Assassin's Creed Liberation HD ReviewGuest_Jim_* - January 28, 2014
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The gameplay is what we have come to expect, love, and dislike of Assassin's Creed games. Free-run up and over obstacles to assassinate your targets, and when you are caught, kill your enemies using the appropriate combos. The free-running and camera are not perfect, so you may end up climbing up and leaping over things you do not want, which can be frustrating, but rarely ever hurt your ability to play the game.
The economy exists, but I am not completely clear on how it functions. You are able to purchase stores, but I am not sure what that accomplishes. Perhaps it grants a discount, but there is no direct influence to your income, as was the case in other Assassin's Creed games. The only way to grow your wallet, without completing missions or looting chests, is to send trade missions between different cities. Each city has certain supplies and demands, so you do need to pay attention to where your ships are located to make best use of them. This mechanic is functional, but I did not find it particularly satisfying. Perhaps that is also because you can only initiate trade missions from a single location, and returning to it can take more time than I was willing to take away from my mission.
Something else to note is that before you can purchase a store, you have to remove your competition. Now, I understand that you are an assassin, but it still felt wrong to me that you must kill your competitors. I mean beating them up should suffice, or sabotaging their goods to drive them out of business. Cold steel to the chest just for a storefront seems unnecessary. Besides, how does nobody notice that a woman matching Aveline's description kills the competitors of Aveline's business, before Aveline purchases their stores?
Two new mechanics introduced in Liberation are chain kills and personas. Chain kills are a combat ability that allow you to select targets and have Aveline proceed to execute them most efficiently. I suspect this was added either because the normally high-speed combat of an Assassin's Creed game does not translate well to the Vita's control, or because such combat was not considered appropriate for the Vita-playing population, for one reason or another. Personally I never found myself using it and never felt the need for it. It works okay, but is somewhat forgettable, at least for someone who has played the rest of the franchise.
The personas mechanic is more intriguing and I could see it being used to interesting effect in the future. Aveline has the three personas she can take on, depending on the situation. Her Assassin persona is best suited for fighting, as it can carry larger weapons and actually has armor. She also has a Lady persona, which gets her into parties and can charm gentlemen. This is also the persona in which most people would recognize her as Aveline. The third persona is that of a Slave, which can get her by guards, as they do not wish to disturb her work. Like the Lady persona though, the Slave is limited in what weapons it can carry and has no armor. However the Slave is able to free-run, though it will increase her notoriety, while the Lady is limited to just running.
As the three personas give Aveline effectively three identities, they each have their own notoriety. If the Assassin persona is especially wanted by the guards, you can switch to the Slave or Lady persona and reduce it. How the three personas reduce their notoriety is different. You need to tear down posters for the Slave persona, bribe magistrates for the Assassin, and kill witnesses for the Lady. This last one is rather annoying, as murder increases the notoriety of whatever persona you are using at the time.
One more thing I want to mention before moving on is that at times the game really does not seem to like you much. In one area you must climb a steep incline, but it appears the incline was not given the appropriate properties for this as very often I found myself starting up and then sliding down. Considering the sequence has you running for your life, this is most frustrating. It is also inconsistent with the visual, as there are timbers in the ground, specifically for people to step on and grab, in order to ascend the incline.
During the same sequence you must also jump between blanks and vines to cross an open pit. At the end you also need to use a recently acquired whip to swing across the final gap. To initiate the swing you have to be pressing the buttons to run forward and jump. For whatever reason though, the whip swing does not appear to be tied to that key combination because I found myself jumping to my death repeatedly, despite pressing the appropriate keys. It was only when I stopped and waited for the keys to appear hovering in the air that I was allowed to swing over the expanse. Remember, this is while a timer counts down to your death if you do not hurry.
One last example of this that I found particularly irritating was a race. Now, this is a side mission, but I want to share the experience anyway. The race has you climbing over rooftops to eleven checkpoints. Some of these checkpoints, however, are not visible to you from the previous one, forcing you to look to the map to have any idea of where to go next. Personally, I find this to be inexcusably poor design. During such a race the player should be neatly directed forward without having to turn to a resource, like the minimap. The addition of a single checkpoint would have addressed this, and yet it was not there. Yes it is part of an unnecessary side mission, but it no less makes me wonder about the design of other parts of the game.
Over all, the gameplay of Liberation is not that bad. It does have its bad moments, but largely the game is enjoyable as a game. It is a little short though, taking me just over eight hours to complete the campaign and achieve 89% completion. For a PC or console game like the others in the franchise, it's pretty short, but perhaps that is in line with other Vita games. That is something I am not able to comment on, not owning a Vita.