Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
Even attempts to make use of the PS Vita’s suite of input methods fall flat and almost without question feel utterly tokenistic. A prime example comes in the latter stages of the game where you suddenly find yourself in a one-off touch-screen-based dancing mini-game; you swipe left, right, up, down for a few moments to strut your period-drama-booty before the dance ends and you lure your partner off into a bush to unceremoniously stab him in the throat with your wrist-blades. It adds nothing to the game or the plot and proves to be every bit as mundane and unsatisfying as that last sentence makes it sound.
Using a real world light source and the Vita’s cameras to discover clues on pieces of parchment is a trick that worked well in Uncharted: Golden Abyss but that here is fudged; not only does is getting a result hit and miss (on one occasion the game didn’t the consider the sun to be bright enough!) but it adds absolutely nothing to the experience, largely because the clues you reveal add very little to the game’s world or narrative. On another occasion, the game provides a tutorial on how to tackle an alligator and steal its eggs, hinting at a Metal Gear Solid III-esque survival mechanic that never materialises; we only stumble upon a total of two alligators in the entire game, and this includes the one featured in the tutorial.
All of the above typify a game that is fails to commit to any particular mechanic outside of the parkour. Instead it tiptoes about, dabbling in a little bit of everything and failing to do any of it particularly well. There’s even a mini-game in which you command a fleet of ships, setting them off on voyages to buy and sell goods to bolster your funds and, you guessed it, it is utterly forgettable.
In fairness to Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, there are some concepts that work a little better. Avaline herself is an interesting character; a French-African daughter of a wealthy merchant, she lives three different lives: mingling with New Orleans’ upper class, struggling alongside its slaves and prowling the rooftops as an assassin. Switching between these worlds by changing outfits is an interesting idea and does allow for some variety in how you can – or must – approach certain missions. In her Lady-guise, for example, Avaline cannot climb at all, so she’s reduced to pacing the streets with all the other pedestrians. It can be quite a jarring change, but at least it shows the series pushing in new directions, even if you find yourself itching to shake off the herringbone corset and get back to the rooftops.
The three distinct elements of Avaline’s character also play a key role in the game’s plot and provide a huge degree of potential for storytelling that is sadly squandered. Despite being tugged from city to swamp, from swamp to ancient ruin and beyond, the narrative beats are delivered with such confusion that tying it all together is a puzzle in itself and its hard not to chuckle at the use of the word ‘logical’ in a mission title towards the end of the game (this might have been some sort of self-aware joke, but we really can’t be sure).
Despite all of the criticisms, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation isn’t a complete disaster and if a portable slice of Assassin’s Creed is what you a looking for then there is some enjoyment to be had. Even so, it remains a huge missed opportunity with its attempts to expand the horizons of the series nearly all fizzling out, not through any conceptual problems but through lacklustre and often glitchy delivery. Were the narrative drama enough to carry you forward this might be easier to overlook, but the conclusion – which ends with a whimper rather than a bang – is the final typifying cherry atop an uninspiring, frequently confused yarn.
Freedom may well be worth fighting for, but obtaining it really shouldn’t feel this disappointing.
D+PAD reviewed Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation on the PS Vita; game provided by Ubisoft UK.
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