At first we were more than a little perplexed by ACIII's bonkers alternate-reality DLC campaign. Then, with promises that we were playing canon and it isn't just an excuse for the developers to chuck out their history books, we dutifully embraced the battiness of it. Stick with it, soothed Ubi. You'll have all the answers in the end. And, blimey, it's delivered.
After a solid, if unimaginative, middle episode you're thrown back at the helm of the Aquila as Ratonhnhaké:ton faces down a Bluecoat armada. Naval antics add real diversity to the gameplay, and you've barely wiped the salt from your eyes before you're swashbuckling your way back to New York, slaughtering entire armies, stealthily carving up targets and flying, climbing and smashing through puzzles. We're even treated to a brief reference to Grandpa Kenway, Edward the Pirate.
And, of course, Ratonhnhaké:ton is still guzzling back the good stuff to steal impossible powers from the animal spirits. The third and final bestial feat is Bear Might, which, along with inexplicably turning the eyes a dazzling shade of baby blue, allows you to rear up and smash all the enemies within range to a bloody pulp. Not particularly original, granted, but mix it up with eagle flight and your wolf-like stealth and you're having a ball.
Significant health costs do mean you can't take your special abilities for granted, and you're forced to switch between powers and good old-fashioned tomahawking to succeed. Even puzzles include moments where you'll just have to lump it and climb, drastically improving the gameplay and difficulty. There's no winging it through to the grand finale.
One or two gripes have miraculously disappeared, too. Gone are the instant fails, and a significant decrease in the Bluecoat population means you'll actually be able to move more than three feet without someone trying to bury an axe in your skull. The irritating side quests have eased up a bit, adding more choice as to which moaning peasants you deign to assist, but there are still moaning peasants in abundance, and the controls can still err on the side of the pedantic.
Is the ending as satisfactory as we were promised? Let's just say there are no huge surprises, but it's extremely well executed. The narrative has always been the strength of ACIII, and the DLC campaign is no exception. It's a veritable joyride of the impossible, and the move away from historical accuracy introduces gameplay that may well prove unique to the series.
By Debbie Hicks. Redemption is out tomorrow, 24th April, and will cost 640 MP.
Who knew regicide was such preposterous fun?
- Diverse range of objectives
- Cracking script
- Great menagerie of powers
- Fussy controls
- Endless whinging civilians