Assassin's Creed games as spin-offs on handhelds aren't anything new, what with a couple games on the DS and PSP. Yet, there's the feeling Ubisoft made a notably stronger effort in tying the PlayStation Vita-bound Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation to Assassin's Creed 3; these are two completely distinct adventures set in different parts of 18th Century America with overlapping timelines.
We won't know until the games' October 30th launch to discover how both titles are tied together storywise, but it's already evident that both share similarities in gameplay and level design. Connor has the Frontier, Aveline has the Bayou as their respective wildernesses. My playthrough found Aveline with fewer hostilities and the ones she did encounter were easily dispatched the same way you fight large predators in Assassins' Creed III, specifically with quick time events. This swamp commands its share of exploration with treasures hidden in trees and the occasional smuggler. These black market merchants will have gear and weapons to sell and even pocket watches.
After some random exploring through the swamp, I came across one small town. There wasn't much interactivity save for a couple shops to visit, but I'm confident that this establishment will factor in one of the story missions. It also didn't take long to find a side mission in the Bayou, which involved curing some locals of an intense fever. It was one of those illnesses that has a serving of insanity on the side. Not only did I have to track down special mushrooms for a cure, I also had to physically subdue these sick locals with some non-lethal Assassin's Creed combat.
If you're looking for brutality, you can be sure to find it during Liberation's story missions. Aveline and Connor share the same penchant for intense melee kills and she's particularly comfortable with cleaver-like blade called the sugar cane machete. She holds her own as any member of the Assassin Order with arm and leg attacks and counter moves.
Without going into too much detail, some of the subplots of Liberation are tied to the slave trade and the military resources that France eventually uses to support this war for independence. My first story mission found Aveline infiltrating a fort in the Bayou where several kidnapped slaves are being held. It didn't take long to find the slaves, although it did involve a series of unavoidable kills. There's a layer of mystery when it turns out the slaves weren't all that eager to be rescued. Aveline tries to find answers back in New Orleans where she consults with an ally, an accountant named Gerald. His take is to get answers by drawing out a cowardly governor from hiding and Aveline does this by inciting a rebellion and intercepting a delivery of gunpowder.
Aveline is equipped as any assassin in laying low and pulling off long range kills. The game doesn't trouble you with manual aiming when using a poison tipped blow dart. You just have to maintain your line of sight and stay undetected for a couple seconds while you hold your aim for an accurate shot. Of the eight missions I completed, three involved killing guards without being spotted, so I'm optimistic the full game will have a wealth of stealth missions.
Unsurprisingly, stealing gunpowder in the Assassin's Creed universe isn't a smooth operation. Fans of the series will find horse carriage sequences to be a familiar sight, and is all the more challenging when weaving through the tight streets of New Orleans. It's even more dicey when the path is laden with piles of gunpowder barrels, not to mention there are similar barrels on the carriage itself. It was one of the few times I was forced to use the touch controls, which responded well: tap the screen to accelerate, press and hold to slow down.
The series has always placed a strong emphasis on crowd blending and traversing rooftops that previous Assassin's Creed games have only dabbled in disguising. This form of deception plays a huge part in Liberation and is a reflection of a duality theme connected to Aveline's background. This is manifested in Liberation through a gameplay mechanic known as the Persona system. According to the Ubisoft spokesman, women in New Orleans (and the surrounding areas) managed to rise in prominence without needing to be a queen or a brothel owner. As the daughter of a French merchant and a slave, Aveline's very privileged upbringing makes her an ideal insider, which I suspect also added to her qualifications as an assassin.
Whatever Aveline wears represents the abilities available to her at the time. Dressed as a slave, she blends in with the lower classes, can pass through poor areas unnoticed, and loose clothing ensures she can free run. As an assassin, she is fully equipped at killing and can free roam, but she really sticks out. And there is the aristocrat grab, which limits her running and weapon use but gives her a free pass to areas only accessible to high society.
I'm often a junkie for experiencing game stories in their proper timeline, so much so that I could see myself alternating play sessions between Assassin's Creed 3 and Liberation so both playable characters reach 1776 at the same time. An Ubisoft spokesman from the Liberation team did stress that the games aren't so intertwined that you don't need to play them an any particular order. He did confirm that Liberation protagonist Aveline would meet Connor Kenway eventually, he just couldn't confirm how, why, or when they would meet.