This review was powered by Abstergo.
The first and foremost difference you notice between AC3: Liberation and the console Assassin’s Creed games is that you adopt the person of an African-American woman, a first for the Assassin’s Creed series that has always known male protagonists. Aveline is a lady of African and French descent and Liberation’s story basically revolves around Aveline fighting against slavery, the Spanish and dealing with the disappearance of her mother when she was young. Ubisoft have done a neat job in creating a story that is disconnected from Desmond’s story but still fits in the historical context of Assassin’s Creed (3). I Personally found the interrupting of the story by events in modern times as well as adding a second protagonist very disruptive, so I’m glad they got rid of it, though there are some slight elements of visible that tell the player you are not Aveline, but reliving her memories instead. However, my major grievance with this game is the presentation of the story and the cut scenes; it paces horribly and is seemingly cut short of back-story and fluidity to make it more suitable for a portable platform, but instead of just making missions short and adding lots of checkpoints, AC3: Liberation has had its story compromised. Essential questions, such as how Aveline became an assassin in the first place, aren’t answered and the story takes massive jumps too quickly. It does however, do a good job of making every mission feel relevant to Aveline’s character and her motivations. Never before in an Assassin’s Creed game have I felt that the protagonist’s actions are more motivated by her own personality than by the Assassins’ struggle versus the Templars. Missions aren’t extremely long and are very enjoyable, mostly consisting of you walking or free-running to a certain location while evading guards and enemies. Once arrived at the spot, there is lots of variety in the missions such as assassinating, threatening, freeing slaves, curing Bayou fever, et cetera. While the conversion from console to portable hasn’t done the story any good, the missions and gameplay feel unharmed, and sometimes even better than previous iterations in the series. There’s plenty to explore and do even after the credits have rolled, such as setting up your own family business, purchasing all the shops , costumes and weapons, finding all crocodile egs and diary pages of your long-lost mother (which add to the story).
The core gameplay of Assassin’s Creed is present in AC3: Liberation, and it is definitely on par with the console iterations of the series and features some improvements also present in AC3 such as being able to climb trees. Running and jumping around New Orleans feels as good as scaling the city walls of Rome, and the combat is equally fluid. One nice addition is the option to pause the gameplay and assassinate enemies using chain-kill mode. If you perform enough sneaky assassinations, you will be able to pause the gameplay while in combat and execute a few enemies by tapping on a weapon icon displayed above their heads. It’s additional and non-compulsory gameplay elements that give players multiple options to counter a situation like these, slightly comparable to Fallout’s VATS and Red Dead Redemptions Dead-Eye targeting system, that make gameplay more enjoyable for me. The controls are exactly the same as other Assassin’s Creed games, except for minor changes like the weapon wheel and other touch-screen controls. I’ve never found them to be shoe-horned into the experience and they work accurately enough for me.
The character whose memories you play, Aveline, is a formidable assassin of French and African decent (with the accompanying, horrible French accent which is sadly historically correct) and her sex is, for once, not used as an excuse for booby-ogling (which I am completely fine with, by the way) but to give her new strengths. Aveline is a confident women and a skilled assassin, fighting for justice. Her tale kind of feels like one of a superhero and Chris Carter from Destructoid drew a very fitting parallel between Aveline and Bruce Wayne. Aveline is from a rich family, has the similar issues (her mother has magically disappeared long ago) and can disguise herself to keep her identity hidden from her enemies. Aveline carries around several weapons, such as the new blowpipe, which shoots poison darts and is very fun to use against guards as their falling animation is very funny. Other new weapons include the smoke bombs which temporarily stun enemies and more hack and slashy weapons such as the sugar cane sword and the hatchet (for people linking the game with AC3 on PS3, Connor’s tomahawk is available for slaying).
One thing that makes Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation stand out from its console brethren, is that Aveline can change into different costumes or Personas, which each have
their own merits. You have your standard assassins outfit (with pirate hood instead of the usual hoodie) and two other sets of clothing, giving you the appearance of a fine lady or a lowly slave. The assassin is my favourite Persona, mainly because her outfit looks very ‘badass’ and because her manner of walking is much more self-confident than the slave and she can free-run, unlike the lady.
