In the Assassin's Creed series proper we've seen Desmond Miles discovering and re-living the memories of some of his ancestors using the Animus. In AC3: Liberation we break away from Desmond's lineage and are taken to 18th century New Orleans. Using the PS Vita as a standalone version of the Animus we delve into the memories of another assassin: Aveline de Grandpré.
Aveline is a lady of wealth and respect who lives in a mansion with her father. She stands up for the rights of slaves and this is what drives her story.
At first she's helping and freeing them, and then her associate Gérald sets up a work area where she can use her wealth and influence to help the oppressed on a broader scale. Here you can buy stock and use ships to deliver and sell. You can also display your weapons and change your persona, which is a new feature to Assassin's Creed
There are three personas that Aveline can use, each with different uses and abilities. 'Assassin', 'lady' and 'slave'. The assassin persona gives Aveline full use of all weapons and the ability to climb, but will always retain some notoriety, so guards are suspicious of you at all times. It looks like a bit of a pirate outfit, but suits the assassin style well. Especially when carrying a especially when loaded with a sword, all sorts of knives and a pistol!
The slave persona is more of a stealth disguise, allowing you to blend in with other workers when you stand near them. This is required much of the time because guards start to get suspicious at a slave wandering around by herself. Unless you're carrying boxes or doing other slave-y things, of course. You can do all the climbing and sprinting you need, making it perfect for infiltration. If you do get attacked though, combat is limited to small weapons that suit the disguise, such as a butcher's knife. Using this persona you can incite riots, although this only seems like a mission-specific event.
The lady persona is my personal favourite. A big dress, hat and parasol makes Aveline look like she's just going for a stroll to take care of some business - so there'll be no climbing or sprinting. She is limited to using only her hidden blades for combat and the parasol to shoot sneaky poison darts, but when you play it right this is all you need.
There is one really annoying thing about this one though, and that's muggers. Groups of three of them will chase you down to push you around, and all you can do is jog or fight. You can charm guards but only one at a time, the jealous gits. A charmed guard will follow and protect you, but if you don't happen to have one following you when you attract muggers, it can be difficult to get their attention.
In most Assassin's Creed
games there are different ways to lower your notoriety, like tearing posters down and killing witnesses. In Liberation it's mostly the same, except the effect of each of these actions is specific to one persona. Tearing posters down lowers the slave's notoriety, killing witnesses lowers that of the lady, and bribing magistrates will work in favour of the assassin.
Of course, any of the three can kill a witness or tear down a poster, but only the lady can bribe a magistrate. So all three personas work hand in hand, each one has its shining moments given the circumstances. Despite this harmony the game only lets you don the correct outfit when you're in a mission, which kills it a little. Recommending one is fine, letting me know what's in store so that I can make a decision would be perfect. I want the freedom to choose which persona to use and attempt the mission my own way. This way would have added more variety to the gameplay.
As well as the usual building, climbing and rooftop free running, a lot of the story takes place in a swamp with a network of trees linking each point of interest. This feels much more organic than jumping from building to building and is lots of fun but can be confusing at times. I've found myself spending far too long looking for a climbing route to reach a destination marker.
Some Assassin's Creed
fans might be wondering if Erudito makes an appearance... Well, I'd completely forgotten about this little riddler but was delighted to see his return. After assassinating one of the main bad guys he appeared in text, showing off with some Animus hacking to contact me. He said he'll help uncover the truth, but I'll have to work for it.
So here I was getting excited about doing some glyph puzzles like in AC2
, or a new hacking-type thing. But no, not this time. I was instructed to assassinate someone who was stood a few metres in front of me, idly chatting with a couple of others. So after walking up and hidden-blading him in the face (which no-one noticed), I had unlocked a few extra seconds of a cutscenes I'd already seen of the aforementioned bad guy shouting about his undoubtedly evil plan. Wow, cheers Erudito.
It's usually harder to get absorbed by a portable game, but at the same time it does feel more personal since you carry it with you and when you're playing the screen is pointed exclusively at you. In AC: Liberation
the missions are kept short enough that they won't last more than a bus trip. But because of the constant picking up and putting down, it can be hard to keep track of the deeper, more hidden elements that AC always offers.
+ Brilliant story and visuals
+ New persona feature brings variety
+ No smaller than any home console AC game
- Persona choice restricted in missions
- Combat lacks much depth
SPOnG Score 8/10