The Assassin’s Creed series is one of the biggest gaming franchises of this console generation, and one of my most favorite game series to have ever gotten the pleasure of playing. I’ve always been a geek for history and the Assassin Creed games allowed me to escape to those historical worlds I could have only ventured into with books and movies. I got to personally relive history.
Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation is the first the first portable entry for the franchise to actually be like the games only found on our home console systems. I didn’t have very high expectations going into the game however, since Bloodlines on the PSP and the many iOS entries generated little success and were quite frankly, embarrassments to the name as a whole I think.
But unfortunately, it seems that what the console games did so well on our Xbox’s and PlayStation 3′s, the Vita couldn’t handle. Whereas Assassin Creed games are known for their exhilarating stories in each game, Liberation presents a confusing and uneventful plot that was both boring and easy to forget what you were doing and why you were doing it.
An uneventful story
The staple of what is Assassin’s Creed are large, bustling cities filled with Templar enemies, accompanied with streamlined gameplay mechanics and an enriched storyline. Liberation has none of these qualities.
Taking place in New Orléans, you’re Aveline, both the franchises first female and African assassin. Lets run through the quick checklist I mentioned above that I think made all the Assassin Creed games great. First up, is the city, New Orléans in this case, in Liberation large and bustling with life? The easy answer is no.
In size comparison, the city map is no larger than your average small multiplayer map in any of the console games. The city seems lifeless as well, with a cookie-cutter-like design throughout and city-folk who seem to be lifeless, performing the same actions over and over. That same person sitting on a bench will never get up and leave. Or the group of slaves cleaning the porch-steps of a house will stay cleaning that area for forever.
Does the game have an “enriched” storyline? Heck no. But I will tell you what I had managed to spring up from the game. The game is set between 1765 and 1777, showcasing assassin Aveline, who for whatever reason we don’t know, join the Brotherhood to fight the Templars.
All we know is that she was somehow trained as an Assassin’s behind her step parents backs and is now fighting to help better the lives of the many slaves in New Orléans and liberate the city from the Templars. There are too many questions left unanswered and story elements brushed aside.
But the problem with Liberation is that it tried too hard to be exactly like its console counterpart without trying to stay within the Vita’s means. In other games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the game did everything it could to keep what made the Uncharted series so good, but tweaked it so that it could be an enjoyable experience on the go.
With Liberation it seems like they made they tried to make a game specifically for a console, then ported it over to the Vita and shrunk down the story to fit into little ten-minute missions that make no sense what so ever. Consequently, the story is a rushed, confusing mess that avoids any detail towards character and plot development, and frame-rate issues will constantly mar the experience on occasion as well.
Ugly gameplay mechanics hinder what little comparison there was to the console games
Liberation uses a combat system that is very similar to the one used in the console games, and quite frankly, it is one of the few things that the game does right. The game uses the same attack and parry system as usual, which helped streamline combat sequences in the console games into one fluid movement, but it felt kind of stiff in Liberation. And since the AI is so extremely stupid, taking your enemies down was mindlessly easy.
But what I absolutely hated about the game was its emphasis on stealth mechanics. Typically, in Assassin Creed games you can choose how you want to approach a situation. You can try to go in quietly and take out your opponents one by one, or you can go in hot and engage in an all out brawl if you so wish.
If you prefer the latter option, which I often use since I quickly grow tired of sneaking around and just want to get to the action part of things, then you’re going to hate this game. In almost every mission, you’ll be required to avoid detection at all and if you don’t, you’ll be starting the mission all over from the beginning. Approaching and handling things on your own is a big no-no in Liberation.
And to make matters worse, the game uses a new persona system that forces you into wearing specific outfits on practically every mission, sending cosmetic customization I’ve come to love in the Assassin Creed games to the chopping block.
From the three personas to choose from, there is the lady outfit, of which can charm guards, but can’t climb anything and has a very limited arsenal of weapons to choose from. And probably my biggest pet peeve of the lady persona, you can’t run, only walk, which makes getting from point A to B a complete pain.
The second persona is the slave, which can scale almost any environment, but can gain notoriety very quickly and isn’t as effective in combat, relying more on stealth than anything else. And last, but not least is the Assassin persona. Which, you guessed it, is ideal for those tough, combat situations. Too bad you’ll rarely ever be wearing this persona since you spend half the game undercover in slave camps and teasing guards with your beauty.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. Liberation is also a famed target of forcing players into using specific Vita mechanics. And if you hated looking like an idiot holding your Vita up to a ceiling light-bulb to find clues on maps in Uncharted, then you’ll really dislike this game since you’ll be doing that quite often in the latter half of the game.
Other hindering mechanisms force you to tilt the Vita to weave balls through mazes in some of the puzzles, or paddle your canoe with the back touchscreen in some instances. This forced emphasis on making players do actions in specific ways really killed what fun-form factor there was left in the game for me and is sure to turn off players who just want to jump in and play some Assassin’s Creed on the go.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation sounded like a good idea on paper, but was hideously handled by the developer in the end. From forced Vita mechanics to some ugly, new gameplay systems such as the personas, the game felt like more of a test run to fumble around with some new ideas for future Assassin’s Creed games than a standalone game. In reality, a simple beta or demo could have saved this game from the disaster that it I think it became.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!