|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC*|
|Release: March 19, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language|
by Robert VerBruggen
As you'll remember from the first episode of The Tyranny of King Washington—or from my lukewarm review of it—the second episode in this three-part DLC series begins with Connor in custody, having temporarily failed in his attempt to overthrow George Washington. In this alternate history, Washington has become, as the title would suggest, both a king and a tyrant.
The best thing about this cliffhanger was that it got everyone's hopes up. Perhaps Episode 2 would take place in a new area, a large city worthy of the Assassin's Creed name. Perhaps the first episode—which featured just a couple hours of content, a linear structure, and very few side quests—was just greasing the wheels for an awesome ride. Playing Episode 2, we all hold our breath as Connor wakes up, tricks his captors, escapes from prison, and finds himself in…
Uh, Boston. And not some Bizarro World Boston that's been radically changed by the reign of Washington, either; it's the same Boston we spent so much time in during the core ACIII game. So that's a letdown.
As the episode begins, there's a bit of a power struggle between Ben Franklin and Israel Putnam under Washington, and Connor and Sam Adams seek to engineer a second Revolution. After a couple of hours and some events I won't spoil, Connor makes his way to a ship, not for a grand naval battle to close out the episode, but simply to leave for his destination of…
Uh, New York, which is presumably where the next episode will begin. So, yeah. Ubisoft expects us to shell out $30 for a seven-hour story, painfully spread out over three monthly installments, that doesn't even give us new territory to explore. It would have been more reasonable—and a lot less patience-trying—if the three episodes had been combined, pared back, and sold for $15 or $20.
Gameplay-wise, the main innovation of the Tyranny expansion is that it gives Connor access to the "Animal Spirits," a powerful tea that gives him a new power in each episode. Last time around he got the Wolf power, which enabled him to (A) summon wolves to help him fight and (B) make himself invisible Crysis-style (which apparently is something wolves can do).
In Episode 2 he gets the power of the Eagle, which allows him to fly straight to any ledge rather than climbing buildings, and also allows him to attack enemies from the air. If that sounds familiar, it's because this is exactly how the Batman Arkham games play. Not content to steal merely the combat from those games, the AC team apparently figured they'd take the stealth movement patterns, too.
The thievery in itself isn't the end of the world—those Batman games are awesome, of course. But the developers didn't quite nail the controls here. Flying from ledge to ledge can be a finicky process, and it's hard to target someone on the ground, especially when they're running. Episode 2 has all the features of Batman, just not the same exquisite flow.
Aside from the Eagle ability, there really isn't anything new here. All the old enemies return, including the annoying dogs from Episode 1 that can smell through your wolf cloak. There are some mediocre boss fights and chase scenes. You play checkers matches that are cut off before you finish. (Why not one of those cool antiquated games from ACIII, like Nine Men's Morris?) And then it ends, once again leading players to ask, "That's it?"