|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Ubisoft Montreal and Annecy|
|Release: February 19, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Robert VerBruggen
Ubisoft has already confirmed that the next Assassin's Creed will leave Connor and the American Revolution behind. But for those of us who wouldn't mind spending more time in the world of ACIII, there's The Tyranny of King Washington, a new DLC series whose three installments will be released on a monthly schedule. Each episode will cost $10; the season pass is $30 and includes some smaller DLC packs in addition to the Tyranny trilogy.
It's not clear what Tyranny is, exactly. Whereas most Assassin's Creed games purport to explain what really happened behind the major events of history, Tyranny goes off the timeline entirely. In the first episode, Connor wakes up, meets his mother (who was supposed to be dead), and discovers that George Washington has become king. Corrupted by the Apple of Eden, King Washington has launched a brutal campaign to enslave American Indians.
We don't know if this is some kind of dream, or an Animus glitch, or a drug trip, or what. In fact, outside of the pause menu, the post-mission summaries of how well you "synchronized," and a bizarre alternative-reality sequence, we don't see much evidence of the Animus at all. Desmond, the series' modern-day protagonist, does not appear.
But at any rate, breaking off from the timeline—and away from the Brotherhood, as Connor is not a member in this timeline—allows the developers to let their hair down a bit, ditching many of the franchise's major features in favor of something more experimental. Most interestingly, the game takes up the role of animals in American Indian culture, and Connor is given a special relationship to wolves. Apparently he will gain other animal powers over the course of the next two episodes.
Much as other Assassin games let you call on Brotherhood members to help you out, here you can summon a wolf pack to join the fight. But more dramatically, you can use a wolf stealth ability. Much like cloaking in Crysis, it allows you to walk right past enemies unnoticed, but its use is very limited. (Here it drains your health instead of a separate energy bar.) To complicate matters still further—and to keep the game from getting too easy—the enemies in Tyranny often bring dogs along, and dogs can sniff right through your disguise.
All of this works out just fine. As in Crysis, the way to do stealth in Tyranny is to turn on your cloak, move from one hiding place to the next, and then turn it off to recharge. Of course, the presence of dogs makes it tougher; you'll need to bait them if you want to stay undetected, which is required for one of this episode's biggest missions. If you get into a fight, it's handled the same way it was before—the same old enemy types are present, and they require the same old tactics. (For the big guys with backpacks, you need to break their guard before attacking, and some of the other enemies require you to counter and disarm them.)
But it's hard to finish the first episode without getting a feeling of "That's it?" All three episodes combined are expected to add just seven hours of gameplay, and the DLC seems to eschew the series' open world roots. Sure, there's plenty of treasure scattered around the map, and there are a few randomly occurring side quests (attack the convoys carrying captured American Indians, help starving civilians), but the overall sense of progress and scope is just gone completely.
To me, Assassin's Creed has always been about starting small and building up a resistance movement until you control a huge city, and it doesn't seem that Tyranny will provide that experience. At least in this first episode, it's more of a linear storyline that plays out on big maps. You don't need to sync viewpoints either—another sign of the Animus that's missing—which makes the series' signature climbing mechanics much less important.