Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD Review
Assassin’s Creed Liberation was originally released for the PlayStation Vita in 2012, and for the most part it was successful at shrinking down the familiar franchise formula to the Vita’s small screen. Featuring vast open environments and sandbox gameplay, the game was a showcase for Sony’s fledgling handheld, and it was even packaged with the system in a bundle format. Now Ubisoft has released Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD, a reworked, spruced up port for consoles and PC. Sporting all-new models, textures and lighting, as well as a refined gameplay experience, this is the definitive version of the game. Series fans that missed protagonist Aveline de Grandpre’s original outing should definitely give it a look.
For those that played the original version on the Vita, the visual updates in Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD will be immediately apparent. While drawing comparisons to the full-fledged console and PC releases would be foolish, the HD upgrade is dramatic, drastically improving textures, models, lighting and draw distance. While Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD may pale in comparison to recent franchise releases like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, it’s obvious that a lot of love and hard work was put into this port.
Players assume the role of Aveline de Grandpre, an interesting protagonist and the first female assassin in the long-running franchise. Aveline is the daughter of a rich white merchant and his purchased slave, which creates an interesting setup that is unfortunately never fully fleshed out. The 18th-century Louisiana setting is memorable though, featuring New Orleans and Chichen Itza, as well as a bayou that connects them – similar to the frontier environment in Assassin’s Creed III. Aveline’s unique background and social status allows her to disguise herself with the Persona system, where the player can take on the roles of Assassin, Lady, and Slave, each with their own abilities and uses.
As the Lady, Aveline is dressed in her most expensive garb, allowing her to spend coins and charm men to gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas. However, it’s also the most boring persona gameplay wise, as Aveline moves very slowly in her dress and is unable to climb buildings, run on rooftops or engage in advanced combat. This makes sense from a realism standpoint, but the fact remains that these sections are restrictive and uninteresting. As the Slave, Aveline can incite riots and blend in with other slaves, as well as traverse the environment, but her combat skills are limited. Finally, as the Assassin, all of the familiar AC gameplay is available, with the addition of a poison blowpipe to take out enemies from afar.
Aveline’s story is handed out piecemeal, with the narrative jumping between characters, years and environments without any real sense of cohesiveness. The disjointed state of the narrative and overall mission structure feels like a relic from the game’s handheld roots, and the same goes for the overall level of polish and voice acting quality. While Aveline’s voice actress sounds great, some of the smaller characters have appallingly bad accents that distract from the story. Animations can be stiff at times, and enemy AI is very inconsistent. Small glitches occurred during my playthrough, such as objects and enemies becoming stuck in the environment or scripted events failing to trigger. While the free running is still as fun as ever, it feels noticeably less polished here, often having Aveline scale walls or fall off ledges inadvertently. While these glitches were never severe or regular enough to really impact the overall experience, they do temporarily pull you out of the unique atmosphere that Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD is trying to create.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD is a fun entry in the series with a unique setting and interesting protagonist. While some of the remnants of its handheld roots remain, Ubisoft’s HD overhaul is impressive enough to warrant a playthrough for fans of the franchise and those who missed out on the original Vita version. Here’s hoping that someday Aveline’s story is fleshed out in a big-budget sequel.