The Bayou’s Lady Liberty

Up until this point, every game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise has followed the bloodline of Desmond Miles, with him acting as the supposed chosen one to save the world. Desmond has prepped for this monumental task by reliving the memories of his ancestors, who also fought in the never-ending Assassin-Templar War, by inserting himself into a device called The Animus. The Assassins aren’t the only ones with an Animus though, and so Liberation takes the unique approach of having you act as an unnamed trainee from Abstergo—the multinational company that serves as a front for the Templars—who’s placed into a Templar Animus in order to show the shades of gray of this ageless conflict.

It’s here that players are then introduced to the life of Aveline de Grandpre, the daughter of a wealthy French businessman and an African slave woman. Aveline grows up in the lap of luxury and so she may look the part of a noble when in her frilly dress or twirling her parasol while wandering around 18th-century New Orleans, but underneath her exterior lies the heart of a warrior, trained by an escaped slave and Assassin leader named Agate, who also happened to be a friend to Aveline’s mother. Aveline then uses this training to forward the movement to free the slaves while also protecting New Orleans from the ever-encroaching Templar influence.

Now, this sounds very much like a worthy Assassin’s Creed story. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of the Vita, Liberation feels like a game that gets cut off before it can really hit its stride in terms of the plot. Much like many of the other games in the franchise, there are twists and turns, but they are far more predictable in Liberation, because in order to make sure they all fit into this cramped little space, you get beaten over the head with the clues. At least the console versions attempted to be subtle.

This truncated story also lends itself to horrible character development. Aveline’s unique back-story gives her such a strong base as a protagonist that it’s a dirty shame when it unravels in just the span of a few short sequences. Worse still, many of the later plotlines (which I won’t get into here to avoid spoilers) are left entirely unresolved.

Speaking of resolving issues, Aveline at the very least can handle her problems as only an Assassin can, as the Assassin’s Creed combat and free running is one franchise staple that wasn’t completely lost in the transition to the Vita. Although the controls can feel a bit stiff at times, you chain together kills, counter attacks, and climb up buildings and trees just as if you were playing on the console. The Vita does offer a special chain attack that you can perform with the touch screen, but it is not necessary to make your way through battle.

And this is probably the best thing about Liberation as a Vita game: It rarely shoves the system’s touch screen capabilities down your throat. Almost everything is optional. There were only a few instances, like one gyroscope oriented mini game or pickpocketing, and as in most every other game franchise that starts on consoles and tries to expand and breakthrough on the Vita, these gimmicky mechanics failed miserably. The rarity of these instances, however, does make them a bit more forgivable than most other Vita titles.

Something not to be forgotten, though, is the one major new feature that Liberation introduces. Aveline has the ability to blend into a variety of situations by changing her garb to match the occasion. If she needs to eavesdrop during a ball, she wears her lady attire. If she needs to sneak onto a plantation, she can wear her slave costume. If you plan on facing a lot of resistance, Aveline can wear her Assassin gear. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses—the Assassin gear, for instance, allows for more weapons, but always has at least a level one notoriety. The lady costume, on the other hand, removes the ability to freerun, but allows you to charm or bribe soldiers to get out of your way.

Mind you, the freerunning aspect isn’t as important for Aveline as the other assassins in the franchise, because her world, much like the story, is much smaller than what we are used to. Although the fiction brings you across three different settings (New Orleans proper, the Bayou, and parts of Mexico), each one is a breeze to run across and perform whatever objectives are required for you to progress. I also found myself less willing to free-run in many instances, because the Vita’s small screen made it feel as if the camera was in too tight on Aveline and that my vision was more obscured compared to other Assassin’s Creed titles.

When all is said and done, though, Liberation is definitely one of the better titles out there for the Vita. Compared to what we have come to expect from something in the Assassin’s Creed family, however, it feels a little under par, especially in terms of the story. Still, if you can’t get enough of the Assassin-Templar war and plan on being on the go a lot, you could do a lot worse on than Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.

SUMMARY: The strong core of the Assassin’s Creed franchise remains mostly intact here, but the truncated story makes Aveline’s character development feel rushed and the twists much more predictable here. Liberation is solid game if you’re on the go a lot, but it can’t hold a candle to Desmond and his ancestors.

  • THE GOOD: Combat and free-running that rivals that of the console versions,
  • THE BAD: Aveline’s development as a character feels rushed.
  • THE UGLY: Them crocs grow big down in the bayou!

SCORE: 7.5

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is a PS Vita exclusive.