It’s the second coming of Sony portable’s war against the Templars. And Ubisoft’s bringing the fairer sex along for the hidden blade killing.
Once upon the time there was Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines for the PlayStation Portable (PSP). It was the coolest kid on the block. You know, like that fancy, high-end pair of Bauer skates the obnoxious yahoo down the street got for Christmas.
Bloodlines looked like its PS3 brother. It played like it. It was portable Altair! Hours passed, and those skates still looked damn cool. Until you realized the stupid kid across the way couldn’t skate quite well…if at all.
See, Bloodlines quickly devolved into a one-trick pony. Graphics and music were decent, but barely above PSP average. Gameplay was familiar yet flawed in execution. Enemy AI was good, you thought…but then emerged as formulaic. Missions seemed open ended, but were actually errands masked as plot evolution.
As an Assassin’s Creed devotee, Bloodlines made me cry little portable gaming tears.
Three years later, and I’m having Abstergo déjà vu. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation is once again the main act for a struggling theater and Sony portable, an artist you’ve been told is great and tickets you spent a good amount on to prove it.
Ubisoft introduces a few new wrinkles with Liberation, in specific the series’ first female protagonist (in Avalene de Grandpre), also the bayou magic and charm of New Orleans. Last, the ability to change outfits and alter enemy AI considerably. New character, new setting, new assassin system. What could go wrong?
Well, pretty much everything. I’m again staring at those damn Bauer skates.
It’s not that Liberation is a bad game, it’s just not a very good one. Avalene – for all the brew-ha-ha over an interracial, female assassin…is actually boring as all heck. Devoid of personality, blasé voice acting, and poorly supported by a cast of similarly dull friends and foes. Why, Avalene, why?!
Environments are unfortunately no better. New Orleans and the Bayou are horribly bland, poorly depicted and pixelated (think Unreal 2.0). Moss on trees literally looks like bird droppings. And boy, will you spend a lot of time climbing dookie. Expect blocking galore when next to and/or behind environments. The sad byproduct of sub-standard environments: enemies and allies tend to get ‘stuck,’ requiring a restart from last save point to rescue the lesson in frustration.
The new wrinkle (pun intended, I suppose), is Avalene’s ability to change into three personas and outfits, each with different strengths and weaknesses. None have any effect on enemy AI, however, as random New Orleanians seem hellbent on kicking Avalene’s ass, 24/7, regardless of outfit, notoriety, and/or walking speed/style. “Hey pretty lady, let me push you around!” - “Hey random cook, let me stab you with a bayonet!” - “Hey, assassin, let me swing my giant sword at you!” Sigh.
Equal irritant is when an outfit is mismatched with level design. Formal Avalene can swim but not jump. Guess what happens if/when she falls into water from a misstep? Restart from your last savepoint, my friends.
Vita specifics are fairly useless. Swipe pickpocketing almost never works as intended, the ‘near’ discovery system buggy. Sad, as weapon selection through tapping is really clean and innovative. Thus, more could clearly be done.
Storyline is perhaps the greatest disappointment of Liberation. What should be a ridiculously cool, interweaved tale of French versus Spanish revolt, slave uprising and class warfare, Templars and voodoo…is flat-out dull. Avalene’s missions- like Bloodlines for the PSP – are simply ‘point A to point B…and back again’ affairs. Yes, you can link up Liberation with its PS3 counterpart…but why bother?
Confessional: With Assassin’s Creed perhaps this reviewer’s favorite game series of modern day consoles, it literally pains me to write this review. I really wanted to like Liberation, spent a slew of hours playing it in hopes of it getting better. Liberation is unfortunately a one-trick pony, one that claims racehorse but barely gallops along at a trotting mule pace.
Assassins Creed III: Liberation aspires for greatness but falls short in nearly every category. Weak graphics and gameplay hamper Avalene and a title that could’ve been so much more.