Late to the game on this one but I finally finished it. There are multiple options for playing this game, either the original release on the Vita or the HD release on PC, 360 or PS3. As should be no surprise, I opted for the Vita version so this review will be based on my experience with the handheld. From reading different sites, the console/PC experience doesn’t really differ aside from looking prettier and a few added missions. So this should cover all iterations of the game pretty well.
The game stars series newcomer Aveline a half French, half African assassin set near the end of the French-Indian war in New Orleans. Aveline is the series’ first female protagonist and personally I really enjoyed her. The story takes place over several years with a lot of focus on Aveline’s mission to help free slaves and find a better life while discovering who she really is. At least that is what I think it’s about. The story is kind of a weak spot in this game. There is a deep story I think, but the presentation of it leaves much to be desired and questioned. There is a mini-game of sorts where you have to track down a “CitizenE” in multiple missions and doing so unlocks more back story which actually ties the story together nicely, but it’s optional and easy to miss. I would have liked it if those extra story cinematics were just part of the game. As it is, if you completely miss it the end of the game makes absolutely zero sense. There should not be a night and day difference when it comes to understanding the story that is based on a mini-game. Also it’s the only time there is really any mention of what’s happening in the “real world” with the Animus. Which, let’s be honest, who cares about that anyway. I skip any and every cut scene I can in Assassin Creed games that talk about the “real world”. I couldn’t care less about that storyline.
The game jumps around from New Orleans, a bayou and one mission set in New York. I really enjoyed the missions in New Orleans but learned to dislike the ones in the Bayou very quickly. The missions themselves were fine but traversing the area could become an exercise in frustration. It’s a large area that’s just a big swamp. There are multiple trees you can run and jump across to travel quickly but if you fall off then you are stuck swimming, slowly, to your destination as there are only certain points where you can climb back up and you normally fall off very far away from one of those points. As luck would have it, once you finish a mission the start of the next is on the other end of the Bayou.
The game plays very similarly to it’s console brethren and is unmistakably Assassins Creed. The controls are exactly what you would expect from the series, frustrating but functional. The climbing, running and jumping is all done very smoothly but Aveline will still just stop and try to randomly climb a wall for seemingly no reason. This isn’t an issue with this game, but the whole series. The controls are touchy and this game isn’t any better. Because I’m used to it, and expect it from these games, I’m not really going to knock it for it, I get why the game controls that way but it’s still no less infuriating when my character refuses to jump off a ledge until the eighth time I input the command.
What I don’t get though is the combat. It’s slow, clunky and not very smooth. Now Assassin’s Creed has never had a good combat system but it really takes a dump in this game. Aveline will consistently target the wrong person, flat out not listen to my commands or just stand there getting hit until she feels like she’s had enough. There were times when it all came together for me and combat felt close to something satisfying but more often than not I dreaded any combat that involved more than one enemy.
Graphically the game looks fine. After seeing Uncharted on the Vita I would think AC: Liberation would be able to took better than it does but overall it’s ok. Looks more like a prettier PS2 game than a downscaled PS3 game which is what Vita games normally look like to me. However with such large areas I suppose I get it. The environments look very nice and the game runs at a smooth framerate. The character models are the only tings that looks like they could be improved and facial animations are minimal at best. Most of them look like they jam Botox into their foreheads on a daily basis.
I seem to have a lot of gripes with the controls of this game, but I really do like it. And that’s true for every Assassins Creed. At first I loathed this series, but once I put some time into the second game in the series I became fond of it. When everything comes together and the games just work. They are fantastic to play and look at. Liberation is no different. When it’s at it’s best is when you can seemly run around, passionate guards at will and get away on the rooftops without a problem. During those times, this is one of the best games available on the Vita and a great, short game for the other systems.
Overall I would recommend this game. If you have a Vita you definitely should check it out. It truly feels like a scaled down console game. Once you get passed the controls it’s a good game that offers very pretty environments with varied and satisfying gameplay.