My thoughts concerning Rosa and her absence since Assassin's Creed II.
This weekend, some very sad news reached the fanbase of Rosa, the thief from Assassin's Creed II. It turns out that last year, on the 21st of June, Rosa's voice actress Lita Tresierra passed away after having been in coma from a serious accident. This is incredibly tragic news, as is the death of any person, and therefore, I feel I must address this before anything else. On behalf of all Rosa fans, I give my most sincere condolences and support to her family and friends for their loss. She left a great legacy behind for many Assassin's Creed fans worldwide and will be greatly missed.
With this said, however, the belated news of her death has left many Rosa fans with a lot of questions. Rumors have abounded that her untimely passing is the reason for Rosa's absence in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and some of them are apparently angry with the way Ubisoft handled her death and the way the character is missing from the series. I have my own thoughts on this as well and as such, I will voice them.
For the record, and as a necessary disclaimer, I will first point out that I don't know the reasons behind Rosa's absence in the games and whether it has any connection to Ms. Tresierra's death. All of the following things mentioned are assumptions and possibilities, as well as my opinion on those. For all we know, Rosa would not have been in those games regardless of her voice actress's untimely passing and this may also have been the reason why Ubisoft did nothing to enlighten the fans of what happened. Once again, I don't work at Ubisoft nor know what's going on there and I don't have the answers. If someone does or if a person who works at Ubisoft reads this and wants to set the record straight, please come forward and speak out. I won't hesitate to make mention of it in this written critique; in fact, I'd be delighted to, because I'm very interested in the truth and I'm sure a lot of otehr fans are as well.
So, who is Rosa? To describe her in a nutshell, she is a Venetian thief and one of Ezio's allies and love interests in Assassin's Creed II. They flirt during most of their screentime (the novel by Oliver Bowden describes them having a relationship) and after the missions in Venice are done, she is never seen or even mentioned again, neither in Assassin's Creed II or its successor Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (once again, safe for a mention in Bowden's novel of the game).
So why not? For the sake of argument, let's say that her absence is tied to the death of her voice actress. Ms. Tresierra died during the production of Brotherhood, therefore making it possible that the character she voiced ended up on the cutting room floor and was removed from the script.
In this scenario, however, an important question immediately stands out: Why didn't Ubisoft simply hire another voice actress? Granted, Ms. Tresierra had a fairly unique voice and it may be hard to find an exact replica of that, but I don't think that would be necessary. In the video game world, it's very common for voice actors to change or be replaced. In fact, this was even done within the Assassin's Creed series, as in the spinoff games of Altaïr and Ezio, both characters are voiced by different people than Philip Shabaz and Roger Craig Smith. Whether the results of this were satisfying is entirely debatable, but it begs the question why Ubisoft didn't pursue such a solution for a relatively minor character in the series.
Of course, it's also possible that there are reasons why this didn't happen. One of them is that they did try to find another actress, but either ran out of time or couldn't find anyone suitable. The other is, quite simply, that they decided not to get another actress for the part out of respect for Ms. Tresierra.
Both of these sound like plausible possibilities and especially with the latter scenario, I would totally respect and agree with Ubisoft if they took this approach to preserve and honor the memory of a great actress.
Still, that doesn't take away that if either of these was the case, the company did act rather callously and not to mention unprofessionally. For what it's worth, Rosa's character has a considerable fanbase and in the comments' section of the Brotherhood Q&A videos preceding the release of the game, the question whether she would show up again regularly came by. This should have already indicated that the character was popular and if Ms. Tresierra's passing indeed prevented the character from making it into Brotherhood, it would have paid for Ubisoft to give her fans a head's up.
At the very least, they could have been considerate enough to post a message about her death, if only to show respect for a person whom they worked with and towards the loved ones she left behind. They could then proceed to explain that Rosa's character is out of the series because of this. Unless Ms. Tresierra's loved ones specifically stated not to make her death public, this would have been a very classy way to handle things and as a Rosa fan, I certainly would've understood it and been at peace with her absence.
Yet as mentioned in the disclaimer, it's also very logical if the above assumptions aren't the case. It might as well have been that Ubisoft simply decided that they had no need of the character anymore and therefore didn't include her in any games after Assassin's Creed II. As a fan of the character, I would of course be quite disappointed with such a decision, but once again, it wouldn't be so bad if it was handled well.
Though Rosa was initially a secondary character, she and Ezio spent most of their screentime flirting with each other and the Ezio/Rosa pairing has built up a pretty solid fanbase because of it. The reason for this because there seemed to be an actual connection between the two characters and a lot of them felt that the interaction between them was kind of left unfinished in Assassin's Creed II.
So what happened between them at the time of Brotherhood? In the novel, she becomes the madam of the Rosa In Fiore brothel after Ezio's sister Claudia steps down, which suggests they're probably still at least on friendly terms, but not much else. However, even that is more of an explanation than we ever got in the game. We don't even hear about her and while I can understand that putting her in the Da Vinci Disappearance DLC as the madam would've been too confusing for people who didn't read the novel, it wouldn't take all that much to properly explain why she isn't present at all. Just a simple sentence along the lines of "Yeah, about Rosa: it didn't work out/she wanted to stay in Venice/it was just a fling" would have sufficed and would allow the game to keep going without halting the story.
Instead of a minimal explanation, however, Rosa's fans got nothing at all. The game just went on like the character never even existed, which was pretty jarring for the relatively large group of Ezio/Rosa shippers and Rosa fans. In fact, a handful of us even had the feeling that we were belittled for even still thinking about her while there were women of status for Ezio to sleep with, as if all that mattered was that outlawed noble Ezio could still get women of the highest degree to show off just how awesome and special he truly was. If Ubisoft wants to show off with their protagonist like that, for I sometimes get that impression, then fine, but it would've been thoughtful to at least provide a large group of Assassin's Creed fans with an explanation as to why one of their favorite characters was written out of the picture.
Sadly, I think we will never know the answer. Rosa is gone now and as badly as I want it, I don't think Ubisoft is going to bring her back, even if they could find a new voice actress.
Instead, the love interest for the next installment will be Venetian-immigrant bookseller Sofia Sorto and the comments of Ubisoft's spokespeople have pretty much established that this woman will be the mother of Ezio's children. Something that, in my humble opinion, wasn't really a good idea to let slip at this point in time, seeing how it eliminates a potentially interesting build-up and reduces the interaction to a "how long till these two get together?" scenario. For now, what I heard about this character hasn't yet managed to make her either appealing or unappealing to me. If anything, she just sounds like a second Cristina that's "smart" and "unlike other young women" who catches Ezio's eye because she's "different", spontaneously making him stop womanizing and, in Ubisoft's words, makes him "wonder how his life was like if he wasn't an Assassin". On paper, this is the kind of romantic story that I pretty much despise, but I'll just wait and see how it turns out. Maybe it will be horrible or maybe it will be fantastic: all we can do is wait until November to find out. At least she has in her favor that she is apparently smart enough to run her own business and has something better to do than mooching off her daddy's money, shopping and modeling for painters.
All we can hope for is that this female character will not go down the drain like Caterina Sforza and Cristina Vespucci and will get a better treatment than the beloved Venetian thief got.