To me DLC was going to be one of the greatest things about the current generation, a way for developers to expand on their games with even more of what we loved about it, or to try out completely new, radical ideas and concepts. It should have freed up developers to do so much, and yet what DLC has become is a pathetic stream of multiplayer maps and tiny little chunks of worthless content that add little and come with a hefty price-tag. Look at things like Red Dead Redemptions Zombie add-on: a huge add-on that let Rockstar have some fun with their game by trying something new, or how about Skyrim’s Dragonborn expansion, which gave us a new island to explore – These are how DLC should be done.
Before we actually delve into the Tyranny of King Washington – The Infamy, then, I want to stop and give some kudos to Ubisoft here, because apparently they’ve been looking at this and figured out that, yes, there’s loads of room to play with downloadable content. The result is this, the first episode in a planned series of three episodes that take place in a, “What-if” alternate storyline, a self-contained plot that lets Ubisoft play around with the core concept of their game and tell a fun little story, while still having the primary Assassin’s Creed plot to fall back on. It doesn’t matter what happens in the Tyranny of King Washington – they can do whatever they want, and still have that primary plotline to go back to. So, the question is, do they use this concept to its full? Do we have the start to a satisfying and fun tale? Let’s see.
In this alternate timeline Connor, now decked out in some bad-ass native-America garb, including a wolfs-head hood, awakens to find things very different. His mother never died, and so consequently he never met Achilles and never became an Assassin. Nor, for that matter, did he ever get given the name Connor, but for the sake of my sanity and my keyboard we’ll just be referring to him as Connor for this review, because Ratonhnhaké:ton is a pain in the arse to right and using the copy and paste function feels like cheating. Anyway, this also means that George Washington somehow got his hands on the Apple of Eden, which has driven him to become a power-obsessed monster. And the DLC certainly wastes no time in showing this: barely any time into the story Washington is ranting away in a suitably evil manner, leaving you in no doubt that your primary goal is going to be to kick his butt all over the place.
This all clicks nicely with me, because one of the problems I had with Assassin’s Creed 3 is that Connor never felt like an Assassin, fighting for the Assassin’s believes and code. Instead he felt like a native-American fighting for his people. In the Tyranny of King Washington that’s exactly what Connor is portrayed as, and it makes far more sense, and even goes toward making Connor a more relatable and enjoyable character. But I’m wandering off track here, as this isn’t exactly vital for the review.
Strangely Connor seems to have retained his memories from the main Assassin’s Creed 3 storyline. He remembers being an Assassin, his mother dying and every other major plot point along the way, hence his confusion upon waking. Presumably this means that somehow Ubisoft plan on tying all of this nonsense into the main canon, which seems a bit daft to me. Why not simply keep this as an entirely separate storyline?
Regardless of that the first episode of the Tyranny of King Washington lays a solid foundation for a fun tale. Sadly Washington himself is only around for a very brief amount of time, but that’s understandable given that we’ve still got another two episodes to go. With all of the nonsense of the Assassin’s Creed 3 storyline out of the way, at least for the moment, this DLC tells a focused story with some poignant moments and more emphasis on Connor’s native-American roots. In fact, it’s his heritage that leads to the new gameplay elements after he drinks some trippy tea.
You see it’s that long into the DLC until Connor goes on what could only be described as a drug-enduced trip-out that sends him on a “spiritual journey” and finds himself the proud owner of some kickass new animal-based powers, the first and most important of which is the ability to turn invisible. Yeah, you read that right, invisible. While in this mode, called Wolf Cloak, Connor crouches low to the ground and moves at a far quicker rate than normal, automatically clambering over or up anything in his way. On paper this might sound like it would break the game, but there’s a price to pay, because while you’re in invisibility mode your health will drain fairly quickly. It’s also far from infallible – get to close to an enemy while invisible and he’ll be able to spot you faster than a cat going from good little hairball to malevolent devil intent on ripping off your face. There’s also sniffer dogs to contend with that are able to detect you from quite a distance awake, making one mission in which you must sneak into an enemy camp a tense experience. So, your powers of invisibility don’t suddenly make every missions a cakewalk, instead you’ll mostly use it to move from hiding place to hiding place, carefully avoiding patrols or murdering everyone as you see fit. It feels slick and gives the games stealth a faster and more aggressive pacing, something which I heartily approve of, especially since the core stealth mechanics in Assassin’s Creed III weren’t exactly smooth.
