Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation PS Vita Review

By: Louis Edwards

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A new assassin joins the Brotherhood and the Templars are her targets. Can she live up to the name of Assassin? Does this PS Vita title live up to the Assassin’s Creed legacy?

Read our review to find out.

The Assassin’s Creed series has long been known for a line of stealthy, murdering men, that go back hundreds of years. Never has there been a female assassin in their ranks until now. Enter Aveline de Grandpré, a female Assassin of French and African descent who was separated from her mother as a young girl and raised by her father and step-mother. Somewhere along her path she is introduced to her assassin mentor Agate, and he teaches her the ways of the Assassin Brotherhood.

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There-in lies the biggest problem for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. That is almost the entire story given to you by the game through game play and cut scenes. Aveline is introduced to us as a little girl who chases after a chicken and is separated from her mother. We are then fast forwarded to Aveline as a grown woman and already a trained assassin. Her introduction to the Assassin Brotherhood is left out completely, with no real back story and no real personal conflict introduced and so we really never have a chance to connect with the character.

Other characters are introduced, including a female Templar, that do add some to the story, and almost draw you in, but still left us wanting more. The series has always been as much about the story as the game play itself, and here the story almost seemed like an afterthought. For those of you wanting to get as much information out of the game as possible, you’ll want to read through the entire database from the menu as this is where you’ll find quite a bit of the missing story.

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The story opens up in the city of New Orleans. Before the Louisiana purchase, the are changed hands several times and the variety of people walking around town reflects that. You can hear languages from several different cultures in use as you travel around the city so don’t be surprised to hear French, Spanish, an African dialect or the Kings Speech. There really is no iconic image that immediately makes you think of the New Orleans, but the overall look fits what the imagination would have you believe.

You’ll also be traveling to the Bayou, which is a swamp full of alligators but little else. Maybe we were spoiled by the frontier in Assassin’s Creed III, with it’s abundant animals scurrying around everywhere you went and a cornucopia of species to hunt and kill. The Bayou gives you none of that with the exception of the alligators, and these can’t even be skinned. There are collectible alligator eggs, so be sure to keep an eye out for these anywhere you encounter one of these beasts. We thought swamps were filled with snakes and other crawly critters, but we couldn’t find them in the bayous of this Louisiana.

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The last location is on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, or New Spain in this era, and centers on the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. With the end of the world scheduled by the Mayans for this Friday (12/21/2012) this is a fitting addition to the storyline, although it’s not even remotely alluded too. The reproductions of the pyramids are nicely done, with some great details. The Yucatan Peninsula is also known for it’s many cenotes, or underground caves that are filled with water, and these are also recreated with great detail. While swimming through one of these in-game, we found ourselves frantically searching for an air pocket, and even holding our breath at times.

Gameplay is reminiscent of all previous Assassin’s Creed games, with some pretty cool additions, and that’s not a bad thing. Stealth is always a key to full synchronization and 100% completion, so bear that in mind. Thanks to the time frame of the story, fire arms are included as available weapons. Reloading time sucks since they are all muzzle loaders, but when faced with a tough opponent, a bullet to the face beats their defenses every time. Aveline also has a blowgun with a choice of two darts. One is a straight up poison dart, and works pretty quick while the other uses a berserker potion on the dart. This dart can drive the poisoned person insane and they’ll attack anyone and everyone around them. This is pretty fun to watch when there’s a large group of soldiers standing around and two of them are berserking out.

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Aveline isn’t limited to just being an assassin and can change between three different guises or persona’s, with each having their own pros and cons and purposes. In her Lady Persona, she can charm non-playable characters and use them for her protection or to get collectible items off of them. She can also blend in easier with this guise, and with her deadly dart shooting parasol, can eliminate targets with out drawing any attention to herself. This can make being an assassin pretty easy, but this persona also has its drawbacks. You can’t really run in a dress, so high speed pursuits turn into trying figuring out where the runner is headed, and getting there first via an alternate route. The lady can’t climb very well either, except for up ladders, so sneaking around on rooftops is almost impossible. You are in a dress, so what fancy lady travels the rooftops anyway? p.s. The Bayous and Chichen Itza are no places for a Lady.

Aveline also has a Slave Persona and with her being of African descent, this makes a completely believable guise for her. She can use this persona to access areas without setting of alarms by simply falling in with a group of slaves heading where she needs to go. She can also hide in plain sight by blending in with a group of slaves doing yard work and this comes in handy while trailing or following targets.

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Each persona has its own notoriety level and can help lower the level for the other two personas. While performing tasks that give you notoriety, there will be wanted posters plastered all over the place that can be removed by the persona that’s not on the poster, and this in turn lowers the notoriety level of them. The assassin persona can also kill witnesses to the Lady persona’s actions, and in turn lower her notoriety. It’s a pretty cool twist to the notoriety gameplay mechanics and it works very well.

With this game being created exclusively for the PS Vita, it’s only natural for the developer to try to use some of the Vita’s unique features. Trying to row a canoe with downward strokes on the rear touch pad, while using the left analog stick with your thumb, can be very frustrating. Place that canoe in a tight crevice like river, with rapid flowing water, and trying not to hit the sides and sinking your canoe on the rocks, is almost impossible. Another use will have you opening letters by pinching the top of the screen (front and back) and moving your fingers to the right to tear it open. That worked fine but there’s a hidden message on that letter and holding it up to a bright light is supposed to reveal it. The first time we tried this, we used every lamp available and couldn’t find anything bright enough to register. Turns out, if you cover the rear camera eye for a second, then uncover it again, the ambient light in the room is generally bright enough to uncover the hidden message.

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The sights and sounds of the game are where it truly shines. Where the game is lacking in story and substance, it tends to make up for it with great gameplay, outstanding graphics and some great sounding music tracks. Playing with head phones is by far the best way to experience the game, but it also sounded great hooked up to the surround sound system on the home stereo. The speakers on the Vita itself just doesn’t do justice for the sounds of the game. The voice acting seemed a little stiff at times, but overall was OK.

For PS3 owners of Assassin’s Creed III, here’s an added bonus:

Connect your PS Vita to your PlayStation 3 to unlock exclusive weapons and missions, including a chance to tackle a challenging New York mission as Connor. This is an immersive experience designed purely for PlayStation®Vita system.

Developer Ubisoft Sofia took on an epic Assassin’s Creed series and should have given more thought to the story lines that are a key part of any Assassin’s Creed game. Going with a female Assassin, and a female Templar, was a bold move that worked on both counts. Both females came across as strong characters, albeit under developed in the story.

Aveline de Grandpré has earned hers place in the Assassin Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation has earned its place within the world of Assassin’s Creed.

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