Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is without a doubt, the best game I’ve played thus far on my PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, that’s more of a dig against the platform itself, as opposed to the strength of this game.
The game does, have quite a number of strengths and interesting ideas. The central character, Aveline, is a less arrogant and more dynamic lead character compared to her counterpart Connor in the console game, Assassin’s Creed III. (When they meet briefly in Liberation, that point becomes all too pronounced.)
Playing as a female assassin for the first time in the franchise introduces a number of compelling new ideas that are only half realized. The idea of needing to switch personas (costumes) between Assassin, Slave and Lady potentially provides different ways to address mission objectives; unfortunately, the game mostly forces you into one over the other two, and you’ll be surprised that it seems like you’re dressed as an Assassin the least amount of the time. Still, the limitations that came with each persona were intriguing (e.g. Lady can bribe guards, but can’t run or climb buildings) and should hopefully continue into a future Assassin’s Creed game.
The locations in the game are also wonderful to traverse, from New Orleans to the bayou… even to New York and Cuba for a bit. While the game is linear, the plot seems to jump from one objective to the next and you might find yourself wondering why of all times did Aveline decide she suddenly needed to find a piece from what I can only imagine once belonged to the First Civilization. It’s a bit hard to follow, but it’s never boring.
One of the most curious parts of the game is the fact that it is marketed as being from Abstergo, the evil corporation from the Assassin’s Creed franchise that is actually a front for the Templars. Throughout the game, you’ll have a chance to hunt down and kill someone called CitizenE to unlock memories that “Abstergo” blocked from the player. I only unlocked a few and alas, they only muddied the already muddy story more—with the exception of the last one of course.
Just like any Assassin’s Creed game, there’s plenty to do when you’re not attempting to accomplish main mission objectives. There are slaves to free, optional targets to assassinate, viewpoints to climb and more. If you skip most of that – as I did – the game is still fairly long. Since I played it on my commute, oftentimes ten minutes at a time, it’s hard to judge my overall playing time, but it felt like an eight to ten hour game.
(One thing to note: this game, like unfortunately to many other Vita games, requires you from time to time to shine a bright light against the Vita camera to accomplish a puzzle. This is one of the worst gameplay features and while I only had to do it three or four times, I dreaded it each time because it always seemed to happen at a bad moment on my commute. If you’re playing Liberation on the go like me, download a flashlight app to your smartphone, as that usually worked fairly well.)
That one negative part alone, Liberation actually makes quite good use of the Vita hardware capabilities without seeming obtrusive or annoying. While holding your thumb on the top of the screen, and index finger on the bottom screen, to swipe across to open a letter seems like a bit much, using the touch screen to pick pocket, switch weapons/grenades or initiate chain kills (ability to auto kill multiple enemies at once) was incredibly intuitive and fun to use.
Aveline is an interesting character and one I’d like to see continue in future Assassin’s Creed games. While many of the characters that surrounded her weren’t as fleshed out as side characters in previous franchise games, I did like the playful banter between her and her best friend – who is clearly in love with her – Gerard.
It’s difficult to go from playing Assassin’s Creed III on the console to Liberation on the Vita—especially a year after completing Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. You start to settle in a bit to console fatigue. (Who has the time to climb all those viewpoints?)
At the same time, Liberation is a worthy Vita game and one that shows the potential in the system. I enjoyed my time with it – just not as much as I would have hoped – and think any Assassin’s Creed fan will enjoy it as well.
* Disclosure: A downloadable copy of Assassin’s Creed 3 Liberation was provided to the reviewer by Ubisoft for the purposes of this review. *