It’s good to be the king… for now. Loony alt-history monarch George Washington continues his Apple of Eden-fueled reign of evil in “The Betrayal,” the second episode of Assassin’s Creed 3′s The Tyranny of King Washington DLC. Much like the kickoff episode, this freshly released download pack adds roughly two hours worth of mission content, along with an assortment of throwaway diversions.
There’s little value in skipping past episode one to get to two, though Season Pass-owning fans will be relieved to hear that following the disappointing opening chapter, the situation is much improved in “The Betrayal.” Episode one set up a completely off-the-wall story, but some jarring narrative breaks and a general focus on the series’ lesser mission types – chase sequences, turret combat, and eavesdropping – undid what was otherwise a nifty sidestep away from the main AC3 story.
Needless to say, mild episode one spoilers lie ahead.
After following the trail of crazy George’s Apple-enslaved cronies across the Frontier, Connor – technically Ratohnhaké:ton in this alt-fiction, but we’ll stick with what you know – heads off to Boston in pursuit of the mad monarch for episode two. Really, just part of Boston, and one that will be painted in bluecoat blood by the time you’re done with it.
Much like “The Infamy’s” great outdoors, the scope of the world is scaled back significantly in service to the story, an undeniably sensible choice aimed at keeping things on track. There are no illusions here: “The Infamy” firmly established that The Tyranny of King Washington puts story ahead of all other conerns, and “The Betrayal” follows suit.
Episode two has an edge, however, for giving Assassin’s Creed fans the sort of gameplay that the series should be focusing on. Your first acts in the DLC involve sneaking your way out of prison and dispatching a series of guards. It’s what the series is all about.
It’s not long after that Connor dips yet again into the spirit well that brought him his Wolf Sneak abilities in episode one. The supernatural ability this time around is Eagle Flight, a new traversal technique that allows you to quickly move to the perch of your choice (provided it is in range) by transforming into a spirit eagle. It’s a Bald Eagle, natch. The actual movement happens automatically in a stock animation; available landing points – which amounts to pretty much anything, anywhere – are highlighted by a contextual reticle.
Eagle Flight eliminates much of the scrambling and climbing from Connor’s comings and goings, pinning the focus instead on rapidly moving from one mission marker to the next. There are combat applications as well, with Eagle Flight interchangeable with death from above assassinations… only you don’t actually need to be above your target to pull them off.
The story missions involve sneaky doings and open combat for the most part. There is a frustrating chase mission in the early going, though it has as much to do with getting a handle on the newly acquired Eagle Flight as anything else. Traversal is of course a huge component of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but Ubisoft continues to struggle with the challenge of rendering a chase sequence as a fun exercise. Fortunately, missions like these are in the minority. More often than not, you’ll be sneaking into forts and bashing your way through bar fights. Also, playing the occasional game of checkers. Seriously.
The highlight continues to be the story. Connor’s trip to Boston includes encounters with Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, and a couple of surprise appearances from old friends. It becomes increasingly clear over the course of the episode that there’s much more to this tale than a mere alt-history scenario. Something involving Washington and the Apple ties very specifically to the AC3 universe and story that we know.
Those who wrote off AC3‘s episodic DLC after episode one should know that this second chapter is definitely worth a look. Those who haven’t taken the plunge yet might as well just wait and see how the full story shakes out when the final episode arrives in late April.
There’s reason to be hopeful, especially with “The Betrayal’s” teasing final image that hints at what is to come next time when Connor corners Washington in his lair. When that happens, you can safely bet that it won’t be so good to be the king.