We reviewed the first chapter of Assassin's Creed III's latest DLC - The Tyranny of King Washington - last month (you can read it here), and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the offering from Ubisoft. It more than kept pace with the main game in regards to the both quality and execution (pardon the pun).
This time we're taking a look at the second instalment in the DLC trilogy, and the power that it grants our hero Ratonhnhaké:ton. Although this isn't a review - the version we tested wasn't the finished product that you'll be able to download from today onwards, and the gameplay had yet to be properly balanced - but we were able to get a good idea about what's in store for those who download the content.
Ubisoft promised us during our time together that the events depicted in The Tyranny of King Washington were definitely canon, despite the supernatural edge to proceedings, and that once concluded it would make sense to the player. We certainly hope so, because to be honest we're thoroughly confused by what we've seen so far. Luckily that doesn't stop this new content being good fun to play, and at the end of the day, that's the name of the game.
Once again we'll stay clear of spilling the beans on the actual story behind the alternate vision of the Assassin's story, because that would be to spoil it for you, but we can say that familiar characters return to the fray, there to be viewed in an entirely different light. None more so than the titular King Washington. America's proud statesmen turned cruel despot, corrupted by the power granted him by his piece of Eden, once more playing the role of chief villain rather than Commander-in-Chief.
The action of the first chapter - The Infamy - with it's snow white Frontier environment, melts into the familiar streets and sounds of Boston in part two. We revisit previously explored locations, and meet characters that once we helped, and now we must hinder - or worse.
The Betrayal quickly has Ratonhnhaké:ton take another swig of the potent Tea of the Great Willow, the elixir that granted him his powers first time around. Whereas then he was given invisibility and a pack of supernatural wolves to attack on his command, this time we get an entirely different skill - the power of the eagle.
As you will have no doubt guessed from the title, that means the power of flight. Once again we slip into an Animus-like haze as we get to grips with our latest bag of tricks. We stare up at some grey trees, branches stretching out like haggard limbs - but this time we're not climbing up to them. Lining up our eventual destination from our position on the ground, a button tap sends us soaring to the lofty perch, and then another well timed tap has us swoop onto another from there. These passages of can be linked together for as long as you can keep finding new places to send yourself, meaning considerable distances can be covered without setting foot on the ground.
As you would expect from Assassin's DLC, you can also use this power to take out targets on the ground, though that's a little harder to pull off, but when it works it's very satisfying.
In the final chapter we're to be granted the power of the bear, giving Ratonhnhaké:ton superhuman strength to take down his enemies. Whilst we didn't get a chance to sample that power during our time with Ubisoft, it's easy to see how it'll drastically change a players approach to any given scenario.
"All of the ideas that we've introduced, it was super important for us to justify them with one core element, which is the Apple of Eden," gameplay director Marc-Alexis Côté tells us. "Everything at the end of the story, as you will see, revolves around that. It's something our fans know of, and they expect the Apple of Eden to do things, like for example with Rodrigo Borgia (at the end of Assassin's Creed II)."
The promise of an explanation further down the line means we're happy to disregard what we know about the main story, and embrace this alternative vision of Assassin's Creed III. During a break from playing the game Côté tells us that he's drawn inspiration from the popular TV show Lost - he wants us confused, he wants it to be a head-scratching puzzle, waiting to be solved come the DLC's end. What isn't confusing is the game-changing potential in the new powers.
Used individually they're potent weapons, but when used together the results promise to be nothing short of spectacular. We pushed Côté to reveal his preferred power: "I don't have a favourite per se, for me my favourite is a combination of them. Having them all at the same time is what I prefer because I can use it to create tons of situations."
Perhaps the most exciting element of this DLC is going to be these new "situations", with players given a much greater range of choice when dealing with any given scenario. "They're all super powerful and useful in and of themselves, but when you combine all three... For example, using the Eagle Flight to kill an enemy, quickly switching to the Wolf Cloak to disappear, having enemies gather and then using Bear Might to kill everybody that just gathers around. You can create traps."
We're certainly looking forward to sampling all three powers at the same time as part of the conclusion to the promised 7-8 hour of campaign. The third and final instalment is due to land next month, and we already know that'll involve a trip to New York, and a vastly transformed landscape (though we won't go into details here - that'd be spoiling the surprise).
Though we can't attach a score to this, we can safely say that The Betrayal maintains the tone and pace set in The Infamy in every way, and apart from a few difficulty spikes that need ironing out before release, it was good fun to play. Now all we need is some answers, but while we wait for them we'll have to make do with our new found supernatural powers and whole load of questions.