Here it is: the last blog for 2012.
And what a year it's been: it's been full of great games and not so great games; it's been a year when I've contemplated ending the blog for good because of the time it takes to maintain while holding down a fulltime writing job (but I didn't because I just enjoy video games so much); but it was also a year when I celebrated five years of doing this blog. It's been a memorable year, for sure.
At the end of the day, a blog is nothing without its readers and I have a wonderful, passionate group of loyal readers, so I salute you. if it wasn't for you, dear readers, coming back day after day, week after week, month after month, this blog would be nothing.
Over the Christmas/New Year holidays, I'll be packing away the controllers and games players (perhaps not the Vita or DS: I'll take those away with me), and giving my fingers and thumbs a well-earned rest. It's time to recharge the batteries with things non-gaming-related. It's a much needed break from first-person viewpoints, on-screen HUDs and health bars.
But I've still got one or two game reviews to write up so I'm going to end 2012 with a writeup of Assassin's Creed 3 Liberation, a PS Vita game set in the Assassin's Creed universe and starring a new character: a female assassin called Aveline.
Set in Louisiana between 1765 and 1780, Liberation puts players in the petticoats of Aveline de Grandpre, an African/French assassin and the daughter of a wealthy Louisiana businessman and a slave mother. The game deals with the period just as the French rulers of New Orleans are ousted by Spanish conquerers.
From the outset Liberation plays like an Assassin's Creed game: Aveline can climb buildings, free-run along rooftops and assassinate foes but the tried-and-true has beeen tweaked a little. Aveline can change her outfits in dressing rooms, giving her different personas that can be used in different scenarios. Some missions require Aveline to be dressed in her finery so she can infiltrate a swanky party, while others require her to wear a slave outfit so she can blend in, unnoticed, with the New Orleans people. Like the building aspects of earlier Assassin's Creed games where you could buy shops around cities, Avenline can buy and rebuild dressing rooms dotted about the game world, meaning eventually she doesn't have to travel far when she needs to change clothes.
And while the scale of structures in Liberation isn't as impressive as in, say, Assassin's Creed 2, the bayou and swamps have some incredibly tall trees, which she can climb, opening up a bit more of the game map each time. Like in AC3, she can clamber through trees to reach locations.
Like previous AC games, too, foes and guards use line-of-sight awareness, meaning if they suspect something while they can see you their alertness will rise, but generally all it takes is ducking behind a corner or jumping into a cart full of hay to foil their curiosity. It doesn't work all the time, though, and sometimes guards will be relentless in their chase.
I found Liberation a lot more enjoyable than AC3 (though, for me, revolutionary America isn't as exciting to explore as Renaissance Italy): maybe it was the change of setting, maybe it was a new character. I don't know what it was but it was enjoyable for the most part, even though the story seemed quite disjointed and jumped about all over the place and some of the mini-games using the Vita's touch and tilt abilities seemed tacked on just for the sake of it (like having to swipe both the front and back touch screens horizontally to open a letter).
Liberation looks pretty damn good, too, but at times the frame rates really take a dive, especially when there's a lot of action on-screen or during a chase sequence. During one mission where Aveline was being chased by what seemed like every enemy in the area, it felt as if I was guiding her through a world made of treacle: she moved extremely slowly, as though her feet were dragging on the ground. Other times, she'll sprint across a map as if she has wings on her feet. Technically, Liberation swings from looking and playing great to dodgy textures and poor frame rates.
Liberation isn't perfect and it has small frustrations but I'm enjoying its diversion into the city of New Orleans.
So, that's it for 2012. Have a great Christmas, a wonderful New Year and I'll be back in the New Year. I promise.
Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.