Now I know I’m living in the 21st century. Female assassins finally exist! Female assassins of color, even! Don’t think the game is going to let you forget how “forward” it’s being, because you’ll be eye-rollingly reminded every five minutes that you’re controlling a female avatar. It’s almost like they’re trying to scare off the immature adolescent male gamers who think their wee wee is going to shrink if they play a game as a girl. Instead of being graceful about giving AC gamers a breath of fresh air, they decided to remind the player over and over again they’re playing as a woman to the point where I, a woman, couldn’t stand it anymore. Especially in the beginning of the game, there’s all sorts of dumb puns and references. It did a good job of reminding me to be thankful I wasn’t born in the 1700’s though. I will credit a lot of the character’s sexuality and gender role obsession with the setting. But I think it is mostly Ubisoft being all “Hey look at how not sexist we’re being by incorporating a female lead! And look, it’s a woman!” She is such a woman, you get to dress up as a Lady and charm rich men for useless baubles. Ah-huh.
Here’s a hint, Ubisoft: People who play Assassin’s Creed games play them because they want to be an assassin. Not to wear a stiffy dress and gaze listlessly at the rooftops they can’t climb. If that were the case, we’d have purchased Proper Ladies of the 18th Century or something instead. See, this game’s main schtick (Read: The not broken formula they decided to fix) is giving the gamer three different personas to swap between. Each persona has access to slightly different weapons and abilities. You have a slave, which builds notoriety slightly quicker than the other personas and is still a fast climber and has access to a lot of cool weapons. The lady, which is slow, can’t climb (except ladders), and has the charming and bribing abilities. Then, of course, you have the assassin, which is the persona I wish I could’ve played as the entire game.
I suppose I get the point of having three different personas, and yes, the slave persona made more sense at times, but why not just change her getup accordingly when the plot demands it so? I usually didn’t change personas unless the plot forced me. Near the end of the game I settled with the slave persona a lot. Mainly because the jerks who made this game decided to punish those of us who actually want to play as an assassin. The assassin persona already has a notoriety bar filled by default. A colored woman wearing pants who doesn’t appear dressed as a scullion or housemaid is extra suspect in 1700’s New Orleans, evidently. And everything earns you notoriety. Looting corpses, for god’s sake, will increase the notoriety bar. Apparently after slitting a soldier’s throat someone is still concerned with the fact that I’m stealing his pocket change too. So I settled with the second rate slave persona, because I was still mobile and could manage to get my notoriety down to nothing and get stuff done without every guard on duty in New Orleans chasing after me.
Decreasing notoriety is different depending on the persona. Another reason not to bother playing as the Lady. In order to decrease her notoriety, you have to kill witnesses. In effect this only serves to juggle notoriety, because your current persona gains the notoriety you lost for the Lady. Not worth it. Decreasing the slave’s notoriety is as simple as taking down posters, another reason I liked that persona. In order to clear the assassin’s name (down to one notoriety level, anyway) you have to spend a lot of your hard earned money bribing heralds. It was too hard handing over a pile of ecu and not even get myself an empty notoriety bar.
Liberation is a PS Vita exclusive. Ergo, it is filled with gimmicky crap utilizing various Vita functions from touch screens to the cameras. Unlike Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the features are done very poorly. So poorly, in fact, that I had to go online and read through a hundred other mad gamer posts about how to get the “Face rearview camera to light” command to actually work. It only worked when I had the camera facing a light and then turned it in a 360 degree angle a few times. Not exactly what the instructions on the screen said every time I had to open a letter. The only touchscreen innovation that I completed hated was pickpocketing. I love me some free loot, but it was not worth the hassle in Liberation. And that’s saying a LOT coming from me. In order to pickpocket people, you have to target/touch them, get up their butt, and swipe with the rear touch pad. The feature wouldn’t have been so bad if there were any sort of consistency to how it works. However, the rest of the touch screen features were pretty handy. I really enjoyed being able to change my equipment simply by touching the weapon I wanted, and pinching to zoom in/out on the map was cool too.
Most of my other gripes with this game are small complaints that I’ve had throughout most of the series. Except–and this is a huge deal for me– there are no maps to purchase to tell you where all the treasure chests and collectable goodies are. A very big miss for me, as most of my enjoyment in Assassin’s Creed games comes from systematically clearing out a map cluttered with all kinds of loots. In Liberation there are diary pages to collect which reveal pretty significant background info and characterization, but I have no idea where half of them are and can’t decide if I want to bother looking up an online faq to collect them all. Part of me thinks not having treasure maps implemented may be linked to a significant glitch I (and others, according to online forums) experienced. Treasure chests were marked on the map, but they were nonexistent! I spent five minutes trying to find a treasure chest that seemed easy enough to access according to the map, but it was nowhere to be found. Imaginary treasure chests abound, no wonder why they couldn’t figure out how to supply a map with locations for the ones that actually existed!
Traversing the terrain in Liberation is much more seamless than the other AC games. I didn’t shake my Vita in frustration nearly as many times as my PS3 controller when my character refused to do the one action I wanted because each button has about five different commands. While most people labeled this game as a smaller, inferior game next to its console counterparts, I praise this aspect of the game. In my ACIII post I grumbled about the direction the series has been going and how it has strayed from its assassin origins. Liberation has little to none of such nonsense. This game actually made me feel like an assassin. And, unlike its partner game, the optional objectives actually made sense most of the time.
Even though the plot was a bit of a mess and I wasn’t entirely sure why I was going from point A to point B, I really liked Aveline, the assassin du jour. I was hoping she would be the playable character in the next console AC, but alas, it seems she has been put on the back burner for now. I found her to be much more interesting and likable than Connor, which was only reinforced during their brief mission together. Plus, playable female leads is a trend that needs to be normalized no matter which way you slice it.
I’m hesitant to recommend this game due to the infuriating mess Ubisoft made of certain Vita innovations that other companies have proved doable without completely screwing up. Not to mention the extra personas the dredged up for the player to toggle between for no reason (“The bayou is no place for a Lady” says a game with no dressing chambers on its map). Yet, on the other hand, one-shotting annoying soldiers with poison darts and a sweet new whip are great implementations I’d be sad about missing out on.