Why I’m not playing Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation.

I’m a HUGE fan of the Assassin’s Creed series as a whole, and I’ve played about 10% of the way through Assassin’s Creed III. Let me start off by saying that. I’ve always loved playing as one of the many colorful characters that the parkour-loving team at Ubisoft has so carefully and masterfully created and hand-crafted from the ground up, and as a gamer, no satisfaction is quite as huge as the one I get when I pounce on an enemy from out of nowhere. It’s part of the reason I love stealth-action games: you really get a feel for strategy, and it’s complemented perfectly with a balance of quick wits and, usually, fantastic AI. So why am I not going to be playing the newest installment Ubisoft has to offer?

If it’s a surprise to some of you why I haven’t been playing, it’s simple: I’m busy and I’m broke.

Console games, and even the pocket-sized consoles, such as the PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Android, iPhone, and even the new, cumbersome-sized tablet with buttons, the Wii U, can really take up some serious time. I’m playing guitar for one band, singing for a second, and producing an album for a third, all while juggling two other jobs on the side, just to barely scrape by making rent, and I don’t even own a car. I’m almost constantly on the road, and I’ve noticed it’s a growing trend. The only time and money I have available in my schedule to play video games is usually either being spent on things like rest and bills, or going out to run errands and buy groceries. Usually that’s around the time I’ll start running into my other gamer friends from New York, who are doing the exact same thing, and are also complaining about how expensive it is – and hard – to start playing console games again.

But if I have to be honest above all else, I was looking forward to the next great offerings from the older PSP when the Vita was announced. I simply can’t afford to upgrade to the next generation of consoles, and game stores aren’t selling all that many PSP games anymore. They’re also not selling PS2 games anymore (Sony’s at fault for that one, though – the backwards compatibility issues on newer PS3s were almost enough to stop me from getting one. Almost.), and that means a lot of people who couldn’t afford the upgrade with a few games a few years ago, and still can’t afford it today, are gonna be left behind. I’m quickly coming to an age where I might be one of those people.

Now, before I get into full-blown rant mode here, I have to give Ubisoft an insane amount of credit. The PSP was definitely outdated, and the Vita is an excellent upgrade, but if you want to get real here, Sony’s PS3 is doing an absolutely fantastic job holding its own right now. The new PS3 Super-Slim looks to be a hot December seller, and the Vita is up there with it. Ubisoft somehow managed to pull not one, but TWO high-definition Assassin’s Creed titles off just in time for the holiday season and the inevitable rave reviews it gets. But was this really the smartest move they could have made?

Despite the fact that, again, Liberation looks insanely good, I have to say, no, it isn’t. What they could have done – and really should have done – was this: They could have made Assassin’s Creed III a PS3 exclusive, packaged it together with the new PS3 Super-Slim, and include both the original AC3 and Liberation on the disc as either PS3 or Vita remote play titles (360 discs don’t have enough memory for both AC3 and Liberation, unless you’re looking for a 2-disc case or a horribly muddled mess of data compression). Or they could have also released AC3 and Liberation on the same cartridge for the Vita and packaged it together.

This counters two major problems Ubisoft could be facing with getting this game the attention it may deserve: one is console familiarity, and the other is essentially the ability to use the same graphics engine over again so that they could put more time and money into the storyline, characters, and gameplay, maximizing the potential the game has without sacrificing as much on the time frame they had to release this game. Companies that are already rolling in the dough need to stop concentrating on polarizing their fans by separating them by console, and start concentrating on selling games to the widest audience they can, again, without sacrificing as much on the time and money they had to spend.

What I’m saying here is, there’s untapped potential on both ends of the spectrum that I feel Ubisoft could have really improved on, had they not chosen to milk this cash cow for all it’s worth. My hope is not just that Liberation doesn’t fail to live up to the expectations of what could ultimately be a make-or-break second launch title for what is already being hailed as one of the finest handheld consoles on the market, but also that Ubisoft doesn’t think it can get away with launching a crappy game because of a holiday season that, according to market projections, is scheduled to fail. For now, I’m sticking to the shorter, freeware-to-$10 games because that’s all I can afford.

Take the hint, Ubisoft.

P.S.: Anyone looking for a great game without breaking the bank should check out my other articles, as well as Pat’s Bargain Bin. He knows his stuff.

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