Impressions: Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington Part 1

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The first episode of a three-part DLC for Assassin’s Creed III has one of the longest titles I’ve ever attempted to type. Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington: The Infamy. That sort of thing just trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?  Available as a standalone purchase for $9.99/800 MS Points or as part of a Season Pass, The Infamy begins an alternate history tale that supposes George Washington takes over a young America not as President but rather King.  Does The Infamy provide a unique and compelling story? Yes. Does it do so without any glitches? Nope.

For obvious reasons, The Infamy assumes that the player has completed the main story of AC3.  If you haven’t, don’t read any further and go finish the game and then come back to read the rest of this.  It’s kind of hard to discuss the episode without spoiling plot points from the main story, but suppose Connor’s life didn’t meet the fork in the road that propelled him to the ways of the Assassin?  Instead what if Connor never became Connor but remained Ratonhnhaké:ton.  Playing alternate histories or timelines within the Animus makes for a fun and interesting method of allowing different characters to be in the spotlight and giving players new skills for taking on enemies.

Ratonhnhaké:ton is not an assassin, or at least not one trained by Aquiles.  Ratonhnhaké:ton wakes up with all of his memories of what happened during the main story of AC3, yet nothing is as he remembers.  This counter play allows for some fun but awkward dialog between Ratonhnhaké:ton and members of his tribe. Not being an assassin allows the game to explore a more mystical approach for how Ratonhnhaké:ton is able to take on so many guards.  After a ceremony of drinking a forbidden tea, Ratonhnhaké:ton unlocks a power to call upon a ghost wolf pack to help when situations are sticky (instead of calling upon apprentice assassins).  The tea also unlocks an ability to pop into a stealth wolf form which allows Ratonhnhaké:ton to sneak past guards or kill without being seen.  The downside to this wolf stealth power is that Ratonhnhaké:ton’s health diminishes quickly so finding a bale of hay or shrubbery to hide in to recover health is a must.

While these two new powers feel a bit out of sorts as prior Assassin’s Creed killing has never offered such unique gameplay, within the context of Ratonhnhaké:ton’s alternate upbringing, they fit perfectly.  Walking around in the wolf stealth mode affords a slightly faster pace while a guttural wolf snarl can be heard any time the mode is entered or dismissed.  The game engine also blurs the view a bit to help shift perspective from a human to a wolf.

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Unfortunately, for all the fun and potential The Infamy could provide, there are still some seriously major bugs that carry over from the main game.  I don’t get it.  How does a development studio fail to fix the bugs from the main game while introducing new ones in the DLC and still pass certification from Sony and Microsoft?  The first bug I encountered was fighting a random group of soldiers and as one of the men I was attacking was being hit, a woman’s voice began crying out in pain.  The deathblow also played a woman’s last shriek.  WTF?  Another bug I encountered was during a trek through the woods while traversing on tree branches.  All of a sudden I’m on a tree branch that is a good 30 feet in the air yet is not attached to any tree. Huh?

Yet another bug came at the expense of being able to actually play the game in any functional manner.  R2 brings up a menu to allow swapping out weapons and other skills (the same as the main game).  After I had learned how to become a stealth wolf I held down R2 to map the skill to one of the D-pad buttons and when I came back to the game world, my view was that of the stealth wolf, but everything moved in slow motion.  What would have likely taken less than a minute to complete the next stage of a mission took seriously 10 minutes because I couldn’t move fast through the world. Due to the way the game handles checkpoints, I was afraid to exit the game and start the mission over because the section right before learning the skill was a lesson in how NOT to design a mission.  “Follow the sound of an Elk,” is stated as the goal of the mission, yet the sound plays so briefly that attempting to discern which direction I needed to head proved almost impossible.  Fumbling around basically blind while attempting to hear too brief a sound (even with surround sound headphones on) was ridiculously frustrating.

Ridiculous as that mission sounds, The Infamy raises the bar on stealth frustrations.  Beyond the aggravating stealth eavesdropping mission found early in the main game, The Infamy requires a stealth sequence  of following a character through a hostile camp with shrubbery scattered about for cover (and to recover health due to the use of the wolf mode).  But the mission also adds an additional layer of frustration by including patrolling dogs that can sniff out a wolf in stealth mode and raise the alarm faster than you can swap out a piece of raw meat to hopefully distract the dogs.

If the the control scheme and overall game mechanics worked better, this mission would be pretty cool.  As I mentioned in my review of AC3: Liberation, player intention is miss-interpreted by the game far too often causing situations of instant fail frustration and unnecessary repetition.

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For all my complaints and issues that I have with The Infamy, I still enjoyed most of my time with it.  The idea of re-staging a familiar area with a completely different ruling power is well thought out from a design point of view.  Wandering a portion of the wilderness from the main game during the height of winter illustrates just how mad King Washington’s quest for power has driven him.  The wilderness is an absolute wasteland and reminded me more of the various dangers encountered while playing Fallout 3 than anything I would’ve expected to appear in an Assassin’s Creed title.  The desolation and futility of seeing villages burnt to the ground, bodies frozen in the snow, wildlife attacking stragglers attempting to survive alone is pure genius.  It’s just too bad that the game still has so many glitches and flaws.

The Infamy ends with a thrilling cliff hanger that has me hooked.  I know it’s a pipe dream, but maybe by the time the second episode is released the developers will have fixed all of the bugs.  If not, I still see myself playing through the next episode to see how much further down the darkly creative rabbit hole the story takes the previously established world.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.