Cramming a console-sized experience onto a handheld system can't be an easy affair. After just a few minutes of Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, it becomes clear that the compromises go far beyond just working with a smaller screen.
Liberation has no substantial connection to the existing Assassin's Creed storyline. Unlike the console titles where you play as the ancestors of Desmond Miles, Liberation makes little attempt to connect itself with the present day. Instead, the game is presented as a historical documentary of sorts, with the events of 1765-1780 New Orleans taking place within a simulation created - and apparently sold - by Abstergo Industries. This approach suits the handheld well, and favors the pick-up-and-play style the title is going for.
You play as Aveline de Grandpré, daughter of a wealthy French shipping magnate and his slave-turned-wife, Jeanne. Because of her father's considerable business and social influence, both Aveline and her mother escape slavery and Aveline grows up with much privilege. Jeanne disappears under mysterious circumstances, and Aveline's father eventually remarries. Aveline is then recruited by an escaped slave named Agaté who trains her, and brings her within the ranks of the Assassin Brotherhood. Aveline is a remarkably unique character, and as an assassin she is utterly ruthless. Unfortunately, her story is so broad that it feels unfinished, and you'll hunger to learn more about her personal struggles, especially in the waning hours of the game.
From her three distinct backgrounds - slave, wealthy business heir, and assassin - come the three different personas which Aveline uses to complete her objectives. Each version of Aveline offers distinct bonuses and drawbacks: The "lady" persona gains suspicion much more slowly, but her flashy garb prevents her from scaling walls. The slave outfit lets you blend in with other working folk, but takes more damage in combat. And the assassin outfit deals out kills with ease, but good luck flying under the radar if guards are lurking nearby.
As is customary in the Creed series, combat is split between stealth takedowns using hidden blades and full-on throwdowns with adversaries using swords, fists, and even a firearm or two. If you can manage it, rubbing out your victims without raising the ire of armed guards is always preferred, but fighting four or five foes at once provides its own sense of accomplishment.
Missions come in two flavors: story missions and side quests. Side quests include things like gathering collectible items and helping slaves escape captivity. Story missions, on the other hand, almost always task you with either taking out a target or forming a plan on how to do so. The series' open world gameplay is alive and well in Liberation, giving you the freedom to approach or avoid each mission at your leisure. Finding the perfect, stealthy route to your victim and taking them down without so much as a scream is exhilarating.
Getting to your objective involves a lot of wall-climbing and roof-jumping. There are plenty of towering structures to scale, offering a better view of your surroundings, and of course, the familiar carts of hay and piles of tree branches litter the streets to give you a nice, soft landing spot should you choose to take the leap. The bayou offers a wealth of trees to climb, which helps offer some variety, but these can be considerably more difficult to scale in a precise manner. Expect to fall hard a few times before perfecting your technique.