Game: Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington Episode One – The Infamy
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Available On: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows PC, Wii U
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Despite there being additional downloadable story chapters and extra missions for the majority of the Assassin’s Creed games (on top of the multitude of extra multiplayer maps and character add-ons), none of these have really managed to capture the imagination of players, or manage to be as epic as the main game itself. That may be partially due to the fact that by adding on individual missions – which most gamers will only play after having completed everything else on offer in the game, and which won’t have any major effect on the story in any way – the DLC up to now has all seemed a bit light and insignificant.
Well, Ubisoft have had a revelation, and are looking to change how they do Assassin’s Creed add-ons with their first story-based DLC for the title. The Tyranny of King Washington is set in an alternative “what if” storyline, where two paths have diverged. In this reality, George Washington has acquired the Apple of Eden and has been corrupted by its power, declaring himself King of America and taking it upon himself to oppress the Native population and destroy all those in his way.
Connor, too, is different. No longer does he blend in as a cultured Native American who walks among the European settlers, but rather he awakes in The Infamy as a more “traditional” North American Indian, with his native name: Ratonhnhaké:ton. He seems to remember some of what he went through in the main Assassin’s Creed game, and is obviously shocked when he learns of the events that have transpired – especially the fact that his Mother is alive and well and has put their whole tribe in danger through a failed attempt to steal the Apple of Eden from Washington.
This whole setup leads to a much more action-driven storyline, where danger lurks around every corner and the threat of Washington and his army is a very tangible one that is on your doorstep – rather than the secret plots and clandestine affairs found in the Ezio Assassin’s Creed titles. The freedom afforded to Ubisoft by shaking off the shackles of historical accuracy has enabled the development team to focus less on ticking the boxes when it comes to featuring each and every one of the major players in the American Revolutionary War, and more on quickly creating a truly evil villain and setting up a dilemma that the player must overcome. Many of the characters who featured in the main game do make a return, but the story is actually quite a lot more gripping and exciting, due to the fact that situations can be made a little more over-the-top and extreme, something only possible when developers don’t have to concern themselves with trying to be quite as realistic.
This certainly applies to some of the new game mechanics in this episode, too. Connor – in his attempts to strengthen his abilities in order to take on the armies of Washington – is advised by his tribe to drink a hallucinogenic tea, that allows him to go on a spirit quest and meet his animal guardian. His happens to be the Wolf, and by completing a short hallucination sequence players are given access to two Wolf powers – neither of which are entirely realistic, but help give the add-on a very different feel from the main game. The first of these is the Wolf Pack ability – whereby Connor calls upon the aid of a pack of three wolf spirits who will appear and take down some of his nearby enemies. This replaces the summoning of your Assassin recruits, performing very much the same actions, but being more of an instantaneous ability that can be easily called upon in the heat of any battle.
The other skill is a Wolf Cloak, which allows Connor to conceal himself and become invisible to all enemies for a short time. You mustn’t perform high profile actions such as dashing or jumping when in this mode – lest it wear off – but it will allow gamers to sneak around and silently dispatch several enemies in secret. This skill would be somewhat over-powered were it not for the fact that there is a negative factor to using it: you can only stay invisible for as long as your energy lasts, and this will quite rapidly deplete for every second that you use the cloaking. Rather than constantly being invisible, players will learn to use the action sparingly and rest in the shrubs in order to recover their health, before heading out under the cloak once again. It’s a little tricky at first but, once mastered, you will be able to sneak and secretly kill with quite some style. The only issue with these new skills is that they aren’t very realistic – but then they play into Native American folklore and so at least make sense within the game world- and, besides, Assassin’s Creed hasn’t always stuck to the entirely plausible, as illustrated by the use of the Apple of Eden throughout the series.
Rather than covering the entirety of the expansive Assassin’s Creed III world map, the game is limited to only a portion of The Frontier area. Set in this snow-covered wilderness the game is bleak enough, but when combined with the actions of one George Washington, the DLC becomes truly dark, carrying a much heavier overtone than the main game. This sets the tone for the DLC series, but doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the series will share exactly the same mood, especially as episodes two and three promise to visit both Boston and New York respectively. This limited map size does of course mean that there isn’t as much ground for you to cover and explore – but just because we have seen these areas once before doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to keep gamers interested.
Crafting and hunting are minimised or left out entirely, as they only really slow things down – and The Infamy tries to keep things at a nice, healthy pace – but there are plenty of side quests to pursue, including ones where you will have to gather meat from felled animals in order to feed the hungry poor in the area, rescuing those same poor citizens from being attacked by the aforementioned wild animals, and intercepting and eliminating convoys of Washington’s men in order to free your Native American compatriots. There are even several Memory Artefacts for you to uncover scattered throughout the forests and ruined buildings – and when all have been collected they will give you a video which will explain a bit more detail behind the events. These features all help add some longevity to proceedings, as when the story missions are played consecutively one after the other the whole package would only last a few hours; these side quests pad it all out a little and makes it feel more like a real environment and a meaningful chunk of DLC, rather than a rush-job.
VERDICT: Although the whole Tyranny of King Washington DLC originally seemed to be a strange off-shoot that would have nothing to do with the main Assassin’s Creed storyline, through playing the first episode players start to get the feeling that the memories Connor has of his original timeline are meaningful and will have some impact as we progress through the tale. The events you play through may not make a whole lot of sense straight away, and a lot of questions have been raised and very few answered, but that is the very nature of episodic games – unfortunately you will have to come back next month to learn more of the fate of the Native Americans. It still lacks the charisma and charm of Ezio and the Italy-based Assassin’s Creed titles, but this is a definite step forward for Connor, who becomes a much more captivating protagonist when given a more intriguing premise. As a new chapter in an existing title, The Infamy manages to introduce some interesting new game mechanics, improve the pacing of the story and liven up a protagonist who was labelled as bland by many fans of the series. What more could you ask for in an add-on?