While I do miss the money I was paid to review games, meager though it may have been, what I do not miss is that awful feeling I would get in my stomach when I knew that I flat out did not like the game I was playing, yet there was still a dozen hours left before I could put the thing to bed. Luckily, this is not a problem here at NHS. If I’m not feeling a game, I stop playing it and move on to other things. I figure that my reasons as to why I stopped playing will be just as useful to our readers as a full blown review, only in this case, I don’t have to waste my time playing something I think sucks.
Which brings me to Assassins Creed III: Liberation. Granted, I don’t think the game sucks, that’s a bit harsh, but I certainly don’t want to play it any more, so I’m not going to. Before we get to why I don’t want to play it again, I can’t stress enough that this is not a review of the game. I’ve put about six hours into the thing and I have no idea what percentage that is, but I do know that I didn’t finish it, hence this is not a review.
So, what exactly were my problems with the game?
I have no idea what’s going on in this story, and that’s probably my fault for not paying enough attention. Aveline is an assassin, although how she came to be one, I have no idea. Her mom was a privileged slave, so Aveline can mix it up both with the hoi polloi of 18th century New Orleans as well as the slaves and common people. At some point, Aveline’s mom disappeared and while my understanding is that Aveline starts to uncover the reasons behind this disappearance as the game goes on, my time with the game focused more on missing slaves and false holy men. Occasionally I’d help a slave get some of his stuff back, sometimes I’d mess with rival businesses that were threatening my livelihood, but whenever I was in a story mission, I had very little understanding, or interest, in what was going on.
On a similar note, the Templars’ role in the story’s events aren’t made clear, which is somewhat by design. The game was created by Abstergo, undoubtedly as a piece of Templar propaganda, and at times you can assassinate Citizen E, a hacker who placed versions of himself into the game so that the player can see the events as they truly unfolded. Killing Citizen E after a story assassination allows you to see a different cut scene and unlock the “true” ending if you manage to find and kill all instances of Citizen E. While I like the idea, in practice it didn’t work all that well. The change to the cut scene I saw didn’t seem all that different and worse, after every mission I was looking around for Citizen E, afraid I was missing out on the truth. It kind of takes away from the narrative when the player is more focused on what may happen after you’re done telling the story, rather than what is happening while your’e telling the story.
One of the best things about Assassins Creed 2 was Ezio and my fondness for the character is what kept me going through Brotherhood and until the end of Revelations. I have no affinity for Aveline whatsoever. I don’t know why she’s an assassin or what she’s trying to do against the Templars nor do I care if she’s successful or not.
Roaming around in the city is typical AC style climbing and jumping. No real problems here other than the developer’s penchant for making every single objective as far away from your current location as humanly possible and not including any means of fast travel. In the bayou, it’s another story. The same far flung mission objectives exist, only here, if you fall off of a tree, and you will fall off of trees, you can’t climb back up the tree and keep on going. Your choice is to either swim back to where you can climb a tree or swim to your destination. I usually chose the latter. On a similar note, climbing trees to get to sync points in the bayou is an exercise in frustration. One misstep, of which there are many, and you’re back in fetid swamp water, wishing for a gator to put you out of your misery. After four AC games, I’m used to my assassin deciding to hurl himself out into midair rather than jump straight up to the next ledge, but at least in the city, I can just start the climb over again from street level. Having to backtrack through the swamp to find the right place to climb a tree is annoying. I hope that the forest traversal is better in Assassins Creed III or I’ll end up throwing the disc out the window, General Lee style.
As I mentioned before, Aveline exists in three different worlds: as a slave, as an assassin and as a lady. Aveline can switch between the three personas as needed, or as required, and depending on which persona you’re in, your options and how you deal with notoriety are affected. As an assassin, you can climb and jump and do the usual assassin things, but the only way to lower your notoriety is to bribe officials, and unlike in previous AC games, officials are few and far between. As a slave, you can still climb and you can use a machete and your wrist blades, as well as some firearms. You lower the slave’s notoriety by tearing down posters, of which, thankfully, there are many. As the lady, you can’t climb and you won’t survive very long in a fight, but you can walk up to witnesses and kill them, pretty much unseen, thereby lowering your level of notoriety.
I understand what the developers were going for here, and sometimes it works, but most of my time spent as the lady was wondering why they thought it was a good idea to have an AC game where I can’t run and jump. That’s when I wasn’t having flashbacks to playing as 80 year old Altair in AC:Revelations. I can certainly understand the appeal of switching into alternate personas to help lower the heat when one persona gets to be too well known, but the options for lowering notoriety were so limited for the assassin, it wasn’t before long when I had to switch back any way and I’d end up being spotted. I know that what they were going for was to show how Aveline exists in different worlds, but mostly it was just annoying to walk at a snail’s pace in a fancy dress and get roughed up by street thugs.
The AC games have always preferred to put logic on the back burner, but Liberation seems to take it to new, silly heights. Sure, it was always dumb that Ezio could walk around in full assassin gear, bristling with cutlery, and no one would notice, but rather than fix that in Liberation, they instead came up with their own logical missteps. As a slave, as soon as I climb up on a roof, my notoriety goes up by 1/4 the circle. Ok, I guess the New Orleans Safety Patrol is very concerned with people climbing on roofs, so they want me captured so that I can be spoken to sternly. Ripping the wanted poster down though, in full view of everyone, causes no such raise in notoriety. Again, I know this is carried over from other AC games, but it was stupid there too. Similarly, as a lady, I can walk up to a witness, who is always accompanied by two other man, stab them in broad daylight and then just walk away. The witness falls down dead and the two companions go about their day as if nothing happened. Worse, if I loop around the block, the witness will show up in the exact same place, ready to be killed again for my notoriety reducing purposes. I know that Aveline is dressed nicely, but I have to think that if a black woman stumbled into a white man in 18th century New Orleans, they wouldn’t just brush it off as nothing, especially if the guy falls down dead in front of two other people. The end result of both of these methods of reducing notoriety is that losing notoriety becomes busy work with no consequences for your actions. As long as your notoriety doesn’t go in the red, the only thing you lose is time spent not doing story missions in an effort to become less wanted. It also begs the question why I don’t just kill everyone as the lady, seeing how she could slaughter a bus load of nuns in the town square and no one would bat an eye.
From floating alligators to custom map markers that show up out of nowhere to rooftop guards that don’t react to you and can’t be killed, the game is filled with all sorts of bugs and glitches. Some of them are funny, some of them are annoying, many of them simply should not be there and probably would not have been had the game not had its release tied to ACIII. I can certainly forgive a certain number of bugs, but when I access the pigeon coop for the first time and it results in Aveline reading a letter while floating ten feet off of the ground, you can’t help but have the immersion completely destroyed.
It’s possible that the story gets better and Aveline becomes more interesting and you eventually get a jetski that lets you traverse the bayou more quickly, but I’m not sticking around to find out. I have too many other games I want to try out to spend more time with Aveline. It’s a shame, because I was looking forward to this one. I’d say that maybe they can fix things in the sequel, but I don’t see the Vita being a viable platform by the time that Assassins Creed III-2 comes out, so I”m pretty sure this will be Aveline’s only outing on this console. C’est la vie, Aveline. C’est la vie.