The Assassin’s Creed franchise finally gets it just dues on a portable device… well not quite. If we were to sit here and discuss all the great things that Liberation stood for, regarding the PlayStation Vita, we could be here all day! That doesn’t mean it’s a great game, or even a good one for that matter. I think a good friend of mine said it best when he suggested that Liberation was perhaps a missed opportunity for Vita, but a great “proof of concept.”
As many of you know, Assassin’s Creed is amongst the most prominent IPs to come out of this generation of consoles. Sometimes it falters, other times it shines supremely bright. However, it has become a very recognizable name with a rich lore and mythos. AC3: Liberation expands on this by casting you as the role of Aveline de Grandpré, a woman from the heart of New Orleans who just happens to be an assassin. I say just happens to be an assassin because…well… she just is. I don’t necessarily know how she came to be an assassin; Ubisoft Sofia decided to glide over that part. And frankly, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if story wasn’t key here, but alas, it is.
I don’t have one single fault with the storyline, I have a quite a few actually. They range from the lack of background for missions to the games ability to thrust you into a situation without introduction. I understand the missions were designed to be “pick up and play” style, but I feel like some of them falter from either trying to be too much story in too little time. Don’t let that deter you thinking that the story is bad; it can be quite good at times. The setting in New Orleans is fantastic and expansive. Moreover, Aveline is still an interesting character when you consider her situation to be the backdrop of the Revolutionary War (ie. slavery, some French and Indian War). It is just bogged down at times by the games broken narrative. If you can piece it together and use some imagination, it can be rather entertaining.
However, the bread and butter of the game are its missions. If the missions had been boring or dull, this review would be much shorter and much angrier. It not perfect, but it’s still manages to be fun. I was particularly fond of the stealth missions, which seem to be long forgotten in today’s assassin franchise. To this degree, the game is very similar in style to the original AC, only less repetitive.
Another aspect of the missions is Aveline’s different personas, which is just a fancy word for different outfits. Specifically, she has her assassin outfit, slave outfit, lady outfit. While the concept of approaching targets with different disguises is both logical and interesting, it’s not executed as well as it could have been. I would have loved to choose which disguise to use for each mission, but more often than not, it is chosen for me. I do however like how each dress had its positives and negatives; its fair to say nobody could run around the rooftops of New Orleans with a Victorian-style dress on. Although Mardi Gras has proven stranger things can happen…
The game looks great and is possibly one of the best looking games on Vita now, but it takes a hit in the technical department. This is where my biggest gripe with the game comes in: the framerate. From the moment you push forward on that analog stick, it becomes apparent that this game is pushing itself, but at time it simply can’t keep up. It choppy, slow, and down right ugly at times.
The best example I can think of is combat with several soldiers, which can really exhibit the flaws from using a new engine. Aveline at time could skip ahead, or stuck in a fence. More often than not, when I told her to do something, she didn’t seem to want to do it.
This could possibly be traced back to the less drastic bugs found in the main title Asssassin’s Creed 3, but I have no hard evidence there. I don’t doubt that new engines cause bugs all the time, but the art of debugging is necessary for a reason. This is a rather sporadic issue though, and does not hinder the game the entire time, just enough to become a nuisance.
The controls are a separate “issue,” one that has firmly divided its player base. Some love the way AC games control, while others don’t. For the most part, you’ll be glad (or sad) to hear that it’s the exact same system with only some Vita controls shoehorned in.
Most touch controls were attempting to be clever; like ripping an envelope by pinching the vita back and front touch panels and swiping from one side to another. Some just feel unnecessary; why should you slide a finger down on the back of the vita to pickpocket? Every other AC made this process simpl, yet Liberation tries to something different (which is commendable). One instance where the touchscreen works well though is with the chain killing. The fact that killing never felt so fluid really showed how a Vita-only feature could be used well. However, you don’t have to change the game for the sake of the system, something that I hope more games learn later on.
In reagards to overall sound; impressive. The voice acting was very well done and in tune with the period. Aveline was particularly well done, and frankly I expected no less from the franchise. The soundtrack was not as good others in the series, but was made up for by the great sound editing heard during climbing, fighting and other mundane tasks. In this department, it matches its console counterpart.
I wanted to love Liberation, I really did. But I only came out thinking, “meh.” The game suffers from a lack of polish and narrative direction. That doesn’t mean this game isn’t without its high points; in terms of pick up and play, the mission sequences fit in perfectly. Just don’t expect the same type of quality you get from its big brother version. Remember, I mentioned that this game is more about “proof of concept.” Mainly because this game proves that it is possible to put the console experience onto the Vita, it simply needs some more development time and some love. And if given the chance of a sequel, I think we’d see a huge improvement.
To see the review for Assassin’s Creed III on the consoles (review by Jamie Briggs) then click here!
Jaime loves playing games on the vita and is constantly looking for that killer app. Perhaps AC3: Vita is not it, but the game still proves that the Vita has immense potential under that hood. If you think he’s wrong, let him now in the comments below or on Twitter.