Assassin's Creed is one of the biggest AAA franchises out there but while consoles enjoy the robust, full featured entries, more often than not handheld platforms get the shaft. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation has ambitions to convey a similar experience to its console counterpart, but ultimately fails in its execution of key mechanics, a well-crafted story, or even a fun experience.
A Complicated Lady
There are elements of Liberation that hold a good amount of potential but Ubisoft Sofia has missed the mark in several areas. Liberation stars an all new female protagonist named Aveline de Grandpré who might have been a great addition to the ranks of her fellow assassins had she not had such inconstant motivations and a dull story to tell. I'm glad to see some female representation in a series dominated by male protagonists but I couldn't really understand what Aveline stood for. Early on in the game we learn that Aveline spends a good amount of her time and resources helping slaves find their way to freedom. it's a noble pursuit and one I was on board with until later in the game where her goals became more confusing. About half way through there are a series of side missions that have Aveline hunting down fellow merchants to eliminate them as competition for her shipping empire. Freeing slaves is all well and good, but murdering other ambitious business owners is, in my opinion, pretty darn far from being a champion of freedom.
Liberation has Aveline taking on different "personas" allowing her to accomplish different tasks. Kind of like how Batman might better accomplish an objective as Bruce Wayne rather than his throat cancer stricken alter ego. It’s a neat idea and one that's unique to this particular entry in the series but I found little motivation to use any persona other than Assassin unless a mission specifically called for me to don one of the others. The slave persona can free-run just like the assassin but has limited weapons and gains notoriety very quickly. The lady persona can't free run and features even less combat options. To be honest I found the lady and slave personas to be more of a hindrance while running around the game’s open world. Finally, Liberation's attempt to use some of the PlayStation Vita's unique functionality are so poorly executed that that using them to solve puzzles was the most frustrating part of the game. There are several puzzles that require you to point the Vita's camera at a light source and then rotate the device to reveal a hidden message. This rarely worked and I found myself holding the Vita centimeters from a light trying to see some semblance of a hidden image to no avail. It was only by randomly moving the Vita around was I able to complete these puzzles and proceed with my mission with no clue how I'd solved the puzzle. Another puzzle required me to use the Vita's tilt functionality to navigate a labyrinth with a stone sphere. Unfortunately, the tilt mechanics are done in such a counter intuitive way that I found it close to impossible to get the sphere to move in my desired direction. It was easily the most frustrating part of the game for me and I got no sense of accomplishment when it was complete. However, I was glad it was over and began to hope than the game contained no similar puzzles. At first these all sounded like great elements but the way they were executed ended up sucking a lot of fun out of the game.
A Glitch in the Animus
In addition to all the aforementioned problems I had while playing the game I also found the game to be technically unsatisfactory. During my playthough of Liberation the game crashed on me no less than five times. Crashing once is forgivable, two or three times is annoying, but five? Unacceptable. In addition to the crashes I experience several in-game glitches. Some were common among the series, like clipping and glitchy cinematics. Others were down right game breaking, like targets becoming stuck in place during chases making it impossible to finish my mission and causing me to restart from an earlier checkpoint. There was even one I found to be comical. Sometimes while walking around New Orleans NPCs would randomly change into a different character and walk off like it was business as usual. Comical spontaneous sex changes aside, I really do feel that Liberation would have benefited from a few more months in the development studio.
Some Saving Grace
For what it's worth, the voice acting was pretty good and the game does look decent enough on the Vita. However, I would have appreciated it if the game's story had even remotely tied into the overall story arc of the series but other than a brief encounter with Connor, the protagonist from Assassin's Creed III, there is nothing really linking Liberation to the Assassin's Creed universe. Liberation might as well have been called Runnin' Killin’ and Gator Wrasslin'.
A Missed Opportunity
Overall, the game has its flaws, quite a few in fact but it's still an Assassin's Creed game you can take on the go. I just wish that the good ideas I saw while playing early on had been executed in more effective and fun manner. That said, due to the fact that it contains more frustration than fun, and the lacks any connection, that I observed, to the Assassin's Creed series except for the premise and mechanics, I recommend skipping this entry in what is normally fun and compelling series of games.