Assassin's Creed III: Liberation Review
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On 11/26/2012 at 12:11 PM by Nick DiMola
If an Animus ever comes to exist, I feel bad for the poor guy who has to retread my footsteps through this game.
Even Assassin’s Creed fans should give pause before they decide to grab this one. Given its short length, this is a definite rental experience for the hardcore fans.
A full-scale handheld Assassin’s Creed game has been a long time coming. However, the hardware and storage space issues have always been a limitation for Ubisoft to bring such an ambitious game to the space. Thanks to the PlayStation Vita, Ubisoft Sofia was given the green light to move forward, netting Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Unfortunately, despite the hardware’s capability, it’s clear this adventure is scaled back in every way imaginable and rife with many of the bugs found in its mainline console brethren.
Rather than engaging Desmond for yet another adventure, Liberation takes an interesting twist. Similar to the first game, Abstergo is pulling the strings this time around and an unrevealed individual occupies the space of Desmond. Abstergo uses the Animus as a means to provide entertainment, while dispelling their version of the story of Aveline de Grandpré, a female assassin in New Orleans.
While you’ll get no face time with the Animus occupant, Liberation does fit in with the other titles in the series as its story involves the First Civilization and related artifacts of interest. To spice things up, the concept of Citizen E is introduced, which represents a hack of the Animus. Through some means, an assassin has managed to insert fake people into the world that, when killed, reveal the full scope of a cutscene displayed earlier in the game. It’s not often that Citizen E provides much insight, but the concept is at least interesting in theory.
Sadly, that’s not the only concept that only remains interesting in theory. Aveline, the first female protagonist of the series, has the distinct pleasure of playing a bit of dress up this time around. Though an assassin, she’s also a proper lady and part manager of her father’s business. Furthermore, Aveline’s mother is a freed slave and her lineage allows her to fit in with the other slaves currently occupying New Orleans. Given these three distinct categorizations, Aveline can change her clothing to embody a different persona.
In her assassin form, she’s completely unbound, operating as you’d expect a member of the Brotherhood to. This is similar to that of the slave persona, though the slave sacrifices combat ability for greater blending techniques. The proper lady persona is the most different as it eliminates Aveline’s ability to do nearly everything. She can’t run, she can’t fight, and she can’t even travel to cities abroad. None of this would be bad if Liberation didn’t insist on so frequently dictating what persona you needed to use for a given mission. While the intent was in the right place, the new function proved to be nothing more than a hindrance and a time sink.
Also bolted onto an already functioning system are gimmicky Vita-specific controls and mini-games. While these tacked-on concepts are always bad enough in their own right, the ones found here are completely broken. A rolling ball puzzle controlled by the Vita’s gyro sensor took me 45 minutes to complete without exaggeration because I couldn’t consistently make the ball go in the direction I was tilting. Another puzzle/function asks you to hold the system up to a light to reveal something hidden on a map. Despite my continued attempts, I could never get it to work with any degree of consistency – bright lights were not the solution.
When you get past the meaningless additions, Liberation suffers from another set of frustrating problems. First and foremost, the game world is anemic compared to past iterations. The spaces are small and there’s very little going on in each area. Side quests are few and far between, leaving nothing but the constant grind of the main missions to keep you going.
Even the main missions leave something to be desired. They’re never particularly complicated or intriguing and mostly have you running to a given area and killing an enemy in open sight. The ones that are more complex break everything down into an array of tasks that take all of the fun out of the mission.
One such mission ultimately wanted me to create a diversion for a set of guards so I could loot some items I needed to fashion a hidden blade. Rather than state this outright and give me the flexibility to build my own scenario, Liberation provided me a very distinct checklist that I had to complete to generate that diversion. It’s handholding to a degree that invalidates the very point of being a badass assassin.
Aveline’s story could’ve carried the experience, even through the many rote missions, but even that is disappointing, as it’s barely ever brought into focus between missions. The ending of the game becomes quickly obvious and the absence of a real world avatar only drags the story down further. Learning more of what’s happening in the current day and age is the pay off fans of the series are expecting as dividends for their hard work.
To be fair, running, jumping, and climbing through the nooks and crannies of the world is still as fun as ever (when it works). It’s almost impossible to grow tired of the tried and true formula that backs each experience and despite the problems you’ll still have fun here and there, depending on the nature of the mission at hand.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation could’ve been so much more, but it never raises the bar for the series, nor does it provide anything beyond the base gameplay to hook players on the experience. While I can’t say that I hated my time with this title, I can definitely say that I was glad when it was over. Perhaps if Ubisoft Sofia takes a swing at it again they’ll be able to tap into the Vita’s power to make a more complete game.