There are plenty of notable characters, of course, from Lucy Stillman and Rebecca Crane in the modern day storyline to Black Flag's Anne Bonny and Mary Read to Unity's Elise, but looking at playable characters specifically, it's been rather sparse in such a long-running franchise. In a world of Ezios and Altairs, however, it seems Jora may be a logical step if rumors about Assassin's Creed Ragnarok are true.
Assassin's Creed, Assassin's Creed 2, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, Assassin's Creed Revelation, and Assassin's Creed 3 (to which Liberation is a spin-off) all existed before a playable female character was introduced in the aforementioned spin-off title in 2012. Aveline de Grandpre was as dutiful as they come to the Brotherhood, yet the spin-off title was a spin-off. It didn't really give her the spotlight that she deserved, as Assassin's Creed Liberation didn't really make a splash.
It was April 2015 before another game featured a playable protagonist, though it is still a spin-off. Shao Jun was first introduced in the Assassin's Creed Embers, in which Ezio Auditore seemingly passes her the torch of the Creed. The game shows how she restores the brotherhood to China, one day too becoming an Assassin mentor. Even though it has been offered for free via services such as Games with Gold, many may have skipped over it due to its 2.5D side-scroller nature. However, demand for a Chinese game is high, so perhaps the franchise will show the outcomes of her mentorship some day.
The mainline entry for 2015 was Assassin's Creed Syndicate, which featured two playable protagonists in twins Jacob and Evie Frye. Syndicate was considered a success in following 2014's disastrous launch of Assassin's Creed Unity, a game that has since redeemed itself, and the twofold stories of Jacob and Evie was a nice breath of fresh air at the time. Evie was given as much attention as Jacob, so her character alongside his is only fitting.
She also received some time in the spotlight away from her brother (or due to her brother, depending on perspective) during the Jack the Ripper DLC. She was able to track the Ripper down and save her brother, a reverse of the typical damsel-in-distress situation. Speaking of, Lydia Frye—Jacob's granddaughter—has a prominent role in the WWI telling of the story. Both characters are definitely treated as equals, though some have criticized that the Frye's family spotlight was more of a shared spotlight than anything else. That said, it was a step forward for the Assassin's Creed franchise.
From this perspective, Assassin's Creed Origins may have been a step backward. The story focused on Bayek and Aya/Amunet's founding and spread of the Hidden Ones, precursors to the modern-day brotherhood. Aya's role in this cannot be understated, but she is rarely playable and more of an aside character than anything else. The game's use of their marriage is heart-breaking and fitting, but her role is diminished compared to Evie's role.
Kassandra is in a bit of a unique sitatution as the canonical character of Assassin's Creed Odyssey. On the one hand, her spotlight depends on whether the player chooses her or Alexios, with the other becoming the antagonistic Deimos in the game. Alexios and Kassandra's roles are different from Jacob and Evie's or even Bayek and Aya's. Whereas the former had a genuine 50/50 spotlight and the other roughly 80/20, Alexios and Kassandra get 100% in each of their roles, just depending on player choice.
Whoever becomes Deimos is still tied to this struggle over the Tainted Ones and foreshadows the Templar vs. Assassin conflict alongside their sibling, with both Alexios and Kassandra fitting into each role well. Kassandra is definitely a highpoint for the franchise, which casts high expectations upon Assassin's Creed Ragnarok.
The Modern-day storyline is more confusing than anything else, but the playable protagonists of it ostensibly consist of Desmond Miles, the Helix Player, and Layla Hassan. The modern day story of the Helix Player Saga is largely forgettable, which pits Layla Hassan and Desmond Miles as the shoulders that carry the franchise. Desmond Miles is one of the most iconic characters of the franchise, so comparing Layla doesn't really fit, and it shouldn't.
Layla's story is different, and for now, unfinished. It remains to be seen what future modern day stories do for her character, but going off of the Fate of Atlantis DLC, her story arcs seems set on the dark side. As such, it's something unique and shows a ton of promise, meaning her character is about as genuine as can be. Fans just need to buckle up and see what Ubisoft does with her character before casting judgement.
Rumors concerning Assassin's Creed Ragnarok are a dime-a-dozen, but the most likely scenario is that the game is indeed about vikings. At this point, the rumors have gone too far to be turned back, but at least one of them indicate that the protagonist is named Jora, an inconsequential choice that lets players pick male or female. This means the other won't appear in the main story, leaving the gender of Jora up to the player.
This feels like a natural evolution if so, as aforementioned, the spotlight has been handed more and more to the player. That's the way it should be, and if Jora is truly a break for the Assassin's Creed franchise, it'll be interesting to see if the franchise ever moves to the concept of player-owned characters. It won't be what Ezio or Altair did, but what one's take on Jora does that could come to define the franchise.
Assassin's Creed 2020 is in development.