At E3 2011, Ubisoft made some hefty promises by way of Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation. Not only were they bringing the iconic franchise to Sony’s latest handheld, they were promising an experience every bit as epic and exciting as its console counterpart. As the holiday approaches, is Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation the system seller Sony hoped it would be?
Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation — Born on the Bayou
Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation stars the first female assassin in the series, Aveline de Grandpre, who is a creole aristocrat of 18th century New Orleans. The city is a hotbed of political goings on and social unrest. Aveline must both fight to prevent the Templars from running the city, as well as find out what happened to her mother, and assist slaves who are mysteriously disappearing. The plot is at its most interesting when dealing with Aveline’s personal story, though, to be frank, the plot of Liberation is the same jumbled mess of conspiracies and “intrigue” we’ve come to expect from the series.
This may be a personal preference thing, but I have never felt Assassin’s Creed‘s story was its strongest suit. The game often feels as though it is holding your hand like an unruly child, dragging you through the story as it sees fits, with very little player choice or freedom. Again, the franchise has been like this since the beginning, but in the wake of game like Dishonored, which allows you true assassin freedom, Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation feels more than a little restrictive.
Run through the jungle
The gameplay mechanics are almost identical to previous AC titles, with R button doing most of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to running and climbing through the swamps of Louisiana. Which is a shame because during long moments of leaping and bounding through the densely wooded areas, it would be nice to feel a little more involved (more on this below).
One of the best mechanics with Liberation is Aveline’s personas. As the Lady, Aveline cannot climb or jump, and her attacks are very weak, but she is, to the city’s knowledge, a respectable woman, meaning her threat is low and she is able to charm and bribe various NPCs. As the Slave, Aveline can climb, jump and fight, but she may also infiltrate certain areas which would be off-limits to the other personas. The Slave can also incite riots among other slaves to draw attention off herself, and while her threat level is a little higher, you may remove wanted posters to lower this. Finally, the Assassin is the best at climbing, running and fighting and is, unarguably, her coolest look (hence why it appeared in all the advertising). The only sad part about the Assassin is how shockingly little time you spend in this costume.
The persona concept adds a surprisingly deep layer to this game as it acknowledges the versatility and, yes, limitations of a female character. In fact, there are multiple details within the game that help make Aveline feel like a complex female character as opposed to Ezio with boobs. I’ll take this a step further and suggest that Aveline is such an amazing character, playing this game alongside Assassin’s Creed 3, I would have preferred to experience Connor’s story on the handheld and Aveline’s on the console. She’s that awesome.
The touch controls of the PS Vita are admittedly gimmicky and more often than not, a button push or series of manual controls would have been preferable, especially with the canoe controls.
The view from the top
Graphically speaking, Liberation is quite attractive on the PS Vita, but the real test here is whether or not colonial Louisiana could compare to the majesty of Renaissance Italy. The answer is yes and no. Liberation is at its most fun when you are running through the bayous, unfettered and under zero direction. The feeling of gracefully climbing massive Cyprus trees, swinging from branches and jumping to far off points brings out a nice sense of adventure and exploration. However, while it’s fun to climb to the top of a very tall tree to synchronize your view, the majesty of 1700s swamp just cannot compare to that of Venice or Jerusalem. New Orleans proper is a little more interesting, but again, short buildings and smoke stacks rarely invoke that same sense of awe.
Amber Goldfarb does a decent turn as the creole-accented Aveline, but by and large Liberation continues the trend of poor voice acting in the series. Paula Jean Hixson, who did a great turn as Faridah Malik in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, is perhaps the worse offender as Elise. But all of this is forgivable when coupled with what is, without question, the best soundtrack the series has seen to date.
Sony was betting pretty hard that Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation would be the first major system seller in this pivotal sales holiday. For fans of the Assassin’s Creed universe, Liberation is everything Ubisoft promised it would be: an AC experience for the handheld that is every bit the experience of its console cousin, bugs and all. It may come as a surprise that despite many complaints, I actually rather enjoyed Liberation. While the story isn’t integral to the main series, it’s a worthy spin-off that should not only be experienced but supported. Ubisoft has created with Aveline de Grandpre a strong, interesting female character of whom I’d love to see more. If you are experiencing Assassin’s Creed fatigue after Revelations, or if the series has never been your thing, chances are Liberation won’t win you over.
- Release Date: Oct. 30, 2012
- Genre: Action
- Platform: PS Vita
- Developers: Ubisoft Sofia
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- ESRB Rating: M
- MSRP: $39.99