When the PlayStation Vita was first unveiled to the world, it was heralded as the avenue for console experiences on the go. “Finally, gamers can play Uncharted on the go,” we said. “How cool would Call of Duty on a handheld be,” we said. Now, it seems that sentiment has been almost completely inverted, as downloadable titles like Sound Shapes become system sellers, while ‘heavy hitters’ like Resistance flounder.
This disappointing realisation conveniently leads me into Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation; Ubisoft’s attempt at creating a fleshed out Animus experience in the palm of your hands. As Aveline, you are thrown into New Orleans before and in the middle of the American Revolution. When Aveline’s mother quickly disappears within the game’s opening minutes, the next logical step it seems is to join the Assassin Brotherhood and start dispatching bad guys. There’s an overarching theme of slavery and social structure, but it’s never anything strong enough to foster a connection, acting mainly as filler more than anything else.
Love it or hate it though, Liberation does away with present-day-world shenanigans, restricting you solely to New Orleans (it’s an Animus experience, you see). Personally, I think Desmond cops a lot of flak for his existence within the AC universe and I’m not sure if it’s always entirely justified. Yes, his playable sections amount to little more than leading to a bed and back, but his core functionality still provides some external intrigue – at least, for me. Without his involvement here, I’m left with a pirate princess, whose rushed character development failed in making me care about her motives, or her survival.
Ubisoft try to compensate for this through Liberation’s main hook – Personas. Granted the ability to roam the streets as a slave, a lady or an assassin; each persona will open up specific mechanics withheld from others. The Lady persona for example, will allow you, for the most part, to navigate as you please and use your lady ways to woo guards in order to get into restricted areas. She won’t however, be able to clamber up walls or run at any kind of desirable pace. Compare that to the Assassin persona who is capable of nimbly navigating rooftops, but will raise alarms almost at the sight of her presence.
It’s a neat new mechanic to the series; that is, until you realise that you have no real freedom to use it. Changing persona’s, for the most part is a heavily scripted affair, forcing you to choose a specific profile only when Liberation deems necessary. With each new iteration, it seems as though the Assassin’s Creed franchise has strayed away from the pre-planned strategy and trial and error murders it was built on. What is the point of giving you varying persona’s if you can’t always dictate how and when to use them – you know, like a real assassin. Ultimately, it feels like nothing more than a gimmick and leaves you feeling boxed inside a linear playground.
Maybe it’s a shining example of why console experiences aren’t actually a suitable fit for portable handhelds, even though the game tries so desperately to be. Graphically, it doesn’t quite hit the peaks of the Vita Uncharted, but manages to get the job done, even if the environments do come out a little bland. Surprisingly, controlling Aveline with the Vita’s dual analogues is a breeze, despite the lack of more traditional buttons. Traversing from wall to roof and everything in between is surprisingly fluid, albeit a little simplified, and combat runs smoothly. Frustrations of unplanned leaps off ledges that plagued the initial games in the series are all but thankfully gone, in favour of a more streamlined system. That’s not to say it’s perfect, because with little indication, more complex moves like double assassinations are still too difficult to achieve on the fly – leaving you to restart the checkpoint and do it the more traditional (see: boring) way.
When it’s all said and done, it’s not that Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is fundamentally broken, or even bad. It’s just not very fun, which perhaps, is an even worse damnation. If you’re a diehard fan of the series, running around playing stabsies will no doubt keep you entertained. If you’re waiting to be converted though, this is not the game to do it.
- Reviewed On
- PS Vita