It's a good thing, then, that Liberation offers you plenty of opportunities to slow things down and take out enemies one by one. There are occasional bombastic set pieces, but much of the mission design harks back to older Assassin's Creed games, where stalking your targets from the rooftops or silently following them to their hideouts took precedence over vehicular chases and scripted chaos.
Indeed, Aveline is every bit the capable assassin Ezio and Altair were. And in many ways, she's got even more tricks up her sleeve. Liberation introduces a multiple-identity system that allows Aveline to dress in slave garb, ladies' formal wear, or stylish assassin gear. Each guise carries its own strengths and weaknesses, while notoriety levels are split across three separate pools. It's an interesting system in the game's early goings, allowing you to do things like charm your way past guards as a well-dressed lady or infiltrate plantations as a slave. But any strategic depth this identity system offers is eclipsed by its limitations: the slave persona is useful only in extremely specific story moments, while the formal wear prohibits her from sprinting and platforming; she's forced to navigate the sprawling city at a light jog. By the end of the game, you find yourself defaulting to the tried-and-true assassin's attire at nearly every opportunity.
It's especially odd that Liberation would take away your ability to freely dart about the world, because, frame rate issues aside, the platforming is more exciting than it has ever been. As in Assassin's Creed III, you're no longer limited to climbing buildings and man-made structures; you can now dash up trees, scale cliffs, and leap effortlessly from branch to branch. These traversal enhancements are especially highlighted in Liberation's swampy, imposing version of the Louisiana bayou, where fallen trees and endless swamps dominate the scenery.
If only there were more going on out there. Aside from the occasional alligator encounter, there's almost nothing to do in the wilderness. There's no hunting, no cabin in the woods to build up--it's almost entirely navigating from one story mission to the next. That's less of an issue in the city portion of the gameworld, where there is a decent collection of side quests and optional distractions; still, Liberation's New Orleans isn't nearly as rich with content as the cities Ezio explored.
Which is not to say that Liberation is free of secondary content. As the story unfolds, Aveline becomes involved in her father's business empire. This allows you to invest your money in the purchase of ships and various goods (coffee, fruit, leather, and so on) and send those vessels along trade routes all over the Atlantic in an effort to gain the maximum return on your investments. Like managing assassins in previous games, it's an oddly compelling strategy minigame that serves as a nice change of pace from the action surrounding it.
Even more interesting (though perhaps not as well executed) is the online multiplayer, which pits Assassins against Templars in a map-based battle for worldwide domination. It's essentially a card game where you collect assassins of various statistical abilities and then send them into fights across the world in an effort to capture those cities for your chosen side. There's a strange allure in the way it feels like a science-fiction-tinged cross between Pokemon and Risk, but it's hard to imagine this feature has the staying power of the console multiplayer experience.
And yet, such fun diversions are more the exception than the rule. Though Assassin's Creed III: Liberation toys around with intriguing concepts and centers its story around a character you desperately want to know more about, none of it comes together especially well. Liberation often excels, but it stumbles just as much. The result is a game that fails to bear the standard of quality that has defined this series for years.