Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation feels like a step forward despite some technical faults
Liberation marks the Assassin’s Creed series’ first appearance on Sony’s latest handheld, the Playstation Vita. It features, for the first time, a playable character that isn’t Altair, Ezio or Desmond Miles, in the form of Aveline De Grandpré. She is an assassin of Afro-French descent; a product of the union between a French aristocrat and a slave. The setting is an interesting one this time around as well — while Connor, the protagonist of the console and PC versions explores the frontier in the New World (and occasionally, some of the bigger towns), Aveline takes the sights in wonderful 18th Century New Orleans and surrounding areas, including the Bayou.
The plot revolves around the abduction of slaves and the extralegal system of ‘plaçage’ where French and Spanish settlers would ‘marry’ ethnic women (without legally calling them wives, of course) — a practice that was common in the day because of the inherent shortage of women of Caucasian descent, a necessity for France and Spain to increase their colonial population. Liberation weaves this into the plot with a reasonable degree of suspense and intrigue. There are some problems with the way the story is told (mostly technical in nature, while some are a direct result of production values); the story does feel fresh and different, seldom interfering with the core of the game: the stealth / action gameplay.
Aveline is a master of disguise. Posing as a lady, slave or an assassin (not really posing in this case!), she gains access to class-specific abilities when donning each of her avatars. The lady, for instance is well-loved by all in town (except for some unsavoury elements), with the ability to bribe guards and waltz into otherwise inaccessible areas of the map. The slave can blend in by carrying objects and performing menial tasks — an unspectacular disguise that is ideal in situations where a raised eyebrow could be the difference between life and death. The assassin, as you would expect, is as efficient a killer as the series has seen so far. Each of the classes does come with its respective caveats, but the trade-off is always justified. A lot of familiar mechanics make their appearance in the game as well, and Ubisoft Sofia’s unobtrusive design is to be admired. Tutorials are concise and are kept to a minimum, the screen space is well utilised, with efficient, minimalistic implementation of the Vita’s touchscreen and touchpad in the game’s mechanics, and loading times are surprisingly short — something even the game’s bigger cousin cannot claim on the PS3. Granted, there are technical faults (some of them glaring), and the production values aren’t always up to scratch, but for a portable title that isn’t made by one of Sony’s studios, Liberation is a good effort.
It is interesting how appropriately uncluttered and free Liberation feels. It might be a direct product of the game’s limitations, but its open-world is just open enough, and there’s not much beating around the bush when it comes to plot progression. Much like its assassinations, this direct approach to both narrative and story is a welcome change — and the fact that we don’t have to play 50 tutorials before getting to the meat of the content feels liberating. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is available for Playstation Vita.