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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.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




11/26/2012 at 09:48 PM

you suck at review, unbookmark this from my bookmark!!

Nick DiMola Director

11/26/2012 at 10:02 PM

So much for meaningful discourse. *sigh*


12/02/2012 at 11:04 AM

I'm glad to see an honest review, rather than seeing a brown noser due to his love of the past games. Hopefully someone from Sofia or Ubisoft reads this and doesn't become complacent with such a successful franchise.

Lukasz Balicki Staff Alumnus

12/02/2012 at 01:44 PM

Wow a low score for an Assassin's Creed game from Nick, very surprising. You must of been very disappointed in this one.

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