Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Nov 14, 2012

On the one hand, Liberation is very much its own beast, with unique gameplay and thematic elements that separate it from other AC titles. On the other hand, it tries to maintain the core AC experience, oftentimes at the expense of performance and stability, and while it largely succeeds in this regard, the overall result is a game caught in the middle of the franchise's past and future.

The Pros
  • Hits all the right Assassin's Creed notes
  • Movement and combat are fluid
  • Uses theme of liberation in surprising and clever ways
The Cons
  • Bugs and glitches abound
  • Settings are sizable but largely empty
  • Multiplayer is unnecessary
  • Letter reading mini-game is unplayable (and potentially game breaking)

Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation Review:

Similar to her Assassin’s Creed 3 counterpart, Aveline de Grandpré, star of Ubisoft Sofia’s Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation and first female lead to appear in an AC title, is a hero torn between conflicting and changing worlds. A half-white/half-African America free woman living in late 18th century, on-the-brink-of-independence America would be a riveting and compelling enough character on her own, but add in the overarching AC mythos of Assassins vs. Templars, and things get even more complicated.

 

 

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation’s primary function is to provide Vita owners the chance to feed their AC lust when they aren’t around their consoles/PCs. As the events of the game are 99 percent unrelated to the events of AC3, Liberation is very much its own experience. So not only will you not gain any significant insight into the events of AC3, but there’s little to nothing revealed in terms of the overall AC universe, with the exception of the game’s premise, which is rather clever if, sadly, underdeveloped.

Instead of assuming the role of Desmond Miles and living through the memories of his ancestors, the player is meant to be someone who has purchased Abstergo Industries’ new personal Animus device, and is now reliving Aveline’s life. As you discover over the course of the game, Abstergo (aka the Templars) has tweaked Aveline’s story to paint the assassin’s in a less than favorable light. Similar to the appearance of Subject 16 in previous AC games, a rogue agent named Citizen E crops up at various points—after you have stumbled across him in your journeys since he isn’t marked on your mini-map--to give you an unedited look at certain key moments in the story.

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I’ve always loved this sort of “pulling back the curtain” idea, but Liberation doesn’t follow through on it enough, which is a shame, because as it stands now, it just feels like an incomplete thought. It also doesn’t help that these “reveals” don’t do much to clarify the often confusing story, which in turn mitigates a lot of the dramatic oomph they perhaps were meant to pack.

Story issues aside, there is quite an impressive AC experience on display here. The game’s expansive representation of New Orleans and the picturesque, yet largely empty, bayou (among some other surprising locales) are brought to life with that same level of detail that has made other AC settings so inviting, even if there weren’t as many side quests and random missions to fill out the expansive maps as I was expecting. Thankfully, all the free-running, dual-wielding, and Leap of Faith-ing gameplay fans have come to expect is present and accounted for here.

Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation

In action, Aveline moves fluidly up and across buildings, and unleashes carefully choreographed attacks capable of killing multiple enemies with just a few simple button taps. Performing these vicious takedowns is made even easier thanks to the new “mark and execute-ish”, multi-kill feature which lets you freeze the action and tap on up to four enemies in the heat of battle and automatically dispose of them in worry-free, cinematic fashion). The combat never really reaches the point where you feel like you need this kind of assistance, but it’s quite a sight if you remember to use it.

Liberation’s other unique gameplay feature—Aveline’s ability to don three unique disguises--ties directly into the game’s overarching themes of identity and empowerment. These outfits aren’t simply cosmetic (and each of the actually changes her walking animations, which is a great touch), as each affords Aveline unique abilities. So when dressed in her finest dressing gown, she can’t sprint or climb, but she does carry a dart-shooting parasol, and she’s able to charm targets, which lets her lead them to secluded areas for quiet kills. Her slave persona lets her blend in with servants and workers, carry crates, and even start riots by calling on the help of fellow slaves. She also has full climbing and running abilities, but she’s limited to small weapons in combat. When in full assassin’s attire, all of her abilities are available.

Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation

There are several missions where you are forced to use specific outfits, and while it can be frustrating to have to walk a long way to get to a mission checkpoint because your outfit doesn’t “allow” you to run, I actually found the use of the outfits to be quite brilliant, especially when I realized just how “liberating” it was to be able to ditch the dress clothes and get back to my building-climbing ways in my proper assassin’s duds; like how I imagine Superman must feel when he enters a phone booth.

Speaking of Aveline’s physical prowess, she sports many of the same traversal and combat maneuvers as Connor. But while the gameplay comes very close to matching that of AC3’s, all of Aveline’s movements make it look and feel like she’s moving underwater. This sort of smooth delay is jarring at first, but after a while you sort of get used to it, even though it never really stops looking a bit odd. More than anything this just highlights one of Liberation’s more unfortunate running themes, namely the Vita’s limitations bumping up against the ambitions of the Ubisoft Sofia team.

In addition to Aveline’s heavy-yet-floaty movements, I came across a healthy number of bugs and glitches throughout my 10-hour-ish playthrough. There were numerous instances of guards materializing out of thin air despite having been killed seconds before, the screen going completely black (with the exception of the hud) after exiting dress shops, and I even encountered one game-breaking bug during one of the side quests that eventually ended up working itself out for reasons unknown after more than a dozen attempts.

Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation

One of the most confusing and basically unplayable features is a mini-game of sorts that requires you to hold up the Vita’s rear camera to a light to reveal the contents of various letters found throughout the story and a few side quests (including the one that broke my game). The problem is there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to being successful. I held the camera up to a blistering white light with zero results and then rested the Vita on a desk, completely covering the camera, and it worked. Since you can’t progress until the letters are read, these instances bring the game to a grinding halt.

Should you find yourself needing a break from the single-player story, Liberation also features a management-style multiplayer mode that finds you fighting for control points spread out across the globe. Aligning yourself with either the Assassin’s or Templars, you pit your squadmates against rival agents in a purely numbers-based showdown. Once you use an agent, you have to wait 30 minutes (at least at first; not sure if there’s an option later to reduce cool down time) before you use them again, meaning that a lot of time early on is actually spent waiting to be able to play, which will most likely discourage all but the most diehard of the diehard AC fans out there.

Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation

Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, like its protagonist, is torn between worlds. On the one hand, it’s very much its own beast, with unique gameplay and thematic elements that separate it from other AC titles. On the other hand, it tries to maintain the core AC experience, oftentimes at the expense of performance and stability, and while it largely succeeds in this regard, the overall result is a game caught in the middle of the franchise’s past and future. If you have a Vita, Liberation is a worthy addition to your library, but, in keeping with the “trapped between worlds” theme, this is most likely as much a comment on the current slate of Vita games as it is an endorsement of Liberation itself.