Connor isn't Connor in this alternate timeline. He never met Achilles, never trained as an assassin, and was never given his new name. He's simply Ratonhnhaké:ton, and instead of white robes he wears animal skins. But here's the twist: he remembers everything that happened in Assassin's Creed 3. In this first slice of DLC, titled The Infamy, he's inhabiting a new version of himself in a new reality, but he's aware of it.
This is, even by Assassin's Creed standards, a bizarre story. Not only do we have the mystery of Connor being inexplicably transported to a parallel dimension, but he also has seemingly supernatural powers granted by Native American spirit animals. In the first episode, it's the power of the wolf, which works in much the same way as Metal Gear Solid's stealth camo. It allows you to move between patches of cover without being spotted, but eats up your HP.
The Apple of Eden does pretty much whatever the writers want it to
George Washington is one of history's most revered heroes, but here he's a total bastard. His mind has been corrupted by the Apple of Eden - a magical orb that can brainwash people, shoot lasers, and do pretty much whatever the Assassin's Creed writers want it to - and has crowned himself king of the newly formed America. He's hanging people, lining people up and shooting them, firing lasers at people, and generally being a despotic, power-mad nuisance.
Connor's mission, naturally, is to stop him. But to do so he needs a little help from the Sky World. An early mission sees him making tea from the bark of a special tree and drinking it, which transports him there. The Sky World looks like the Animus - all white, glitchy, and triangular - and you have run, jump, and climb your way through it to earn the Wolf Cloak power. You also gain the ability to call upon three ghostly wolves that will pounce on nearby guards.
SILENT BUT DEADLY
Most of the missions in The Infamy revolve around the Wolf Cloak. If you bump into a guard you become visible, so you have to carefully time your dashes between cover in crowded areas. Guard dogs can smell you even when you're invisible, so you have to drop bait to lure them away. It's not a reinvention of the existing stealth, but it does give you a few more options. Calling on your wolf pals to take out guards as you cower unseen in a bush is a particularly useful tactic.
But even with the new storyline and Connor's new power, it still feels like Assassin's Creed 3. The basic mission structure is the same - including their often tortuous linearity - and it's set on the Frontier, which we already spent 40 hours exploring in the main game. There are a few visual tweaks - bodies hanging from trees, ruined buildings, frozen corpses poking out of the snow - but it's not as radical a makeover as, say, Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare.
We finished the main story missions in around three hours. There's some side content to pad things out, but it feels like exactly that: padding. As you move through the Frontier you'll be alerted to random events occurring nearby, including rescuing civilians from the King's troops or raiding convoys. These work in the same way as the main game's emergent missions, but in a context that reflects Washington's hold over the country. Pretty disappointing, really.
Memory fragments are a clever way of getting you to commit to all three episodes
The memory fragments are more interesting. One of the best parts of Assassin's Creed 2 was assembling Subject 16's 'The Truth' video by hunting for collectables and solving puzzles. The Tyranny of King Washington has its own version of this, and the video you construct will apparently reveal its own truth about Connor's arrival in this alternate reality. This is, of course, a clever ploy to get you to commit to all three episodes, as is the cliffhanger ending.
But it's the story that stands out here. It's good to see Ubisoft completely rewriting history, rather than just slightly altering it, to spin one of the series' most absurd and intriguing yarns. Washington as a comical cartoon villain is entertaining, and the Wolf Cloak makes stealth less frustrating than it was in the vanilla game. Still, it isn't a vastly different experience, and if you've already bled Assassin's Creed 3 dry, you might find this add-on a little too familiar at times.
An entertaining story, a novel take on stealth, and some fun moments, but retreads a lot of old ground.
- Intriguing premise
- Unique stealth mechanics
- Feels too familiar at times
- Weak side missions