For whatever else about episode one of Assassin’s Creed 3‘s alt-history DLC, The Tyranny of King Washington, there’s something undeniably delightful about gunning for post-colonial America’s “Mad King” George. The first chapter of what will be a three-part story delivers comic book-y good times on the narrative side. If you love what Ubisoft has done with the big picture plotlines in the AC series, then you’ll probably also appreciate this step away from the “serious” stuff and into a fun, meaningless diversion. Just make sure you’re not signing up purely for the play.
Part one of the trilogy, titled “The Infamy,” opens on post-Revolutionary War America, though with a very different timeline than the one that was laid out in Assassin’s Creed 3. George Washington never retired after the war; instead, he declared himself to be America’s king, enforcing his rule with a familiar object: the Apple of Eden. It’s not clear in this first episode how the ancient artifact found its way into Georgie-boy’s hands, but it’s clear early on that there’s more to this story than it just being an alternate history.
Connor awakens at the start of the episode in the Native American camp that he was born in – the same one that burned down and serves as the final resting place for his mother, according to the AC3 timeline. Only here, both the camp and Connor’s mama are whole. This turns out to be a bit of a surprise for the Assassin, who still has all of his earlier memories. He actually takes the shock of seeing his long-dead mother very well, and it’s not long before we’re off on the DLC’s first mission.
As enjoyably ridiculous as the story seems to be, it’s also clearly tied in some way to the events of AC3. It’s not just the fact that Connor’s memories are intact. There’s evidence scattered all throughout the small chunk of open Frontier land that you’re able to explore in The Infamy. The restricted map may be an issue for some given the open world nature of the series, but it works in the context of this story. There’s plenty of side mission content and collectibles to discover, and the length of the core plotline isn’t enough to justify a larger space. If you want the big open world, switch back to AC3 vanilla.
What is a problem, however, is the mission content. The early story missions in The Infamy set a very bad example, transitioning through some of the least enjoyable play sequences that AC3 vanilla offered. There’s more than one chase, a cannon shooting sequence, and an eavesdropping/forced stealth sequence. Those who were hoping that the Ubi Montreal dev team heard and addressed criticisms for this DLC will be disappointed. It’s possible that development was already too far along by the time AC3 reviews came out, but the result is disappointing, to say the least.
Much of the secondary content also falls into the same routine that the worst of AC3‘s did. There’s little depth in the sidequest challenges that the game puts before you. You’ll find an abundance of different-sized chests, citizens in peril to be saved, and slave convoys to be disrupted. Convoys offer the most fun, though even then it’s always the same setup of fighting a bunch of dudes and opening two slave cages. The rewards for pursuing these sideline activities are minimal as well, amounting to resource refills for Connor.
In terms of new content, don’t expect much. Roughly midway through the episode Connor earns a couple of new abilities, all of which stem from a plot development that is best left unspoiled. One of those abilities is essentially this DLC’s take on the ability to call in reinforcements. The other is an evolution of Connor’s sneaking skill which allows players to trade health for invisibility for short periods of time. A new guard dog enemy type can sniff through the disguise, leading to some unique new challenges on the stealth side. It’s just too bad that there isn’t more stealth play to be found in The Infamy.
The DLC’s performance is also questionable. The AI governing your enemies is stupider than ever. At one point, I triggered a massive confrontation in an enemy camp as Connor was swarmed by at least 20 soldiers. They all crowded around him like it was some odd, post-colonial mosh pit and proceeded to strike blindly into the crowd. I eventually won that battle when I ran off, unintentionally leading a small group away as a larger mob got jammed up on a piece of the environment. Worst of all, it’s not the only time that sort of thing happened.
There are also just some flat-out inexplicable steps away from the emphasis that the original game placed on authenticity. The most jarring of these is the old woman who leads Connor’s tribe. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear or justified in any way by the alt-history story, the character that spoke only in her native tongue throughout AC3 now speaks perfect English. This goes for everyone in Connor’s tribe, incidentally. Perhaps there’s some reason for this on the narrative side, but the first episode doesn’t do anything to address that. The result is just plain weird.
It’s difficult to recommend The Tyranny of King Washington to anyone other than Assassin’s Creed story fiends based on this first episode. There’s fun to be had along with what amounts to a “more Assassin’s Creed 3” vibe, but the new bits of play don’t really do enough to set this apart in any way from what you’ve played before. There’s enough meat here to give you your money’s worth if all you want to do is play more Assassin’s Creed; just don’t expect to be wowed by what you see.