Bringing in female protagonist to the series was one of the firsts that Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation managed to achieve back in 2012. It was also Assassin’s Creed first real substantial entry out on a portable system, the Playstation Vita. A year and change later, Liberation is getting a Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC HD remake and a rename to Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD. While this is certainly a much better looking and more playable version of the original Vita game, it still carries some of the issues that stem from its portable roots.
Starring Aveline de Grandpré, daughter of a freed slave and a wealthy New Orleans business man, who is turned into an assassin early in her life. Her origins quickly catch up to her in a fairly convoluted and disjointed story, that thankfully spares us of almost all of the modern day mumbo jumbo and manages to fit in well in the overall patch worked mess that is the Assassin’s Creed lore. Few of the secondary characters are likable and by the end of the game, you’ll be scratching your head as for what all the fighting and jumping around was for.
But let’s not digress from talking about what makes an Assassin’s Creed game enjoyable – the freedom of movement and the creative ways in which you dispatch targets. In both fields, Liberation HD suffers an ambitious scope that never truly delivers and the flawed use of an otherwise interesting gimmick that involves Aveline changing costumes (dubbed ‘personas’) and attaining special skills and perks.
As an assassin, the full suite of assassination skills are at her disposal, pretty much right as you start the game, except for the whip, which is given to you a few hours into the game and is used to great effect during combat and for traversal, Indiana Jones style. Through the lady persona, Aveline can charm guards and avoid detection, but is incredibly fragile during combat; the same goes for her slave persona, that allows her to climb around much like a her assassin disguise, although it attracts attention much easier, for obvious reasons.
Picking from different sets of abilities is very unique to the franchise for sure, but Liberation applies it very artificially. It limits your choices drastically to a single option most of the time when it comes to missions, allowing little to no room for creative use of these new tools at your disposal. There are only a handful of segments in Liberation where it doesn’t limit you as much in terms of a choice, but even then, it’s done so in an unsatisfying manner. That’s thanks to the limited nature of the mission structure in the game, combined with dumb and bipolar enemy patterns that break any illusion of stealth or reward when it randomly decides to fail an objective or an entire level altogether.
Liberation‘s setting of revolutionary times’ New Orleans feels enclosed and tiring to navigate at times. Buildings tend to look the same, with very few recognizable landmarks and for whatever reason, there’s no quick travel option, which makes moving from point A to B very boring by the end of the game. What’s worse, navigation turns into an even bigger issue when you move on to explore the Bayou, where most of the quick movement routes are relegated to trees that hardly ever do a good job of getting you anywhere fast. Unlike Assassin’s Creed III, which made smart use the low height of buildings and trees to navigate towns and the wilderness, Liberation slows things down to the point of becoming linear during missions in that area.
There are benefits, however, for starting out as a portable game. Liberation‘s missions are quick to complete, rarely lasting more than five minutes, which makes them less of an obstacle to get through. And even though the story is cut and pasted together, it does a good job in taking you back and forth through all of the game locations, never straying in a spot for too long, movement issues aside.
Extra content besides the story based levels isn’t as exciting to go after as previous Assassin’s Creed, mainly because they’re mostly the same as always and don’t go anywhere special once everything is unlocked. Aside from finding diary pages that somewhat expand Aveline’s backstory, hunting gator eggs or seducing jewels off of unsuspecting victims mostly only serve as padding. Sadly, the commerce side of Liberation is very muted and feels very tacked on and not vital at all to the game, aside from its introductory use as a throwaway during an early story mission.
Visually, it’s worth pointing out that Ubisoft Sofia has done an impressive good job with this remake. Character models look on part with Assassin’s Creed III or even Black Flag‘s. All the environments look the part too, even with the repetition of buildings and structures. The water in this port is particularly beautiful, although it doesn’t really react to Aveline when she’s swimming around. Overall, presentation wise, Liberation HD does not disappoint, especially on PC.
It’s frustrating to see how the persona feature turns out in the overall game, even in this re-release where it could have been improved. Even though Aveline’s story starts out promising, lightly approaching the theme of slavery, it ultimately falls flat more than once throughout the game, Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD is a fun but deeply flawed entry into the series that is still worth a look for those who missed it the first time.