As the saga's first portable release of the 7th gaming generation, Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation brought chunks of third-person stealthy fun in a compelling historical setting to gamers on the go, amidst some hardware limitations.
Portable titles of AAA franchises tend to be very austere in terms of resources and content, and Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation is no exception. Some people may point to Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep as an example of a handheld spin-off of a popular game series one-upping its home-console counterparts (Birth By Sleep, released on the PSP, is still regarded by KH fans as one of the best Kingdom Hearts ever made.) Notwithstanding, this is far from being the general rule.
But I digress. Back to Assassin's Creed:For all its faults, Liberation looked impressive for a PS Vita game, but after playing the HD version on the PS3, the flaws in design become apparent. The long discontinued Vita attempted to emulate the experience of a PS3 on a handheld console, yet with many compromises, starting with the resolution (which is short of the PS3's 720p), which served, in this specific case, to mask all the imperfections.
Nevertheless, there is a certain charm to playing an Assassin's Creed title on a smaller screen that you can carry in your pocket or bring to your bed as you lay. Alas, when we compare it to the flagship releases, it looks naturally more tarnished. It also doesn't help that it was released simultaneously with Assassin's Creed 3.
Don't get me wrong, though! The game, when scrutinized in its own right, is a good game. As a matter of fact, It's arguably one of the best games released for the now-defunct Vita and it's one of those titles you can certainly enjoy in your spare time. It's likewise quite short, spanning roughly 8 hours of game time (or 20 if you are a completionist), so it doesn't overstay its welcome.
Exploring and parkouring around New Orleans is quite a fun endeavor. There's a certain appeal to the city that makes you want to take a peek at every little corner. However, once you reach the Bayou area, the experience starts to go a bit downhill. Moreover, while I won't be spoiling the ending, let's just say I found it a bit "lacking" and anti-cathartic.
The voice acting also leaves a bit to be desired. Aveline (the main character and the first female protagonist in the entire series) is a French-African who speaks English, so it's understandable that they wanted to convey all the diction challenges that ensued from the mix. Still, after 5 dialogues, it starts to grate a little. especially since there doesn't seem to be many nuances in the delivery. In addition, many of the dialogues appear to be too over-the-top for my liking, especially in the final scenes.
As a character, Aveline is memorable and even, dare I say, relatable. To be frank, she's probably one of the most "human" assassins (for lack of a better term) in the entire franchise, with a very believable character arc. However, I wish the game's story would have done a bit more justice to her. I can safely say that she really deserved a starring role in a flagship title, which is more than I can say for the rest of the characters.
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The game plays very much like a classic Assassin's Creed from the PS3 era. It doesn't stray much from the original stealth-based formula, whereas Assassin's Creed 3 was a bit more action-oriented, a trend that would evolve into the combat system implemented in modern AC releases (much to the dismay of purists).
As far as settings go, you will be switching back and forth between a modern-day Abstergo facility (the fictional Templar-operated mega-corporation) and 18th-century Louisiana. In the past, as the French and Indian War is taking place, you play as Aveline de Grandpré, a French-African assassin who is fighting the Templars seeking to control the area and secure a safe slave trade corridor. The "Company Man" is a high-ranking Templar and the main antagonist of the story. In a sense, Aveline is the archetype of the abolitionist rebel of the day in the hunt for the grand slavemaster.
In typical Assassin's Creed fashion, you will be able to climb every type of wall and tread rooftops and trees as you try to ascertain your enemy's whereabouts. Terribly unrealistic, I know, but that's Assassin's Creed, for better or worse.
As explained earlier, this game is heavily stealth-oriented, meaning that you'll spend more time in the shadows than swinging swords or breaking shields. You'll also use blowpipes and scary voodoo totems to disturb and stagger your enemies, especially in the Bayou.
Furthermore, you're capable of switching between three distinct Aveline personas: Assassin, Lady, and Slave. Each one has its pros and cons, and they're useful for different ends. For example, the Assassin persona is more agile and skillful in combat albeit with a high visibility rate, whereas the Slave has access to fewer weapons but can blend in with other slaves. Lastly, the Lady persona is slower but has far lower visibility and higher chances to bribe or persuade guards.
The playable character has several skills that can be employed during combat. One that was exclusive to Liberation was Chain Kill, with which Aveline could link attacks together to kill multiple enemies at a time.
Outside of combat, you can access a trade system that allows Aveline to control her father's trade network and purchase or sell goods.
When it comes to content, there is, unfortunately, not much to say. This game is "open world" (some would call it a "false open world"), but you'll be mostly sticking to the main missions, as the side quests are largely uninteresting and don't add anything of value to the whole plot. The map size is also seriously dwarfed by that of more modern AC offerings, which is to be expected for a handheld game.
Finally, you'll be able to collect several trophies after achieving specific feats (numbering 31 in total). These would make sense only if you are a completionist and want to share your achievements. Otherwise, there is not much purpose to them as they don't add any replayability value.
To summarize, this game is not what I would call a "must-own", but if you can spare a few bucks, buy or rent this game at a bargain price. If possible, get your hands on the remastered version, which comes with improved visuals.
If you had a good (or bad) time playing as Aveline, please let us know in the comments section below!