Originally released in 2012 on the Vita, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation was touted as a companion piece to Assassin’s Creed III, but now that we’ve been exposed to the refreshing and ambitious Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, it’s difficult to readjust to the series’ rudimentary formula.
Set against the backdrop of 18th Century New Orleans, we are introduced to the series’ first female protagonist, Aveline de Grandpré, who is the daughter of a wealthy Frenchman and an African slave woman. After her father freed her and her mother from slavery, she was raised in the lap of luxury. But as she grew, Aveline saw the plight of the slaves and was mentored into the Assassins’ brotherhood. Unlike past entries where we follow a descendant of Desmond Miles as they develop into a cold-blood killer, Liberation HD‘s abrupt introduction of Aveline robs us of building a bond with her. In addition, after one or two sequences the story becomes difficult to follow. The enemies you are sent to assassinate are barely explained, and the side characters lack any substance.
Aside from the disjointed story, Liberation HD includes numerous improvements over the handheld edition, only some of which are cosmetic, such as the polished character models, improved frame rate and more realistic facial animation during cutscenes. Environments themselves definitely benefit from the remastered graphics, with richly detailed textures and an improved draw distance which makes exploring each area more enjoyable. However, lip syncing has definitely not been fine-tuned, and can be astoundingly bad during cutscenes, and even worse during in-game dialog. Liberation HD also alters the methods of the original touch features used for pick pocketing and the “chain kill” system, which are mercifully assigned back to traditional buttons.
Gameplay and mechanics mostly derive from Assassin’s Creed III with its revised stealth and combat mechanics but one of Liberation HD’s biggest problems comes from the mission structure. Missions are brief and you’ll find yourself constantly stopping and starting as bite-sized sections of each mission are completed. Sadly no missions are memorable, and they rely on the generic pattern of tailing, random assassinations, and traveling from one location to another. There are also many side missions, but they all become repetitive and mundane rather quickly.
Certain missions incorporate the Persona system, which gives Aveline the ability to choose from three different outfits: the Assassin Attire, which is your standard outfit, the Slave Garments, which allows her to blend in with slaves and the Lady Attire, which greatly decreases her mobility but she’ll rarely attract much attention from guards. These three modes mean you attack missions slightly differently than you would in an average Assassin’s Creed game, but the problem is that these attires are predetermined for most missions, which gives the illusion of player-choice when tackling missions.
It may not be as long as other entries in the series, but Liberation HD is the definitive version of the original game, improving on most of the graphical and technical flaws of the Vita release. It’s certainly not the best game in the franchise, but any veteran of prior Assassin’s Creed games will feel right at home with Liberation HD.
Editor’s Note: Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD was reviewed using a 360 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any substantial differences between the 360, PS3 and PC version, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.