Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation can be commended as an ambitious project. It wants to be a spin-off that wants to be more than just a paired down, diluted rehash of its bigger console sibling. It wants to be a graphical showcase for the Playstation Vita, showing that an open-world style game can be feasible on Sony’s handheld with little to no compromise. It also wants to be a showcase for a new character in the Assassin’s Creed cast that runs the risk of just being a token reskinning of a generic protagonist in a female’s body. As ambitious as these goals are, Liberation neither fails nor succeeds completely.
You are Aveline de Grandpre, the daughter of a wealthy family in New Orleans, Louisiana circa 1765. This African-French woman is respected by the populace, practices the piano in the comfort of her home, and serves the Brotherhood of Assassins in her spare time. Using her activities to help free slaves, Aveline is also tasked by the Brotherhood to fight against possible betrayal within their ranks. On top of everything else, Louisiana is slowly being occupied by the Spanish, which Aveline has reason to suspect is tied to the Assassins’ ongoing enemy, the Templars.
The first thing that comes to light is the characterization of Aveline. Her tragic backstory involving her mother starting life as a slave to her high-society status to her motivations for becoming an Assassin are quite compelling. The details really help her step into her own compared to the various protagonists in the other Assassins Creed games.
Unfortunately, the pacing and structure of the story campaign somehow manages to tease more information about Aveline while squandering any opportunities to learn more about her. She has her moments to be sure, but the pacing always manages to be too broad or too fast to let those moments breathe.
The core gameplay of Assassin’s Creed is still in place. You will climb, run, and jump your way through a historically accurate open world to either assassinate a target, conspire to assassinate a target, fight and escape after assassinating said target, or just explore and complete side-missions in the world. Everything from past Assassins Creed games are still present in Liberation, from the counter-heavy sword combat to the frantic rush of losing a bunch of guards hot on your trail after stabbing someone who deserved it.
The new additions to this gameplay is a mixed bag. A solid addition is the Persona system. Aveline is able to switch between her Lady, Assassin, and Slave outfits, each one with their own strengths and weaknesses. The Slave disguise can easily blend into crowds, but draws suspicion faster and takes more damage. The Lady draws much less suspicion and is meant for more discreet kills, especially since Aveline can’t climb or jump while in it. The Assassin is most ideal for straight up combat, but good luck blending into a crowd.
The issues start to arise whenever the game tries to use the Playstation Vita’s touchscreens for controls. The controls are used for elements such as chain-kills in combat or micromanaging trade ships in a mini-game to obtain more money. These controls are temperamental at best and absolutely unresponsive at worst.
AC: Liberation has multiplayer, but it might as well not. Instead of a port of the infamous cat-and-mouse intensity of identifying and killing other players, Liberation goes for a detached, node capturing mini-game. There is no direct combat, only a raw numbers roll determines what amounts to victory between the game’s two factions of Templars and Assassins. A faction system that is poorly implemented since eighty percent of players have chosen to side with The Assassins.
The technical accomplishment of getting a vast open world to work on the Vita is to be commended in AC: Liberation. The 18th Century look of New Orleans and the Bayou levels are well put together with solid texture work and art direction. It is a near seamless illusion of verisimilitude to the historical subject matter of which the story is based… as long as you don’t move or look too close at the people. Framerate drops happen almost consistently the minute Aveline starts booking it with guards coming after her. Also, the character models leave a lot to be desired. The motion capture work is commendable, but the models stand in all too familiar Uncanny Valley territory, exacerbated by rare animation glitches. Also, the game has a bad history of freezing up during cutscenes, getting to the start menu, and even crashing on a few occasions.
The voice-acting in AC: Liberation is a saving grace in terms of helping one overlook the robot face character models. Aveline’s voice-actress’ performance sticks most in my mind. If there is an issue I have it’s the use of looped music for the background theme of New Orleans and Bayou levels. It sets the mood but it’s obvious whenever it starts to repeat.
AC: Liberation is the kind of game I don’t like to give bad news about. There is a lot of potential and good ideas that could have made this a must have for Assassins Creed fans and Vita owners alike. There is a lot of content available, a lot of enjoyment to theoretically be had with the elements in place. But every time the game comes close to working up to a great pace or a moment of transcendence, a freeze-up happens, the touch controls get in the way or the story decides to jump around without letting any events sink in. All of these issues make the finished product feel muddled and inconsistent, ultimately crippling its own saving graces.
AC: Liberation is a disappointment. Not a travesty; a disappointment. If you are a fan of Assassins Creed and can put up with some flow-breaking glitches, this game may hold some entertainment. For everyone else wondering if this is a console seller, there is nothing to see here, move along.
AAG SCORE: 6.5/10
+ Great Main Character
+ Well Rendered Environments
+ Solid Mission Design
– Poorly Implemented Touchscreen Controls
– Inconsistent Story Missions
– Subpar Technical Shortcomings