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Review: Assassin's Creed III: Liberation

Assassins Creed Liberation

Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: October 30, 2012
ESRB: M for Mature



It was in 2007 that Assassin’s Creed first arrived on consoles. Although it was far from a perfect game, the premise and gameplay showed a lot of promise. Since then, we’ve seen the series branch and spin off multiple times before, and now we finally have the 3rd installment. With this release also came a new spin-off titled Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. This game is meant to occur around the same time frame as Assassin’s Creed III, but instead of focusing on Connor, it focuses on another assassin by the name of Aveline de Grandpré.

Is Aveline’s adventure a worthwhile one? Well, the game certainly feels like an Assassin’s Creed game. Before now, it has been fairly hard to perfectly recreate the world in a portable release. This hasn’t stopped them from creating competent portable titles, but it isn’t the same. Liberation manages to buck this trend by truly creating a console game on a handheld device. Visually it looks very close to games from this console generation. Obviously, this is due in part to the screen’s small resolution, but the Vita currently has no consume video output cables so there’s no other way to view it.

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Still, to have a game as massive on the Vita seems like a success. It is, although the fact that it is so console-styled makes one yearn to actually play it on a big screen. This is due to the fact that, no matter what your opinion is, handheld games tend to cater to an audience that wants to be able to pick up and play a game. Games that tend to succeed most portably are ones that would not do well on a console. In a way, it almost feels detrimental to have a game which is meant to be played longer on the Vita, however there are no doubt those who will appreciate this. If you are someone looking for a serious console experience on the go then this game hits that mark well.

Enough about how it is such an accurate Assassin's Creed experience; how does it fare as a new entry? Certainly this is one of the bravest series titles yet. There have been women assassins in past games but this is the first time that the game revolves around one. As a whole, Aveline is a fantastic lead character. She is just as adept at murdering as her forebears and still manages to be completely likeable. The gameplay takes advantage of her gender by offering up new methods of sneaking around as well.

With other games, you could seek refuge in crowds, hire courtesans, and various other features. The ideas still remain here, except they have been tweaked to fit with Aveline. She has three main outfits which are: Assassin, Slave, and Lady. Instead of disguising in groups of passerbys, you can now cluster in with a group of slaves if you’re dressed as such. This grants you access to slave-laden areas without much attention paid to you, although eyes glance over you with more suspicion. The Lady dress allows her to walk around the city without getting stopped by guards, unless she is entering into restricted territory. Even then, the Lady guise allows Aveline to charm specific men who will help her get past otherwise sticky situations. However, this form restricts her movement so much that she’s unable to engage in all the fancy climbing that is typical of the series. Finally, the Assassin outfit is what to wear when you’re ready to kick butt. It is the most attention-grabbing form but is also what you’ll probably want to wear most.

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Each outfit retains its own meter for how wanted the character is. If you’re bad at blending in, or keep killing people in public, the meter will increase. Although you can simply get out of sight for a while, the meter still has an overall notoriety amount which will remain steady. By tearing down wanted posters of Aveline, you help to redeem her normalcy (at least until you do something suspicious again). However, the meters reset between chapters so it’s not as if you are doomed to be chased across New Orleans all the time.

Because both the Assassin and Slave persona are able to climb all over things, they are more likely to have higher notorieties. However, this doesn’t mean that playing as the Lady is smooth sailing. One odd thing about playing is her is that she still gets hassled, even with no level of suspicion placed on her. When walking by groups of men (not soldiers) they will see her and then doggedly chase her around. This obviously gets in the way of completing tasks when you must avoid them. Although it probably wasn’t thought of as such during development, this gameplay element basically teaches players that they should be guarded around groups of men. It is incredibly odd, and disconcerting considering the game never explains why these ruffians are after Aveline.

Once you understand the subtleties of each guise it is often preferred to opt for the ones which can actually climb. However, for nearly half the game it does not offer you the chance to choose which persona to for the majority of missions. Being the Lady is one of the most frustrating experiences around and is required at times. It makes sense that she must dress that way to attend a ball, but why must she also be fashionable on a walk to some location? Regardless, most missions focus around the Slave and Assassin persona so it’s not as bad as it could be.

