Release Date: 10/30/2012
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Liberation is probably one of the most anticipated games for Vita right next to Uncharted and Mortal Kombat. Like both of those games, it doesn’t live up to their console counterparts or everyone’s expectations. Liberation is probably the most disappointing of the three, but it is still a solid game. The problem with Liberation is that it is sloppy and felt slightly rushed to meet the Assassin’s Creed III console release. Aveline is an excellent protagonist and is a very interesting character, but the narrative is very confusing and just feels slapped together. It only makes sense, or gets interesting, towards the last two sequences of the game.
Like all the other portable AC games Desmond Miles doesn’t make an appearance in this game. You just start out as Aveline in New Orleans before the American Revolution starts. New Orleans is occupied by the French and the Spanish are busy selling slaves from Africa, and trying to take control of New Orleans. Aveline, being a slave herself, is now freed by her stepmother, but joins the Assassin Brotherhood by a leader who lives in the Bayou to free these slaves. This sounds very interesting, and it is, but it lacks the expansiveness of AC3. The story is very short, and it doesn’t allow enough time to tell a rich story. The side characters are forgettable, and Aveline barely gets enough time to really show her personality. I was highly disappointed with this, but the disappointments don’t end there.
The game is mostly like AC3 such as combat, animations, the control scheme, and whatnot. There are some Vita-specific features, but they fall flat. You pickpocket by zooming in on the character and running your finger down the rear touchpad, this makes it very cumbersome. You can open letters by pinching the top of the screen and sliding, but it doesn’t work like it should. There’s even a weird puzzle thing that uses the Vita’s camera by holding it up to the light at a certain angle and turning a dial on the touchscreen. This also doesn’t work like it should and is confusing.
Combat is the same as AC3 and thankfully that hasn’t been broken. The combat system is very fluid and just feels so good. However, your assassin recruit abilities are now gone. You have to use them in the world by interacting with an NPC and starting that ability. I really didn’t like this. Aveline has a couple new weapons like the sugar cane machete and whip she can use to swing around some ledges. She has a pistol, as well as a blowpipe and parasol gun! The weapons are really neat and work well within the setting. Aveline also can use three different personas which are an assassin, Lady, and slave. The lady can’t climb around anywhere, but it is good for bribing certain soldiers to get into areas you need and blending in with certain crowds. The slave persona can blend in with slave workers, but the assassin has all weapons available, but always has minimum notoriety of level 1. The problem is that these personas are only useful during the main missions, but each one has a certain collectible only that persona can get. Other than that, these personas feel useless. A great idea, but not fully fleshed out.
Another issue is the world you’re exploring. The Bayou isn’t a fun place to be because you wind up swimming 70% of the area, or being forced to climb around trees up top. Hunting was completely ripped from the game and the only animal that attacks you are alligators. The game just feels very small in comparison to AC3. Let’s talk multiplayer. Don’t expect the addictive and excellent multiplayer from AC3. Instead, we get a cop-out of a strategy board game that is extremely boring. It requires all of 5% user input and the game does the rest. You choose a faction (Abstergo or Assassin), pick your closest location on the map, then tap the opposite factions icons. You send off NPCs to fight a roll of the dice. Very boring and will keep you interested for all of 5 minutes. This is just like the assassin recruit missions in AC3 but used for multiplayer. There is nearly zero interaction with other players.
As it stands, Liberation is disappointing with sloppy design. The story is confusing and not very interesting until the very end. The story is very short, the side missions aren’t very interesting, and the multiplayer is an absolute bore. The game is a fun weekend rental, but nothing more. I hope to see Aveline again, but the developers need to take more time. At least the game looks fantastic and is a huge technical feat for all portable games. It looks very close to the console games in terms of quality, but I know the Vita can do better still.