The Assassin’s Creed universe has always been expansive on console and PC versions of the game. Previous attempts by Ubisoft to tell the story of the Assassins on hand-held gaming devices have always been ambitious and decent; but ultimately, confining. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, for the Playstation Vita, is not quite as grand as its console relatives; but it is definitely the best hand-held version to date and deserves a look-see.
Assassin’s Creed III seems to be all about risk. Characters within the story take risks, of course; but in this case I am referring more to the developers. Both console and hand-held versions do not mince words when it comes to the atmosphere of their games. The stories occur in time periods when North America was not the nicest place to be – and all of the racism and overall crappy behaviour of those “in charge” is unapologetically thrown right in our faces. It’s a bold move on Ubisoft’s part; and just as bold is the fact that the protagonist in Liberation is a lady. Most awesome. In addition, the game-play is definitely more about stealth than it is about unabashed open conflict*, which works very well both for the character and on the platform.
Liberation takes place in New Orleans – mostly on the Bayou. The hero of this title, Aveline de Grandpré, is a gal with high social standing that is not afraid to occasionally get her hands dirty in her quest to put a stop to those that run the local slave trade. When you consider how much Aveline has at stake, the focus on stealth and silence definitely makes a lot of sense.
Someone’s gonna get a hurt real bad…
While not as strong as her fellow assassins from the other titles, Aveline is definitely lighter, faster, and more agile. She scales walls and buildings with ease, and moves like a lithe shadow. Some of the most fun moments of playing Connor in Assassin’s Creed III are when you’re in the middle of a big brawl, kicking the crap out of multiple enemies with brutal efficiency. In Liberation, it is quite enjoyable to sneak around, passing through tense situations with guile before unleashing some deadly attacks.
Unlike Connor, Aveline has three dedicated costumes; each outfit bestows certain abilities while limiting others. These changes can be made at unlockable booths** that are littered throughout the play area. There is almost always a specific outfit required to complete a level. It would be interesting to try different costumes in the same situation to see how the game reacts to you – but this can’t always be done.
Aveline also has access to what amounts to a revenue-generating trade mini-game, allowing her to take advantage of her position as a merchant’s daughter to accumulate funds to buy new business structures in the city. On top of being a savvy businesswoman, she also ends up assassinating certain targets who are also business rivals, bringing a new meaning to the word “cutthroat”.
Extra coin definitely comes in handy…
Controls feel natural on the Vita, mostly following in the footsteps of the console version. Of course, the Vita has a few extra tricks in the form of touch-screen controls (weapon and map access, fighting, pickpocketing). This seem to be a little hit and miss (more hit than miss, to be fair) and adding it to your repertoire of tricks may be frustrating if you can’t get them to work consistently. Luckily, the combat is very reminiscent of other games in the series, so you’ll be able to counter your way to victory practically all of the time.
Liberation is definitely a shorter venture than Assassin’s Creed III and definitely easier on the whole – meaning and easier time achieving full synchronization. I did find it a bit challenging at the beginning, what with getting used to the controls – but it didn’t take long to get into the swing of things. I have a feeling that we should not take this as a sign that future titles will not be challenging, though. It is most likely Ubisoft testing the waters to see how we do before ratcheting up the toughness to make us earn those trophies or achievements.
Graphics are fantastic, but definitely nowhere near the same level of quality as the console versions. There are some popping issues and stuttering – but again, I feel like this might just be Ubisoft dipping their toe into Lake Vita before diving in. Audio is also impressive; but, again, compared to the console version, there are not as many characters that will reel you in (although Aveline has a voice like honey, and most of the accents in the game are believable).
Do your part to hold the line.
Multi-player is not like the consoles, as it is a map-based “capture-and-hold” type of game that reminds me of old BBS games – but it’s a great “fire-and-forget” style game that one can return to from time to time to add their own skin to a global battle.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is, in my opinion, a great game. There are a ton of hiccups, but the ambition behind the game is definitely something palpable. I’m excited to see what Ubisoft has in store, especially with refined touch-screen controls, expansion of the costume-change mechanic and frame-rate fixes. Single-player mode is engaging, and the environments are beautiful; stealth-killing is fun and the free-flowing combat is pretty cool. I definitely like this new addition to the Assassin’s Creed family, and am very excited about the future of the franchise on this hand-held platform.