Dressing up as the noble madam comes with the disadvantage that the fancy dress and gaudy hat cause you to not be able to use your trademark assassin free-running skills anymore, and this is a huge drawback to the lady as you’re just slowly walking from one to the other point, thus omitting the elements that make Assassin’s Creed so much fun. Luckily, the lady is only compulsory in some of the earlier missions in the game, and can be fun to use in later sections if you do not have to traverse longer distances. It differentiates itself in a positive way from the assassin and the slave in that the outfit negates the need for brutal combat as you are able to charm lonely guards and use them as your Personal bodyguards. In the rough quarters of New Orleans, such as the harbour, your lady Persona will often by harassed by muggers who try to steal your money, as you were obviously born with a silver spoon in your mouth. You can protect yourself from these muggers, or infiltrate buildings by charming a lonely guards, who will follow and protect you like a puppy after a press of the O button. It’s simple but it is a comical addition to the lady’s arsenal.
Dressing up in a servant’s attire allows you to stir up other workers other give guards the impression you’re just an unimportant worker. You have much more mobility than the lady, and according to the manual also more than the assassin, but I have not experienced any differences. You can easier blend in because you do not arouse as much suspicion as the assassin and because there are many parts of the story taking place in the midst of slaves, but you cannot use certain bigger weapons like the assassin’s sword.
As you commit suspicious acts such as stealing or murdering, your notoriety will go up, resulting in being noticed by guards and enemies more easily. A nice touch is that the notoriety of the Personas goes up individually (acts committed as slave won’t have an influence on the notoriety of the lady, which adds a nice, realistic touch to the different Personas) and each Persona’s notoriety is lowered in different ways. The assassin’s notoriety (which is never lower than one, due to suspicious combat gear) is lowered by bribing corrupt magistrates, the lady’s by assassinating witnesses and the slave’s by tearing down ‘Wanted’ posters. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you will definitely spend some time on clearing your notoriety level in between missions, or try to stealth kill as much as possible because you are essentially rewarded for staying quiet and evading guards and opponents instead of taking the easy route and piercing everyone who looks at you with your shiny sword, making you feel more like an assassin than just a cold-blooded killer.
Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, while not seeming to run at full resolution (the edges of objects and people are jagged to a comparable level as Uncharted: Golden Abyss,
though it is hidden better due to the amount of detail) is still graphically very impressive (it uses the same engine as Assassin’s Creed 3 for things such as character movement). Character models and building textures are very detailed and depict New Orleans under French and Spanish rule very well. New Orleans feels very lively, and there are lots of citizens on the street with quite some detail to their design and they all feel slightly different and not just empty clones of each other, like I found them to be in Gravity Rush. There isn’t much interaction with them besides from being able to pickpocket or murder and loot them, but the developers managed to make the city of New Orleans everything but empty, since there are also dozens of (similar) shops and viewpoints.
Objects and environments in the distance have washed out colours and aren’t nearly as sharp as those in your environment, but this isn’t really an issue to me. However, high visual fidelity does come at a cost. Libby’s frame rate often drops below the minimum of 30 FPS when travelling through the busy streets of New Orleans or when engaged in combat with multiple enemies, but it never renders the game unplayable and hasn’t frustrated me. The visuals, in combination with the excellent music (composed by Winifred Phillips, who has created soundtracks for games such as God of War or LittleBigPlanet 2) does a grand job of capturing that historical feel that has made the Assassin’s Creed games such an interesting and vivid experience for those interested in history, such as me. The score is a combination of classical Assassin’s Creed violin music and more African-American percussion music, which especially fits the swam area (the Bayou) very well. Voice acting is superbe and the dialogue script is decent. Everyone sounds French, African-American or Spanish and emotions are very well transmitted to the player in a short and clear manner.
Sadly, the sound effects leave a lot left to desire. Sound quality, especially that of sound effects and dialogue, seems very compressed and low quality. The occasional creaking of the wooden roofs is unsynchronized with Aveline’s footsteps, and as much as the areas look alive and vibrant, they sound dull and empty.
In contrary to recent Assassin’s Creed games, there isn’t real-time multiplayer. Instead there is turn-based multiplayer where the player chooses the side of the Assassins or that of Abstergo and has to win by helping their team capturing nodes on a giant world map. Its features are poorly explained, most of the time while trying I just blankly stared at my screen and thought ‘what do they want me to do?’.This mode is equally irrelevant as it is uninteresting and while some could get enjoyment out of it I can certainly not. It lacks coordination and cooperation between other players and in general does not feel connected to the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
In conclusion, Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation is a great game with the same terrific gameplay as all Assassin’s Creed games. Additions like the Persona system and chain-kill mode are welcomed and very enjoyable. While the story is poorly presented and misses additional information, it does a great job of pushing Aveline’s character. The graphics and music are among the best on the system, but the game suffers from technical difficulties such as a hiccupping frame rate, sometimes jerky NPCs and low-quality audio files. It is certainly not perfect but one of the better games on the PS Vita.