The Assassins Creed series has always been about exploration, whether it be the epic architecture of Rome or the vast frontier of Old America, as you go about your business as a master assassin in a multitude of time periods. The Tyranny of King Washington’s first episode, while positing an incredibly interesting story, falls short of the sheer epicness that the main game exceeded in , and continually glosses over holes in the storyline that is core to its appeal.
Connor wakes up from a troubled dream to find that the world that he knew no longer exists; here he never joined the Assassins Guild and thus is still known as, his mother is still alive and, despite the Americans winning the revolution, George Washington has seen fit to rule the land as monarch and dictator thanks to the poisoning aspects of another Piece of Eden. The first episode sends him up as the complete opposite for what he is known for as he brutally murders countless people, and wounds Connor in a pretty unbelievable way. The character development is one of the top parts of the first episode as it so very different to what you have dealt with in the main game. What makes it even better is that Ubisoft have confirmed that this story is actually canon, rather than ‘it was all a dream’ sequence making the inevitable links with the main storyline even more intriguing than before.
And sadly, that’s all that will drive you to finish the first episode as the whole experience feels like a marginalised mini adventure rather than a expansive progression from one of Ubisofts biggest IPs. The action consists of tracking and mostly escort quests which, aside from Bioshock Infinite, are some of the most boring missions a game can give you. Parts of the storyline are also rather ropey and just don’t seem to fit into the world of the Assassins Creed universe; magic tea that allows Connor to become completely invisible and send likewise invisible wolves to attack his enemies anyone? Plotholes also abound, especially regarding the fact that Conner can still remember everything from the last time, which, when telling his mother he knows all about the Assassins guild and his father, just shrugs and runs off as if it was one of the most normal things in the world.
Furthermore the desire to explore the areas that are now filled with devastation and death, a welcome addition that escalates how bad everything has got thanks to Washington without him spouting it all out himself in a bizarre cutscene, is almost nil. The odd treasure chest, with new weapons that work and look exactly the same as the ones you have used before gives little incentive, with the only must find items being ‘lucid memories’ that slowly connect what is going on in this new world back to the storyline of Assassins Creed 3.
The problem with the first episode is that it adds very little to excite you during the actual game play, with the storyline and the hope of some warped drama in this alternate universe driving you to continue playing. The mechanics of the game are still as good as they were to begin with, combat is still hugely satisfying and the climbing and scrambling up and around the Frontier are still as intuitive as they ever were. Episode 1 seems to work like a pilot of any TV season; throwing everything and anything into the mix whilst containing a fundamentally strong story, even though, at this stage, it doesn’t seem to be quite coherent. Although by no means bad, Episode 2 will need a bit of oomph to allow the rest of the mission structures to feel less old and stagnated.