female protagonist in the Assassin’s Creed series. And yeah, I really do love that she is one of the few multi-faceted women of color protagonists in games.
And yeah, it might have a lot to do with how awesome she is.
But, I love Aveline because she has one of the best, most underrated story lines I’ve ever seen in a game.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation has many layers. It has levels of understanding for the casual gamer and it has elevated pieces of plot that people with a keener eye can notice. These layers are due to the complexity that being a woman of color brings in Aveline’s corner of history. There are layers in her interactions, in the meaning of her clothes changes, and in the way she is perceived by her community.
Aveline’s story begins with the abandonment of her mother. Like any true story of a hero, she rises from this tragedy and betters herself. She helps her white father run his business, is a respected member of her community, and is also a slave-freeing vigilante. Awesome.
And yes, in hindsight, of course she would be awesome, she’s an assassin. At the same time, she is also a woman. She is a woman that, in her time, did not have that much power or agency. Restricted in every way, down to their clothing, women were not seen as fully citizens.
Not Aveline. She makes orders, she kills unruly guards, she charms a drunk Spanish captain, and does this with the utmost grace and femininity that I get jealous.
She is the perfect example of the complex heroine: retaining her femininity, using it as a power, and still kicking ass.
Liberation also definitely handles that layer of race. At first, I had complained about how the narrative didn’t explicitly delve into the issues that might rise from Aveline being biracial. However, after talking to MP and reading into the history, black women could gain social class. Besides that, the narrative tenderly handles her slave background through her reconnection with her mother.
Her change of Personas is also a big component in Aveline’s perception as a woman, a black woman, and a warrior.
Her Lady Persona is her charming persona. I would even go as far as to say it is her “passing” persona. Her hair, which is usually in braids in her Slave Persona and in locs for her Assassin Persona, is straightened and curled. It rests in ringlets on her shoulders and she spins her (pretty deadly) parasol. She blends with her crowd, which isn’t atypical of an Assassin’s Creed game, but it adds something so different from the previous games because of her gender and race.
You see this shift with Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry as well, where the main character being an escaped slave adds to his narrative.
Then we have her Slave Persona. It is the outfit people scoff at. It is the outfit where Aveline gets her nastiest stares. She cannot charm her way out of situations and she must walk behind buildings in order to not be ridiculed. You see this during gameplay, where Aveline bumps into NPCs and interacts with other slaves. Guards are always ready to attack her in this persona, many times I found the guards even more aggressive towards the Slave Persona than the Assassin Persona.
Another layer is added to the narrative, a layer of the historical ugliness of her time.
Sure, the change of clothes is a part of the gameplay, but it’s so much more significant because of Aveline’s gender and race. Gameplay is important, yes, and there are some glitches with Liberation, but it’s more than shotty controls. It’s a game about overcoming circumstances written at her birth and succeeding (however you want to perceive Aveline’s success) in a place that was never made for someone like her.
So yeah, I love Aveline.