Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation Review (PS Vita)

Assassin's_Creed_III_Liberation_Cover_Art

Since launching in February of 2013 the PlayStation Vita was looking for a system seller. That one game that would make people rush out and buy Sony’s handheld. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation helps fill the void with the franchises trademark game-play and open world, but some may not find it to be a must own.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation casts us as Aveline, a young African American woman living in New Orleans before and during the American Revolution. When her mother who is a free slave disappears, Aveline falls into league with the Assassin Brotherhood and begins stabbing  Templars. If you’re perhaps hoping for a more detailed account of her life from childhood to Assassin, you won’t find that in Liberation and that is one of the things holding it back.

Aveline is the series first female lead and her internal struggle, should make for an extremely interesting story. She’s the privileged daughter of a slave while slavery rampages on. Unfortunately the game glosses over these threads. Outside of a simple bio page, you are never given any details on how this woman went from a lost child, to an Assassin. How was she trained to become a skilled Assassin without her father or step-mother noticing?

While playing Liberation, I couldn’t help but make a comparison between Aveline and Batgirl from the Adam West 1960’s Batman TV show. Aveline’s plot-line is pretty much non-existent and it conveniently glosses over facts that would turn itself on it’s head. Aveline is just out to do missions, and then be back in time to continue being Daddy’s girl. This is beyond disappointing as a tale that’s more grounded would’ve done wonders for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.

Fortunately however, pulling off missions is fun for the most part. The controls that have defined The Assassin’s Creed franchise are an excellent fit for the PlayStation Vita. Players will be running over rooftops, and silently stabbing enemies in no time. Ease behind the Vita’s dual analog sticks and you’ll feel right at home. This is apparent more then ever when missions have you infiltrating parties and killing politicians. The set up and execution is just like all the other Assassin’s Creed games in this franchise, complete with accidental leaps to your death.

The fact that this stuff is still this much fun to do this far into this franchise is because “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” has become Ubisoft’s mantra when it comes to this franchise. Liberation boasts an active open world in which Aveline can explore. From downtown New Orleans, to the bayou and even a few other places which I won’t spoil. These locales act as the backdrop for your story missions, but Liberation’s world is packed with side quests from freeing slaves, to buying rival shops. Even though there is about ten memory sequences for Aveline, even after the credits roll there will still be plenty to do.

A major part of this additional content are Personas. Aveline has three main Personas that she can use in her missions. Each Persona has pros and cons and it is up to the player to decide which Persona best fits the situation. The Assassin Persona gives Aveline access to all of her weapons, but she will gain notoriety more quickly. Next, the Slave Persona is weak in combat but can blend in with other works to avoid detection. Finally there is the Lady Persona which can be used for blending among the New Orleans elite along with charming guards.

It’s a three-part system that has its moments, but starts off as bit of a pain. At the beginning this Persona system is forced upon you. All I wanted to do was run across rooftops as an Assassin, instead I had to be prim and proper for a few missions. You are given more choice later on and each persona comes with their own side-quests. However it never truly becomes a “choose how you play” type of game.

With the exception of the weapon wheel always defaulting to the machete and gun between every loading screen, the controls that the series has become best known for works well here. That is until specific PlayStation Vita things gets added in. It’s bearable for the most part (swiping back touch pad to pickpocket) yet also intuitive in other cases. (pinching to zoom on the map). Yet it also becomes downright annoying, especially in the form of a maddening ball rolling maze mini game that uses the Vita’s gyroscopes. Assassin’s Creed III Liberation is a reminder that games don’t always have to embrace or capitalize on every gimmick.

Liberation’s multiplayer also feels tacked on. Here you get to choose who you stand with; the Assassins, or the Templars, you will then proceed to start tapping nodes around the world. You never get to engage in any combat, but instead you assign troops to attack or defend a spot. Any and everyone who play the multiplayer component is doing this as well so it devolves into nothing more then a constant tug of war as is who is in charge of all the nodes. This mode is beyond boring and was very poorly explained. Luckily however, this isn’t the reason why people will buy Liberation.

When it comes to graphics, Liberation alternates between jaw dropping amazing to really substandard. Once things get moving the game struggles with some frame-rate issues from start to finish. Sometimes it feels like when Aveline is running, she is moving slower then she actually should be. Other times its like she has suddenly received the ability to teleport from place to place as the game catches up. There’s a lot of detail to Liberation, yet you pay the performance cost to see all of it.

The weird thing about Assassin’s Creed III : Liberation is that it goes back and forth between being really cool to being sub-par. One moment you’ll earn a chain-kill, before having to use the touch-pad for something weird. You’ll use your whip to swing from tree branches, and then have to watch the frame-rate slow down. The idea behind Aveline is a great and much needed one, but you’ll never really get to know her story.

What it boils down to, is that Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation is a simplified version of the franchise as a whole. The moves and kills you’d expect are here, but the overall story was made to be easy to jump in and out of. This takes away some of the excitement one might find while playing through.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Contributor: [Adam Buskirk]

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