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Being free to run and climb on everything is where the game excels. As with other games in the series, the Vita offers an incredibly fluid control over Aveline as she climbs buildings, caves, or trees. Trees in particular feel wonderful to run through like a Tarzan-in-training. The only negative about this is that is’ fairly easy to see how you are meant to move on the trees. There are not many “branching” paths to take and only so many climbable paths throughout the area. Alongside this, there are a handful of sections which are incredibly linear, but this is to be expected.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Liberation manages to mimic what console versions have offered previously. This is not exactly the case with the game’s length. Although it is certainly not the shortest Assassin’s Creed experience, it is shorter than many of the rest, clocking in at around 10 hours. Of course, side quests extend this time but if you play straight through the story this is about as long as it takes. As you might expect, this also leads to some pacing and story troubles. Because there is only so much time to tell Aveline’s story, much is left out. It is only around the last few chapters that they attempt to fill everything in quickly. It doesn’t work, and feels corny a lot of the time. The ending is also something that many will be able to see right from the start, considering the questions you have when starting the game are the only ones left unresolved until the very end. Other questions never even touched on are why Aveline is never socially stigmatized despite being in the era of American slavery. It seems the subject is something that Ubisoft just didn’t want to deal with, even though they made this the backdrop.

With all that out of the way, we can now discuss the most divergent additions to the game, which are of course the Vita touch controls. They are not main gameplay controls but typically only used in a handful of circumstances. For example, you can only pickpocket by using touch as well as open letters and solve a few puzzles. The problem with touch controls is not that they exist but that they are forced upon you at certain segments during the game. There is a point where you are required to pickpocket multiple things. At that point you learn that the touch control for it is extremely hit and miss. Similarly, other functions such as tilt and camera are also are harder to use then they should be.

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The camera functionality in particular deserves a special note because it is actually broken. There are a couple of times in the game where this function comes up and is required to use to proceed. These segments simply ask you to point the rear camera at a bright light in order to light up the paper on screen, revealing a secret message. It also displays what the rear camera is viewing onto the screen. This is a perfectly fine idea in concept but it doesn’t work because the minigame actually requires the front-facing camera to have light on it. Because of this, you can stick the rear camera right up against a light bulb and nothing will happen. It’s incredibly frustrating that this somehow made it past testers. If a player were aware that the front camera is where the light needs to go then it’s a quick segment to pass through, but since the game actually tells you otherwise it leads quickly to agitation. However, all Vita functionality makes up only 10% of the game.

Then there’s the matter of non game-breaking glitches. For better or worse, we have come to expect these in console games. However, were you ready to see tons of them in a portable game? This game uses the same engine as Assassin’s Creed III does and since that game has glitches galore it only makes sense that this one would too. Most are not annoying, and are simply funny. However, there are times it becomes a gameplay nuisance and just feels like the game wasn’t ready. For example, you may be blending in one second and be flung up in the air the next. Although the fall doesn’t kill, it does cause Aveline to be mighty suspicious, causing nearby guards to suddenly come for her. Then there’s the weird way that after a mission clears it will sometimes say you failed. It’s fairly odd although it still lets you proceed.

When it comes right down to it, the experience that Liberation offers is fair. Although it is an accurate recreation of the Assassin’s creed world, it deviates little despite having such a creative new lead. Some of the changes, such as personas, are neat at first but do not change much of how the game is played. The Vita-specific controls range from acceptable to truly annoying, but are overall only a small piece of the overall game. There could have been so much more delved into with Aveline’s life, but as is, it is still a pleasant experience. Those who want to experience a strong and smart female lead should check it out, as well as Assassin’s Creed diehards. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation may not be the best experience in the series but it is an interesting alternative to the main games.

 

Pros:

+ Great new lead character and cast
+ Manages to be on par with console bretheren
+ Minus Vita-specific functions, it controls very well

Cons:

- Certain Vita functions are absolutely atrocious in use
- Only some reality of the 18th century is brought up when so much more could be explored
- General gameplay glitches all over the place


 

Overall Score: 7 (Out of 10)
Good

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation is worth experiencing for those hungry to have a full Assassin's Creed experience in their hands.




4 Comments

Great review! It's too bad the Vita doesn't have video output. That would have been an awesome feature for a game like this. Sounds like it isn't the greatest game ever, but I will definitely be getting this game first when I finally buy a Vita. I personally rarely use portable systems on the go, so the length of games don't bother me.
I have absolutely no idea why people are having issues with the rear camera event in the game. In every instance I point the camera at a light, filling up the circle, and then use the front touch screen to rotate the circle. I've never had to shine a light directly at the front camera.

As for the game itself, it's story and style is a step up from previous portable Assassin's Creed titles. Liberation suffers from the same poor controls that plagued Boodlines. Aveline will randomly drop combat, miss platforms, etc. The 'multiplayer' aspect feels more like a Facebook or free iOS/Android game than an addition to a full retail title.
I guessed Liberation would only be decent. I'll still get it at some point, but will probably wait until it hits the $20 mark or so. At least it reinforces that console-level games can be brought to Vita-scale. I just hope they iron out the kinks for future Vita releases.
I asked for the Liberation Vita bundle for either my birthday or Christmas, so it sounds like I'm not going to regret making AC3: L my first game. :)

 

 

 

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