Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Dates: February 20, 2013 (Episode 1); March 19, 2013 (Episode 2); April 23, 2013 (Episode 3)
On premise alone, Assassin’s Creed has always been a wonderful, thought-provoking franchise. Time travelling through history to stab historical icons has always been as fun as it has been creative, letting players enact orchestrated assassinations in worlds only seen in history text books. Assassin’s Creed III captured that fantasy well too, but the series has never dabbled in alternate history which is, again, a premise worthy of interest.
Ubisoft went pseudo-Undead Nightmare and announced a trilogy of downloadable episodes starring the evil reign of a King Washington in an evil, lethargic slouch. Rather than be another DLC pack filled with just more levels, the alternate take on a such an intriguing topic was a ballsy move, one that only could improve on a killer foundation that Assassin’s Creed III set. However, that is what one would think if the appropriate amount of manpower was poured into this episodic downloadable expansion. The Tyranny of King Washington is about as half-assed as you can get, overcharging players for such a skimpy, barely interesting set of missions.
“Barely interesting” is heartbreaking to say about Assassin’s Creed, especially one set in such a unique time period. It does initially show promise. Showcasing the nefarious King Washington unloading rounds into Ratonhnhaké:ton (who never actually became Connor) and burning down villages, the tone of an asshole version of G-Dubs is set well in the beginning but slowly dwindles over time. Besides the aforementioned scene and scant revelations throughout, it feels as if Ubisoft forgot to add anything that isn’t mundane or boring in the narrative.
Most of each episode feels like padding which is reflected in the mission structure. The people need food. Cause destruction around town. Free these nameless people. Not only is it ho-hum in the gameplay department, but when such blandness is reflected in the story, any iota of momentum that has built up has effectively been crushed in the constant lull. Even though you’re supposed to taking down an evil dictator hellbent on power, I felt like I wasn’t doing much in the way of actually going after him, instead just scraping at his royal toenails as he remained just out of reach. The final encounter is also rather sloppy, taking what the series does right and trashing it in favor of a more direct fight. Outside of the initial set-up, I didn’t care about anything happening because Ubisoft failed to capitalize on what made the premise so promising. A true fall from power.
Speaking of powers, Ratonhnhaké:ton’s moveset has been given a supernatural twist. In each episode, Ratonhnhaké:ton is granted the power of the wolf, eagle, and bear, giving him a cloak, a teleport, and super strength respectively. Sadly, each is painfully underutilized. As I’ve stated before, missions are rather boring and uninspired. This tedium doesn’t allow for each power to be used in any interesting fashion, but instead only if you want to escape or run right past obstacles. No cues are taken from games like Batman: Arkham City which gives the player new foes to tackle the newfound power. Arkham City had a wealth of powers and equal counterbalances held up by enemies. Nothing even rings close in these episodes, leaving each supernatural power to feel like a feature the designers forgot to account for.
Even though it isn’t used as much as I would have liked, the eagle flight power is a worthy addition. In what could be the only surefire positive aspect about the entire experience, the eagle flight power is equal parts Blink from Dishonored and the grapnel hook from Batman: Arkham City and remains a solid way to traverse. The auto-aim associated with this ability is dependable and gets Ratonhnhaké:ton to his destination fairly quickly and silently. It augments the climbing in a way not seen in the franchise thus far and became my favorite way to zip around the city. Liking this power as much as I did made it that much harder to accept that the mission structure doesn’t accommodation for it at all, except for the first and last missions.
The visuals also received some new features, only if “features” means more bugs and visual hiccups. Assassin’s Creed III was already bug-ridden mess for most people and this trilogy of episodes continues this disgusting trend. I had missions break, characters wig out, people get stuck in their T-pose, among few other mysterious glitches, all of which emphasized how unfinished this product is. Reinforcing this idea was evident by just looking around; the DLC looks far worse than the core game. Boring, nearly-unfinished texture work accompanies all of the new areas (of which there aren’t many), with the main offender being the final episode. Episode three has the most (comparatively speaking) new stuff but it all looks dreadfully plain and ugly. Even the area I was sure would look at least somewhat decent was hiding behind the guise of being incomplete within the game world. Sloppy save, Ubisoft.
The Tyranny of King Washington isn’t salvageable no matter which way you slice it. The promising narrative is dry. The gameplay is more frustrating and not up to par with the main game. The game is far too short on value. Even if you love Assassin’s Creed III or are just into alternate history, The Tyranny of King Washington will underdeliver in a myriad of obtuse ways. This is one of those “What if?” scenarios that should have just remained a “What if?” scenario.
+The Eagle power puts a more fluid twist on the classic climbing
-Bland storytelling and mission objectives
-New visuals are comparatively lacking
-Short campaign with terrible side “missions”
-Underwhelming final encounter