An adventure worthy of Sony’s latest handheld.
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation on PlayStation Vita takes us on a journey through New Orleans in 1765, in which you play as the deadly female assassin called Aveline de Grandpré. My journey begins in the swamplands of the Louisiana Bayou, where the recent events of the American Revolution have heated up in the north and the Spanish stronghold plan to take complete control of Louisiana based in the south. Aveline wants nothing more than to win freedom for her land and the people within it.
When you first start up the game, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in how crisp and polished the graphics look. To be honest, I was quite surprised that Ubisoft could pull this off on the PlayStation Vita, but they have and they’ve done it very well. The demo build showed us a selection of missions we could participate in and the game introduces the basics of game play.
Aveline, the deadly assassin with her sassy attitude and dedication to her country, is simply moved around using the control stick, while the X button can be used for a fast walk to enable her to move a little bit quicker. By pressing up, you can use the Eagle vision to find clues around you. While wandering through the thick dark swamps of Louisiana, overgrown with trees and wooded areas, I discovered red coat guards patrolling the bridge up ahead. Aware of my surroundings and able to stealthily conceal my existence, I wait for an opportunity to attack and, without a word of warning, I catch them all off guard. Thrashing her sword around in a frenzy, Aveline easily defeats the guards without raising the alarm and then swiftly hides in wait in the branches of an overhanging tree.
Aveline has access to the weapon wheel, where you can choose from a selection of ranged weapons and can target enemies from a distance. Once you’ve carefully positioned yourself, you can simply target an enemy and hold down the triangle button to focus. Once you’ve focused, you release the triangle button to perform a focus shot. This gives an accurate and precise way of defeating enemies from a distance, before engaging in full combat.
Investigating the area, you’ll soon discover it’s actually quite vast and the attention to detail is very high. Occasionally I would see the odd animal walking by my side, such as chickens and pigs. You can’t interact with them, but it all helps to pull you into the game.
As you wander the area, you may come across the mighty Mississippi river and fancy a swim. Dive into the river using the X button and you can discover treasures or important objects that may be of value. Wading through the water does slow down your progress somewhat, but it is really nice to have that choice in this interactive environment.
Deep in the forest, I discovered a small wooden building that seemed to be uninhabited and hidden within the building was some kind of ritual table, which was covered in lit candles, pieces of handwritten letters and a small mask hanging on the back wall. Then, before I knew what was happening, Aveline was on the ground and wrestling with an alligator that had appeared out of nowhere. The beast caught me completely by surprise and I died while trying to work out what to do. The next time around I was prepared for the viscious alligator attack and , through a series of on-screen button prompts, I was able to get the advantage and quite happily spear the creature with my sword. Quite excitingly, the alligator’s body can then be looted by pressing and holding down the circle button. One of the objectives that I had was to collect alligator eggs for a special reward, so I was now one step closer.
As I continued on my epic adventure, I met a character called Elise who I had to follow, negotiating the Mississippi river in a small canoe. Maneuvering the canoe involved making use of the Vita’s rear touchscreen. Swiping down allows you to move the canoe quite quickly through the river and swiping up will slow it down. Controlling the direction and speed whilst heading along the river proved quite difficult at times and often lead to my canoe going round and round in circles. The rear touch pad is super sensitive, so you’ll need to be patient, but players can also use the X button to speed up the canoe, while using the left stick to steer. This is an interesting way to use the Vita’s additional functionality, but it was a little tricky.
Aveline can take on a selection of personas, such as assassin, slave or lady. This enables you to take on different roles and utilize different weapons, costumes and equipment whilst participating in a variety of quests. At the end of the day, it’s all about experimenting and a certain amount of freedom. Aveline moves fluidly through her environment, jumping from the rooftops, ploughing into haystacks from great heights and clambering over balconies with great ease. Her reactions seemed quick and precise. I found that the AI guards were quite slow to react and lacking in regards to close combat fighting. However, this could have been due to the area of the game that I was playing and the majority of my time was spent easily taking out guards with my blow dart, giving me access to heavily guarded areas without detection. Aveline can only carry a limited number of darts and you’ll need quite a few to get through swarms of enemies.
I came away from my time playing Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation feeling quite positive. Offering a separate story to the console version, with new characters and tricks up its sleeve, it was good to see the franchise being playable on the Vita and not have to be constantly tied to a TV screen. If you’ve played any of the Assassin’s Creed series before, then this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy that same level of gameplay on a handheld. I will be waiting with anticipation, while concealed within the branches of a tree, for the launch of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for PS Vita at the end of this month.