November 27, 2012
The story in Liberation is a mixture of the familiar, but it still feels lacking. This leads to its biggest issue. You play as Aveline de Grandpre, a French, female assassin in New Orleans towards the end of the French and Indian War. Along with being the first playable female assassin, Aveline offers a unique perspective as she uses different personas to get the job done.
While the setting, character, and animus are all there, Liberation leaves you feeling like there could’ve been so much more done with the story. You are presented a character unlike any other in the Assassin’s Creed series and spend the game getting dragged through a story missing more than just a bit of explanation. Liberation clearly just asks you to infer way to much of the story, to get the most out of it in the end.
The fact that you are replaying a past assassin’s life through the animus is a totally minute point. Besides the fact that you are using a program made by Abstergos, there is nothing tying this installment into the mainline Assassin’s Creed titles. Besides a small cameo made by Connor, the player is given no real indication about why Aveline is important in the long scheme of things, besides an extremely vague ending of course.
Thankfully the gameplay proves to be the saving grace for this portable title and really proves that a real Assassin’s Creed title is doable, at least on the PS Vita. With the game running on a scaled down version of the AnvilNext engine (Assassin’s Creed III Engine), the gameplay really fits well with all the platforming and assassinating. It's only minor complaints that keep the game from translating all of Assassin's Creed 3's new features over perfectly.
Exploring in Liberation is not just limited to New Orleans as the game takes players to the Bayou, along with other places they might not have expected. Platforming is as easy as ever and with the addition of tree climbing being brought over into Liberation and makes finding collectables enjoyable. Oddly though the games new persona feature takes the platforming away from you and slowing the game down to a crawl.
There are three different personas for Aveline to become in order to play through Liberation. The assassin persona has you playing like any other assassin from past games, but has more notoriety. The slave persona lets you blend in with slaves around New Orleans and get closer to your targets. Lastly there is the lady persona and this offers a slower experience, but limits you with no climbing and rooftop running. The lady persona is the only disappointing one in the batch for the sole reason that not being able to get away by rooftop makes playing as her feel like a chore.
Being a game on the PS Vita most might be worried that there are many convoluted touch screen mechanics added and Liberation has these, but ranging from the good, to the forgettable. You will not be surprised by the complete lack of forced touch screen mechanics, since there in normally a buttoned substitution offered, but every now something will remind you about those touch screens. Still the game does take a certain liberty with the accelerometer and this ends up leading to the most infuriating puzzle in the game for all the wrong reasons.
On the other side of things, the combat ends up getting more hits than misses. Liberation brings the new combat system over and gets the actions and executions down. However, countering now is needlessly complicated. Most times you can barely tell if your counter was successful and it ends up with you massing your way out of most fights. Thankfully the need to have large fights is decreased greatly compared to past games.
The same goes for assassinations as instead of most missions in the game focusing on killing a certain target, you take on a different variety of missions. This is not a bad thing since the different personas offer many new options as to how to approach a mission. Sadly there are some missions that limit you to having to stick to a single persona and this really limits what could’ve been a chance for more creative problem solving.
Along with following the same gameplay as the current console generation, the visuals do the best they can to replicate that to a lesser effect. While the graphics are by no means ugly, the characters end up looking wooden and lifeless in most cutscenes. Still the large environments are beautifully brought to life on this handheld experience. The animations offered also keep up with the quality the series is known for and changes in each persona which is a nice touch.
Still being such a large open world game there is bound to be a few bugs and Liberation is guilty of quite a few. These can range from small issues like getting caught on platforms as you are running around the city to larger problems that can infuriate you. Issues such as having a sound loop throughout the entire game until you lose every last bit of patience left in your body.
There is a lot to keep you busy in Liberation with story missions, side quests, collectables, trophies, and new places to discover. The single player really delivers when it comes to a good portable experience on handheld. Then there is the utterly useless multiplayer that will confuse many. It ends up being nothing more than a mini-game that feels more like a bad Facebook game. Anyone who expects any sort of fun from this should stay far, far away!
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation ends up being a solid experience for a handheld and for once, it will keep fans of the series entertained on the go. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the Assassin’s Creed games, Liberation will offer an experience on the Vita that has more than 20 hours of content to enjoy. Even with all of its shortcoming with its story, the gameplay really saves Liberation and shows that there is a lot of potential to be had in future handheld titles for the series.