Freedom is at hand. The year is 1765. As Spanish forces plan to take control of Louisiana, Master Assassin Aveline must rise and fight for her land and people.
Assassin’s Creed Liberation follows the story of master assassin Aveline de Grandpre on her mission to recover a lost artefact. The game is loaded up as an Abstergo product, the fictitious company selling the Animus as a video game and using it as a Templar tool to discredit the assassins. To that end, there are a fair few Abstergo logos floating about, and fans of the series will notice the menu screens are black, as opposed to the Animus 2.0’s white.
Aveline is a Master Assassin already, meaning she has all of her moves and most of her equipment from the beginning of the game. You jump straight into the game, with a very short back story scene. Fans of the series will instantly fall into place, being able to play the game with minimal tuition.
Now, let’s face it, the last few entries into the Assassin’s Creed franchise on handheld consoles have been a little watered down, but Assassin’s Creed Liberation can’t be painted with the same brush. From the get go you get the feeling that you’re not just playing a handheld title, but a fully blown console entry. The dual analogue sticks on the Vita have a lot to thank for that. The camera control works brilliantly, and surprisingly, the lack of two shoulder buttons didn’t hinder my gaming experience in the slightest. In this case, you hold R to run, and to bring up the weapon selection you tap the weapon icon on the screen. At first, I thought this may be a bit clumsy, but surprisingly it works, and integrates with the game play so fluidly I rarely noticed I was using it.
The use of the systems rear touch pad and front touch screen haven’t been over used either, which is probably one of my pet hates for the DS, being forced to use the touch screen when the buttons work perfectly fine. There are some instances where you open letters, swiping your fore finger and thumb across both touch devices simultaneously, much like ripping open a real letter. You can also use the rear touch pad to control a canoe, though the option is there to use the face buttons as well.
I would say the Assassin’s Creed series has probably peaked when it comes to various additions to game play elements. The second blade that was added in ACII, the use of a hook blade in Revelations etc, Liberation has tried to bring some thing new to the table with the use of Persona’s. The idea is pretty good, Aveline can transform from Assassin, to Lady, to Slave in an effort to help blend in depending on what mission she is on. The downfall, the game forces you to use these persona’s, in some cases, for example, The Lady persona is used for a substantial chunk of the opening, now, as this persona Aveline is unable to sprint, and unable to climb buildings, which can be incredibly annoying when you need to travel half way across New Orleans then back again. I liked the feature, but I would have preferred it if this was an optional part of the game, an asset to use if you choose to. Though, on the plus side, each persona has its own notoriety, so, having a high notoriety with the Assassin may prevent you from completing a mission, hope into the Slave persona and bingo, it might be able to help you pass a mission.
Being a woman, Aveline has some abilities that set her apart from her “brothers”, one of these being the ability to charm certain NPC characters. Now, I must admit, that I did not use this a whole lot, but you can use it to get past guards, or to get people to follow you to complete your nefarious deeds.
Usually, on a handheld, animation is buggy, voice acting is terrible, as are the camera angles. AC Liberation seems to break those bonds and reinvent it. The graphics truly push the Vita to it’s limits, some thing which is evident in the frame rate, that does some times drop, but past that, every thing else runs smoothly. The character interactions are great, and the voice acting feels natural, the actors them selves have clearly put a lot of effort into making sure their voice renditions fit the characters and situations, it doesn’t feel forced, and there are no lengthy gaps between character lines. Some of the dialogue is even quite funny.
Overall, Liberation is a great game, it’s pretty lengthy, and overall is enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect, there are some things that need polishing, and maybe a few tweaks here and there, but that doesn’t stop you enjoying the game to its full potential. It is a brilliant entry into the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and I really hope we will see more of Aveline, it’s nice to play as a female protagonist for a change, she is fast, nimble, and seems to have more of a personality than Connor! Yes, Ezio and Altair will be missed, but if this is the future for Assassin’s Creed, I can live with it.