Connor’s second power is the ability to summon a couple of spectral wolves at the tap of a button to attack any enemies in the area. It feels pretty badass to summon some wolves on command, but it does make the already easy combat even easier. Speaking of which, the invisibility also has this effect in combat as you can quickly activate it and maneuver around people to get in a sneaky kill. Bafflingly, though, AI soldiers often don’t react to their chums suddenly being rugby tackled by snarling wolves and ripped to shreds. I could be wrong, mind, but I think that’s something you might notice.
Considering Ubisoft are planning on somehow working all of this lunacy into series canon, presumably Connor’s mad powers will be explained at some point down the line, but for now we’re going with magic. Or he’s still tripping and only thinks he has magic powers when in reality he’s stumbling face first into trees that had done nothing to deserve it. Either way the Assassin’s Creed franchise has gone pretty much full nut-job at this point anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter.
Rather than deal with allowing the fur-wearing Connor to wander around the entire Assassin’s Creed 3 world, The Infamy takes place in a small chunk of the Frontier where you’re at liberty roam in-between storyline missions. Aside from an assortment of chests for you to ransack there’s a couple of side-missions you can take on, such as freeing prisoners from convoys and helping out starving people by giving them meat, which is now the only reason to go hunting as animals no longer give you fur and the like to sell, because there’s no money, either. To put it simply the side-missions on offer feel exactly like what they are, which is padding. And pretty boring padding at that. However, at least the chunk of Frontier the DLC takes place in is fairly interesting, with destroyed towns and dead bodies in abundance. The land tells its own part of the story, and tells it well. Still, with little going on to amuse them, it’s likely players won’t even notice this as they fast travel from mission to mission.
While Ubisoft may have played around with the gameplay mechanics, they’ve sadly left the mission structure untouched, and as a result that’s where The Infamy is at its weakest. You’ll take control of a cannon in a boring section where you blast some troops, and have to do eavesdrop and tailing duties as well, though thankfully the Wolf Cloak at least makes these a bit less of a pain in the butt. But why Ubisoft choose to include missions that were almost universally panned in Assassin’s Creed III is beyond me, as is why they’re still so damn restrictive on how you can go about things, with instant fails still very much in place to frustrate and annoy. However, the poignant moments and more interesting missions are more than enough to take the sting out of having to play through such missions again. Before long you’ll find yourself caught up in the action.
And then it ends. Just as you’re really starting to get into the story and gameplay, the Tyranny of King Washington – The Infamy comes to a rather abrupt end. One minute you’re playing away and then BAM! Cutscene and cliff-hangar ending! Damn you, Ubisoft! I clocked in at 01:46.00 of playtime for the DLC, not including doing every side mission. It leaves you wanting more, as it should, but the rather abrupt cliff-hangar ending just as you get into it is likely to frustrate many players.
Ultimately, then, Episode 1 feels like a taster. Just as it gets going you’ve finished it, leaving you wanting more and feeling a little unsatisfied with what you got. The Tyranny of King Washington – The Infamy lays a solid foundation for what is to come, with an engaging storyline and enjoyable new mechanics. However, I recommend that you don’t play it just yet. Instead, wait until the second episode arrives and play them together, otherwise you might just find yourself feeling a little miffed.
+ New mechanics.
+ Engaging storyline.
+ Connor looks ace.
– Instant fail missions.
– Same mission structure.
– Just as it gets going, it stops.
The Verdict: 3/5 – Good
The first episode of Ubisoft’s DLC series isn’t packing a whole lot of content, but what it does have is fun and engaging, even if it does leave you feeling a tad unsatisfied.