Verhille: All Hail King…Washington?


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According to popular myth, after George Washington led revolutionary forces to victory over Great Britain, a small group of powerful generals and wealthy citizens expressed their interest in seeing Washington use his position as commander-in-chief to install himself as the first king of America.

Supposedly, Washington sat down his generals in a schoolhouse and kindly pointed out that such a move would betray the principles of revolution and undermine everything they had labored for only to replace one King George with another.

To the dismay of powers both domestic and foreign, Washington humbly returned his wartime powers, and the rest, as they say, is history. But what, perchance, would have happened if Washington hadn't willingly handed over the reins?

The Infamy, episode 1 in the Tyranny of King Washington downloadable content series for Assassin's Creed III, dropped Monday. This installment, along with The Betrayal and The Redemption to follow, will explore an alternate reality in which Washington succumbs to the allures of power and establishes himself as king of a new empire.

Loading as a separate menu item from the single-player campaign, the sporadically paced story begins on a rather odd note as the protagonist Connor is greeted by his supposedly dead mother, who proceeds to quickly explain that she is somehow responsible for George Washington's rise to monarchy status.  

For the most part, Infamy comes at you in short, broken, and concentrated bursts. What you do get is an enjoyable two or three hours of following around a rushed plot line determined to talk about mystery more than show it, but the play that's provided is very entertaining.

I was surprised to find that Infamy only contained six memories. While it was entertaining to get throttled by King Washington with a scepter and watch Connor dashing through blizzards in his new shirtless outfit, I couldn't help but feel that it all happens too quickly and without the proper amount of time permitted for dawdling and hunting in typical Creed fashion.

Because the add-on is essentially detached from the main campaign, the importance of completing smaller "chores" seems less relevant, especially when hunting was not revisited as an integral component.

The strongest of the six memories was the "Sky World Journey" memory, in which players drink a psychedelic tea, then hunt down an elk with a wolf pack by listening for the elk's heartbeat. Stranded on a white screen, the player must track the noise of the beating heart to force the terrain to materialize.

It turns into being a fairly frenzied affair, dashing through trees and over rocks toward an elk you can barely ever see, but it's an exhilarating ride. Ubisoft should have shown more confidence in a mechanic that's really working and produced 10 of these spirit missions because they don't disappoint the player.

After completing the hunt, the player feeds on the elk and is given the ability to summon spirit wolves to attack enemies and the ability to be temporarily invisible. Dashing between patches of bushes while invisible to the naked eye flowed so naturally within the game, that it raised the question — why it couldn't be included in the rest of the game?

Rather than just be given three spirit wolves to attack whomever you deem worthy for a mission or two, why not send the player out to find each one of them, hunt an elk to acquire them into the pack, then train with them? Experience and levels could be implemented in exactly the same way the human Assassin's Guild members were in previous games, and having the wolves show growth would make the player feel more attached to a section that currently feels like an island.

I've been saying since the first Creed game that players should be able to embody the eagle, and I stand by the statement. Imagine re-experiencing all of Assassin's Creed III with new abilities such as short-term flight or invisibility through eagle and wolf spirit powers. Close a few fort gates, add a few guards, and a whole new game mode could have been added with minimal effort.

What'd I like to see in the future expansions are some tie-ins with the single-player campaign.

Ubisoft should create new hunting and assassination challenges in the existing game that would unlock additional pieces of the King Washington part of the story to reward players who've played both.

Hopefully, some success with Infamy will give Ubisoft extra incentive to make the next installment, The Betrayal, a longer adventure. Much like an appetizer, Infamy is enjoyable and suggestive of the delicious entrée to follow, but the pleasure is fleeting and short-lived.

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