We're just three weeks away from the release of Assassin's Creed III, Ubisoft's long-awaited follow-up in its hit kill-or-be-killed series, and this one looks like the greatest yet, between its new setting (the American Revolution, across Boston and New York), its new protagonist (the unstoppable Connor) and plenty of surprises. Still, not all the focus should be going on that adventure, as Ubisoft Sofia is working with the folks at Ubisoft Montreal on their own tale from the Revolution. Assassin's Creed III: Liberation will release at the same time as the PS3/Xbox 360/PC follow-up, featuring its own hero and storyline, giving Vita owners something to ravage through.
Though we can't go too much into detail on the story, we did go hands-on to see how the game was coming along in terms of development, and so far, so good.
The game features a female assassin for the first time in the series, a nimble woman by the name of Aveline de Granpre. She learns her assassination skills from the Assassin Brotherhood, headed up by an escaped slave named Agate, who lives in the Bayou. We can't go in-depth on the missions of the game, but we can tell you that there's a lot of corruption to clean up, and Aveline is just the person to do it.
One particular talent we discovered early in the game is Aveline's ability to blend in with a number of outfits, which she can change into through dress shops scattered across New Orleans. And if there's isn't a dress shop nearby, she can use money to open one up, convenient when she needs to get some new attire. The outfits we saw during the demo involved a "lady" appearance, where she put on a lovely green dress to give herself a noble appearance, but still manages to pack a punch when an unfavorable tries to get the best of her; a "slave" outfit, which allows her to blend in better with surroundings, provided she doesn't get too close to guards; and, of course, her traditional Assassin outfit, which is great – though we're wondering how she's able to keep that flimsy hat on her head. No matter. You can change across these outfits at any time using selections on the PS Vita touch-screen.
The gameplay also uses the touch-screen in certain ways – some we can't disclose just yet – but in general, the best way to get through the game is by traditional means, using the analog stick and buttons. Holding down the right shoulder button enables you to sprint, just as you would in the console versions, as you'll grab onto ledges, jump across rooftops and carefully work your way across tree branches without breaking a sweat. You can also do a simpler fast walk through crowds by holding down the X button.
As far as attacking goes, she has a number of abilities that make her just as lethal as Connor. She can attack multiple enemies at once using multi-directional moves, and, if a thug isn't looking, she can bury them quick with a from-behind assault. In addition to her hand blades, Aveline also has the option of picking up secondary weapons for use. But she's also quite lethal from a distance, thanks to the use of a pistol and blow darts. In fact, blow darts are quite useful in a pinch, as they kill an enemy without alerting his buddies – something that's of vital importance when it comes to keeping a low cover in stealth mode. (The game has more of a reliance on that than you might think.)
Even though this is the first time that the series is making an appearance on the PS Vita (with probably more to come, depending on its success), Ubisoft Sofia has done a great job porting the AC surroundings into the handheld. There are some quirks here and there, like the sky turning an inverted color in one spot (like out of The Blair Witch Project) and disappearing walls, but overall it's a great engine, featuring lavish animations (especially the deaths), facial details and plenty of room to run between New Orleans and the Bayou. The audio is equally good, between Winifred Phillips' music pieces and solid dialogue between Aveline, her allies, and a few quirky characters – you'll know them when you meet them. And Connor is supposedly appearing in the game somewhere down the road, in case you need a little fix of the original Assassin's Creed III during your sessions.
Though not as in-depth as the console games, Liberation is shaping up to be a fine spin-off that'll be a worthwhile purchase for PS Vita owners. Be sure to check it out – and snag yourself a limited edition white system bundle – when it moves in for the kill October 30th.