A note to the readers: The write-up that follows takes a look at the third and final part of Ubisoft’s three-episode Assassin’s Creed 3 DLC, The Tyranny of King Washington. Key plot points from the earlier parts of the story will likely be spoiled. This is your first and only warning. Catch up on where the DLC has gone so far with our reviews of the first episode and the second episode.
Crazy old George Washington has nowhere left to run. For two episodes now, the scheming, scowling despot has pursued Ratohnhaké:ton – known in Assassin’s Creed 3 proper and hereafter referred to as Connor Kenway – only to find himself pulling back as loyal forces fell to the raging assassin. Post-Revolutionary War New York City is to be their final battleground, with Connor arriving in the shadow of a great, towering pyramid that the mad king had built in tribute to himself.
Many questions were raised in the DLC’s first two episodes regarding the alt-history timeline and how it fits into the fiction that was established in Assassin’s Creed 3. This final chapter answers those questions before the credits roll. None of the revelations threaten to ripple directly into Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag or any of the future entries in the series that might follow it, but dedicated fans will appreciate some added insights.
The Redemption opens with a naval battle that pits Connor’s sailing ship, the Aquila, against Washington’s armada. Not only does this nod back to AC3‘s fan-favorite gameplay set a positive tone for what turns out to be a fun and action-packed DLC chapter, it also provides a platform for a bit of Black Flag teasing. When first mate Robert Faulkner asks about Connor’s seemingly capable sea legs, it opens the door for the assassin to make a brief mention of his grandfather, also the protagonist of this year’s new Assassin’s Creed game. But that is a long story for another day, he explains.
The multi-stage naval battle – which includes a careful forward advance through a floating minefield and a concluding one vs. many showdown – leads directly into a series of story missions that favor direct action over information-gathering. Connor’s new animal spirit power, obtained immediately after the ocean engagement, speaks to the bloodier makeup of episode three. The Bear Strike is an impressively powerful ground pound attack with a shockwave capable of shattering iron gates and clearing out crowds of friend and foe alike. Using it drains health, much like the Eagle and Wolf powers do. This turns out to be a minor limitation, however; The Redemption is all about kicking ass.
There are no chase or “eavesdrop on the person of interest” missions to be found in this DLC. Connor comes to the early Big Apple on the warpath, and his aggressive assault on Washington’s safe haven carries through the entire episode. You’ll fight alongside the rebellious Thomas Jefferson as you take on the mad monarch’s forces, and then work alongside Jefferson and fellow Founding Father Ben Franklin as you foment unrest across the city.
One of the more inspired story missions in The Redemption embraces an open-ended structure in which Connor must rally the people of the city to rise up against their brutal lord and master. The resulting mad dash across post-colonial New York City is the episode’s uncontested highlight, giving players an opportunity to deploy Connor’s impressive array of combat abilities and animal spirit powers in a variety of scenarios.
This is Assassin’s Creed at its action-packed best; the great shame is that nothing else from The Tyranny of King Washington – or even much of Assassin’s Creed 3 – comes close to the adrenaline-charged high of whipping New York City up into a rebellious frenzy. The inevitable final showdown with George Washington is somewhat predictably a letdown. Worse, it’s familiar. We’ve played through this boss fight already, and while Connor’s new abilities ensure that a big capital-V Victory waits at the end of this one, narrative closure isn’t enough to excuse the repetition.
These shortcomings don’t amount to a dealbreaker. The rising quality of the experience across The Tyranny of King Washington‘s three episodes is ultimately more fun than not, though it’s hard to appreciate Ubi’s decision to break the content up in the first place. Sure, doing so creates an opportunity to charge more money – the three episodes are individually worth $10 apiece, but all three together for $30 is a tougher sell – but the month-long breaks between each one left players at a disadvantage when just starting out.
The Assassin’s Creed control scheme is complex, and there’s a reason that each game’s tutorial tends to unfold slowly, over a period of hours. In The Redemption, much like The Betrayal and The Infamy before it, there’s a definite re-acclimation cycle of progressively less spectacular mission failures as you get a handle on how everything works all over again. Even a brief control tutorial would have helped matters, though better than that would have been a single, sprawling DLC release to begin with.
Concerns over uneven content and questionable delivery model aside, The Tyranny of King Washington is a winner. The focus on story and the diminished amount of attention paid to exploration and discovery turns out to be surprisingly refreshing. The Redemption‘s New York City is just as free of distraction as the chunks of Boston and the Frontier that were visited in earlier episodes. There are plenty of imperfect and even downright frustrating bits scattered across King Washington‘s three chapters, but it is thankfully mixed in among ample helpings of unhinged Assassin-y fun and mischievously grinning fan service.