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Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation can’t match the quality of its console brethren (review)

Image Credit: Ubisoft

Today presents a cornucopia of gaming pleasure for Assassin’s Creed fans. Publisher Ubisoft is not only releasing Assassin’s Creed III for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 today, but Sony’s newest portable system, the PlayStation Vita, is also getting a new entry in the series all to itself.

Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation tells the story of Aveline, a female assassin operating mostly in New Orleans from 1765 to 1780. But is her story worth telling? Can Liberation measure up to the series’ standards, or does this portable adventure feel as small as the screen you play it on?

What you’ll like

It’s portable Assassin’s Creed

The basics of the series are all here. You’ll still be scaling large towers (or trees), jumping from roof to roof, stabbing unsuspecting guards in the back, and countering every strike of the enemy’s sword. If you haven’t played an Assassin’s Creed game before, that’s basically what you do. Oh, and of course you assassinate people. It’s all here. You’re just doing it all on a smaller screen.

While Liberation can’t graphically match the console installments of the franchise, it’s still impressive to see how much of the experience developer Ubisoft Sofia is able to transfer to the Vita. Quality voice acting accompanies every word of dialogue, and the main locations, the city of New Orleans, and the swampy bayou are fun to explore and jump around in. These new settings immerse the player in environments entirely unlike what we’ve seen from Assassin’s Creed before.

Likable lead

Liberation introduces the first female hero in the series, Aveline. This half-French, half-African-American assassin is a legitimate badass, showing as much skill at stealth and assassination as her male predecessors, Altair and Ezio. She also’s not afraid to use her feminine charms to manipulate her targets.

Aveline has a strong sense of morality, notably shown through numerous attempts to help escaped slaves, and she’s not one to blindly follow orders or to kill when it’s unnecessary. Seeing such a strong female lead in gaming is refreshing, especially one in a title that rarely exploits her sexuality.

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation 2

What you won’t like

Slow start

I hated my first few hours with Liberation. Many of the initial missions task you with mindlessly walking from one checkpoint to another, occasionally triggering a short cutscene. “Walk to the docks and talk to that guy, then walk back to your warehouse.” Thrilling.

This wouldn’t be so bad if you could get from point A to point B with the saga’s trademark rooftop scaling, which lets you run, jump, and climb through the environment just by holding down a single button while moving. But many of these early trials take away your abilities to sprint and ascend. You see, Aveline has multiple personas she can change into, each with slightly different skills and notorieties (the higher your notoriety, the more aggressive guards become).

That’s a cool idea in theory, but some missions force you into a specific costume. Often, this will be the lady persona, which requires Aveline to wear formal and proper attire that leaves her slow and grounded. This effectively turns Liberation into a walking simulator, which is as enjoyable as it sounds. You can still stab people, but it isn’t as much fun when you have to slowly waddle toward your target. I prefer plunging down at hostiles from a rooftop.

Thankfully, I think even the developers realized how boring the lady persona is. She’s slowly phased out of the game, and missions simultaneously get more interesting.

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