de Grandpré, the protagonist of Assassin's Creed III Liberation, is
capable and deadly. Sometimes she charms Templars with her beauty,
luring them to secluded areas before introducing them to death's cold
embrace; other times, she stalks her prey from atop the rotting trees in
a Louisiana swamp. But always, regardless of her mission, her
motivations are just as murky and unclear as the alligator-infested
waters of the bayou itself. Why did she join the Assassin Order? For
what reasons does she bury her hidden blade into the flesh of her
enemies? Don't expect to find out, because Liberation doesn't bother
with providing context for much of anything.
a disjointed affair, one that expects you to just roll with the
punches. Take, for example, the game's opening sequence. This tutorial
has you playing as a young Aveline, who gets separated from her mother
in a New Orleans market. Cue the jarring transition: It's suddenly a
decade later. Here, it's implied Aveline's mom abandoned her that day at
the market--oh, and by the way, Aveline's an assassin now. That's all
the explanation you get.
ambiguity permeates Liberation's narrative. It's hinted from the very
beginning that Aveline's tale is one skewed by Templar bias. You are,
after all, inside one of their Animus machines, and you see what the
Templars want you to see--and they want you to see the Assassins as the
enemy. This is a cool and interesting premise that acts as a solid
foundation--unfortunately the story that's built upon it is vague and
confusing. It's never really clear who's a friend, who's an enemy, or
why any of them hate each other--and sometimes you--so much.
stalking and destroying virtual bad guys doesn't require a very strong
voice of reason. Liberation's gameplay is its greatest draw, as it plays
exactly like you'd expect any Assassin's Creed game to play. The combat
feels just as fluid as ever, and it's quite amazing what Ubisoft has
managed to accomplish on the Vita: Scaling buildings in the bustling
streets of New Orleans, or shimmying trees in the muddy swamps of the
bayou is a blast, and the animations here are easily the best we've seen
in a handheld experience.
certainly a pretty game, and it's a surprisingly big one, too--but its
size is sometimes a detriment. Finishing a mission on one end of the
bayou and then having to slog back to the other end is a frustrating
experience you'll encounter on more than one occasion. Sure, there are
awesome treetop routes to take--but you might give up trying to find
those routes when they aren't immediately obvious and swim through the
swamp instead, which is frustratingly slow.
of Liberation's environments are brilliant. A series of dungeons in
Mexico make up some of the game's best moments, as they combine
incredible underground vistas with some truly amazing platforming. But
most of the settings in the game are downright lifeless. There's hardly a
sense of historical importance, which is a shame, considering one of
the great things about the Assassin's Creed series is its attention to
historical detail and the provision of factoids about the buildings and
characters you'll encounter. Yes, a database exists, and yes, it
provides info on key characters (and nothing else)--but this info is
interjected with Templar propaganda meant to bring you to question which
side is really the "good" side in the Templar vs. Assassin war. Again,
it sounds neat on paper, but it's confusing in practice.
are plenty of distractions to give you something to do along the way,
though. As in other Assassin's Creed games, side quests are abundant:
Slaves need freeing, bad guys need to be put down, and there's plenty of
stuff to collect. Some of these mini-missions are enjoyable endeavors
that pay out in healthy amounts of cash, which is used to purchase new
equipment and storefronts. There's even an asynchronous multiplayer mode
that pits Assassins vs. Templars in a slow-but-steady "choose your
side" takeover of the world, as well as a neat little mini-game in which
Aveline must run her own shipping business, buying products from some
countries and exporting them for a profit in others. Other side quests,
however, are mundane escorts.
central mechanic of adopting different personas is meant to afford
players the opportunity of choice when it comes to the mission approach.
You can dress as an assassin, a slave, or a lady of nobility, each with
more movement and weapon restrictions than the last. As an assassin,
you have access to all your weapons and can parkour freely; the slave
guise limits you to specific weapons, but allows you to incite crowd
riots; and the lady persona restricts free running but lets you charm
guards as escorts.
persona mechanic is interesting during the rare occasions you're
allowed to utilize it freely, but many missions force you to use a
specific guise. Because some so heavily restrict how much parkour you
can do or which weapons you can access, you may rarely feel the urge to
adopt any persona other than the assassin--after all, jumping on
rooftops is half the fun.
more, Liberation is pockmarked by a series of minor bugs and audio
glitches. The issues likely won’t be problematic enough to actually turn
you off, but needing to reset from a checkpoint after watching Aveline
slip through the ground into nothingness will undoubtedly annoy you.
is definitely a bite-sized Assassin's Creed in more regards than just
its price of admission. Aveline's a great character, but she's given too
dim a spotlight. The gameplay feels right and contains most of the core
tenets of what makes us love this series so much, but the whole
experience is wrapped around a disjointed frame that's almost as
off-putting as it is inviting. Die hard series fans and Vita loyalists
will find some enjoyment here, to be sure, but Liberation's all over the
place--and only some of those places hit the right notes.