The lights are on
The second part of the single-player DLC is out, but a mixed bag of cool powers, poor missions, and stilted story don’t come together well.
Ubisoft is rolling out an interesting approach to single-player DLC for Assassin’s Creed III. The three-part Tyranny of King Washington presents an alternate version of history (more alternate than their already-skewed vision of Templars and Assassins fighting each other throughout time). This new vision assumes that George Washington is corrupted by a piece of Eden, and subsequently enslaves America to his will, leaving Ratonhnhaké:ton to save the day once again.
The initial installment, The Infamy, left me hungry for more, even if the sprawling wilderness setting of that installment felt a little empty at times, and not all the missions were fun. Unfortunately, both the story and mission follow-up on display in The Betrayal is a step down in quality, and it’s getting harder to recommend the DLC package as a whole.
Ratonhnhaké:ton never becomes Connor in this timeline, and the beginning of The Betrayal finds the Native American hero imprisoned by Washington’s forces in the occupied city of Boston. In keeping with the animal powers theme introduced in the previous installment, Ratonhnhaké:ton rapidly acquires some new abilities as the episode begins. While he can still explore the wolf-themed abilities from last time, a new set of eagle oriented powers is now introduced, allowing our protagonist to fly between rooftops, or swoop down on enemies from afar and assassinate them.
This new power set is a good bit of fun, if only to send you swooping across half of Boston in moments as you hop from perch to perch. The new eagle powers certainly move the game away from the free-running core that the series is known for, but it’s something I can forgive in this experimental DLC, since everything is meant to be a little off from the norm. What’s harder to forgive is the suddenness with which these new eagle powers are introduced. Where the wolf powers of the last episode involved a deep and transformative vision quest reached over multiple missions, this new flying ability is introduced through one hallucinogenic sequence, and then we’re off to the races.
Once you’re out in Boston, the missions you’re presented with are not in good shape – most fit comfortably in the category of “go here, try not to be seen,” and they all start to blur together over time. Several of these sequences cause you to desync as soon as you’re seen, resulting in likely checkpoint restarts.
Moreover, I never got a clear sense of what I was doing in Boston, other than trying to get away. Ostensibly, you’re there to help a new rebellion against Washington, but things never really coalesce together until late in the episode, and meanwhile you’re stuck running odd errands, like retrieving special metal horseshoes from an enemy soldier’s steed. Moreover, the side objectives are hard to enjoy, since Boston is positively overwhelmed by enemy forces, so you’re constantly getting in fights before you can open treasure chests, help citizens, or complete other activities.
The first episode, The Infamy, introduced the emotional weight of Ratonhnhaké:ton’s second chance to save his mother, and grounded the story in something we can all identify with. In contrast, The Betrayal has no emotional depth or compelling side characters. In fact, the central new figure is flat out embarrassing. Benjamin Franklin took on a minor but memorable role in the core Assassin’s Creed game. Instead, he is painted in this DLC as an ineffectual, bumbling coward, present mostly for cheap laughs, like a moment where he’s forced to squeeze into a too-tight soldier’s disguise and wonder out loud how he looks.
I’d love to be able to offer a positive recommendation for this ongoing DLC project; I’m completely on board with the unique premise. Sadly, this second installment is a letdown. I mentioned in my write-up for The Infamy that the verdict is still out, and the sum of The Tyranny of King Washington may ultimately make it worthwhile. If episode two is any indication, that sum is looking small indeed.
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