One of the biggest franchises in this generation, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series is simply a modern sensation. Blending state-of-the-art graphics, an amazingly complex narrative and genuinely interesting and exciting characters, Assassin’s Creed has hit the perfect mix between critical success and blockbuster sales.
With numerous entries in the series spread over console and portable systems since the original;s debut in 2008, it was only a matter of time before the brotherhood debuted on the PlayStation Vita.
Mixing the power of the most advanced handheld on the planet with one of the most advanced gaming franchises should be a mix made in heaven right? Well nearly. Although Liberation isn’t the gang-buster killer app that the PlayStation Vita was looking for, it’s more than a fair representation of the system’s power and the franchises legacy.
The game takes place away from the main storyline of the earlier console versions, featuring a number of innovations and departures unique to this iteration. The main two differences introduced for Liberation are also the two that give it the most striking features.
The protagonist is a rapid departure for what was a reasonably conservative series before 2012. The game revolves around Aveline de Grandpre, an African-American assassin in 18th century New Orleans. Aside from the change in lead character, the use of the animus is also divorced from the true lead of Assassin’s Desmond and gives an insight into the greater world of the Creed series.
These departures allow the Vita version of the game to take the series in a new direction that both ties in with Assassin’s Creed III and the entire franchise as a whole. By showing a new side to the Templars and also allowing a new lead to take the, umm, lead, Liberation breathes more fresh air than the actual third numbered version did on consoles this year.
The other major change is in the setting. Taking place before the events of the American Revolution chronicled in Assassin’s Creed III, Liberation moves the action to the iconic setting of New Orleans and the playground of imagination that it provides.
New Orleans is like another character in the game, so much so that it’s almost a shame that the full console versions didn’t decide to cast an entire story in that wonderfully realized world.
Aveline is an assassin between two worlds. Raised by dual ideologies, she treads a line between society and scandal, living two lives at the same time, and blending seamlessly between the two. Unfortunately her excellent set-up is somewhat wasted by the storyline that merely skims the surface of it’s potential.
That unrealized potential is a theme within the boundaries that are placed on Liberation, it’s not so much that the Vita itself has placed limitations on the game, but it’s almost that the developers at Ubisoft Sofia didn’t have as much faith in their creation to really push it where games like Gravity Rush and Rayman have taken the console.
As a result Liberation feels like a game stuck between two worlds. The combat takes a leaf out of Assassin’s Creed III and dumbs down, I mean simplifies everything and the free-running trademarks of the series are all accounted for, but the lack of innovation of applying them to the Vita, outside of some token touch controls and limited motion features, is disappointing.
The other glaring, grating issue that keeps Liberation from really being the home run that the Vita needs is Aveline herself. While she has great potential, and enters the world almost fully realized, her lack of differentiation from the other assassins in the series and her lack of growth means that you never really feel the connection that is needed to propel the game where it truly belongs.
The distance between the console iterations and Liberation isn’t a bridge too far but a probably more like a step in the wrong direction. While taking all that amazing content from one of the biggest series in modern gaming is commendable, it would have been amazing to see a completely new approach to the fabled franchise. As it is, anyone who wants a powerful portable experience with a few minor quibbles can do worse than pick up this stab at assassination anarchy. [7.5]
Platform: PS Vita
Classification: M – Violence