Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC
I was really, really disappointed by Assassin’s Creed III. It’s a glitchy mess, with mechanics which fundamentally don’t work, but with the odd redeeming piece of genius slotted in there. I wouldn’t have bothered with this DLC if the premise hadn’t intrigued me so much. This DLC was released in three parts, The Infamy, the Betrayal and The Redemption. I decided to review all three together when they were done rather than each individually, as the episodic nature of these releases interested me, and had potential to be something very clever; that was naive of me.
The Tyranny of King Washington begins as Connor awakens in a strange alternate reality. Here, George Washington had come into the possession of an Apple of Eden, and corrupted by its power, has declared himself King and rules as a dictator. On a more personal level, Connor is shocked to find his mother still alive in this reality, and responsible for enraging Washington to such an extent that he is wreaking bloody vengeance upon the entire Native American people. Connor is drawn into the rebellion against Washington, with his campaign against him bringing him back to the Frontier, then Boston and finally to New York, the seat of Washington’s power.
The Frontier and Boston are disappointingly unchanged, with the new missions taking place entirely in locations that we’ve seen before. New York is slightly better, with a striking pyramid under construction by Washington dominating the sky line and altering the feel of the city. The alternate history concept of The Tyranny of King Washington is an intriguing one, but all too much the world of Assassin’s Creed III seems unchanged. New York was a nice step, but it’s not enough.
There is an element of fun seeing famous historical figures either becoming patsies for the corrupt Washington monarchy, such as Benjamin Franklin and Benedict Arnold, or parts of the rebellion, such as Sam Adams or Thomas Jefferson, but this is really the extent of the fun. The plot looks like it’s leading towards some interesting places towards the end, but it doesn’t really. The rich potential for this sort of setting just isn’t lived up to in The Tyranny of King Washington, which is a bitter shame as it was the plot which most drew me to this release.
Unlike a lot of DLCs, The Tyranny of King Washington actually introduces some new gameplay elements, and these are a surprising amount of fun. Connor gains access to three ‘spirit animal’ powers, earning one in each instalment. These powers sap Connor’s life, so they must be used carefully, and deciding when to use them introduces a rewarding risk/reward tactical element. The power of the wolf, introduced in ‘The Infamy’, allows Connor to turn invisible for a short time, making the interminable stealth sections much more fun, as well as to summon a pack of ghostly wolves to fight at his side. The power of the eagle is introduced in ‘The Betrayal’, and is my favourite of the three. It allows Connor to fly between ledges, as well as launch long ranged aerial assassinations, and it makes traversing the rooftops of Boston and New York much more fun. Sadly, the third power is by far the worst, the power of the bear, simply allowing Connor to smash the ground and send out a blast radius which throws back or kills nearby enemies, as well as breaking down barriers. It’s not particularly fun or interesting when compared to the wolf or the eagle. Overall though, these powers are fun and work well, but the whole experience is held back from being too much fun by the underlying flaws in Assassin’s Creed III’s mechanics.
The game is as clunky, unsatisfying and unintuitive as ever, and at times is actually worse. The plot requires Connor to be a constant target, but this means that Connor is relentlessly being chased or attacked by guards, with no way of lowering infamy as in the main game. A decent run across one of the environments is simply impossible, as you will be attacked along the way, with little way to avoid it. As I said, I’m aware that the plot demands this, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
This DLC is at least a rich feeling package, with well directed cutscenes, and decent voice acting. The voice acting for Connor is actually better and more human than in the main game, which is nice, with Washington coming across as suitably malevolent.
The biggest issue with this DLC however is that most common of issues; it’s shockingly overpriced, even by Ubisoft standards. Splitting the story into three parts isn’t a clever storytelling technique, it’s a way of masking how lacking the content of this release is. A purchase of all three parts will set you back 2400 Microsoft Points (or whatever your virtual currency), for about seven hours of gameplay. By comparison, each of the excellent Borderlands 2 DLCs offer twice as much content for a third of the price. This is a simply pathetic release, and I really need to learn to be more cynical. The debacle of the Darksiders II DLC should have warned me never to trust in a Season Pass, and I’m so utterly disgusted by the failure of this product to deliver value for money that I doubt I will ever purchase another one again. Sadly, this anger is the greatest impact that this DLC made upon me.
Like the vanilla release, The Tyranny of King Washington contains flashes of brilliance in a sea of mediocrity. Yes, the alternate history plot is interesting, the animal powers are fun and the ship battles still rock, but they can’t elevate the experience above the incredibly flawed mechanics, all whilst offering staggeringly bad value for money. Even at half price this would be too expensive.