Almost two years after it launched as the must-have game for the PS Vita, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation has finally (to the delight of many) made its way to home consoles. This isn’t a straight port, and has brought with it a slew of updates. Everything from visually, to audio and even gameplay are far superior to the original version. However, the story of the Louisiana-born assassin Avaline de Grampre is not without its faults. No matter how many tweaks and upgrades the game has received, it was still originally made to be played on the go – and that really holds it back from reaching the same level as the rest of the series. In contrast to many other main series Assassin’s titles; Liberationis mostly small, overly easy missions and is outlined by graphical and gameplay bugs, as well as far too frequent, yet overly thin story sections.
Set in Louisinanna after the French and Indian War, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation puts you in the role of Aveline; an assassin caught between three different worlds. One day after her mother vanishes, she is adopted and raised by a wealthy businessman and his wife – all while secretly training to become an Assassin. Avaline is determined to find her mother, put a stop to slavery in the region and make sure those responsible for both never have the chance to do so again.
Unlike past games, Aveline is not related to the regular series protagonist -Desmond Miles. Instead you are playing a game designed by Abstergo that puts you in the role of an Assassin purely for fun. This leads itself to an incredibly meta design choice by the developers. At the beginning of the game, you are informed that it was created by Ubisoft in conjunction with Abstergo. This is a clever nod to the series, as well as an attempt to
Liberation’s story is held back by its game-design. This is a title that was originally designed to be played on the go and in short bursts, which means that many of the story sections are quite thin compared to the rest of the series. Not only is there not as in-depth a story to go on but it also means that with the exception of Aveline, character development takes a bit of a hit. The story sections are also fairly frequent, breaking up the gameplay more often than I would like in an Assassin’s Creed game – every few minutes another short cinematic plays, which can really pull you out of the experience.
While the story does suffer in some parts, it does provide a few notable new additions to the Assassin’s Creed formula. Firstly and more importantly – Aveline is the series’ first female protagonist. After playing as Altair, Ezio, Haytham, Connor and Edward she is a nice change of pace. It is also fun to see her interact with people through her various guises and personae; the game really plays on the whole “stuck between three worlds” concept, which helps develop Aveline as a character – something that Altair Connor never really got through their campaigns, and that took Ezio three games to achieve.
Anyone who has played an Assassin’s Creed game before will immediately be familiar with Liberation. The controls are all the same as the previous console installments, allowing you to jump straight into the action. The same stealth-based and free-running gameplay is here, and the choice of New Orleans for a locale means we get to see and scale some environments that are new to the franchise. Easily the most notable is the bayou – the overgrown Louisianian swamplands. You will need to use all of your free-running and climbing skills, as well as a series of small canoes to navigate your way through the murky waters.
Aside from the location, everything here is pretty similar to how you remember it from previous games. You will need to use a variety of tools and weapons to make your way through the environment in order to best assassinate your target and unravel the Templar mystery. Since this was originally a spin-off title to Assassin’s Creed III, it is easy to draw comparisons between the two. Thankfully Liberation doesn’t suffer from ACIII’s biggest downside – its tutorial. Connor’s tutorial (which lasted almost 1/4 of the ACIII campaign) was a thing of torture that detracted many people away from the game. Thankfully Aveline is a little quicker on the uptake and if anything her tutorial is too short. New players to the franchise aren’t given much time to accustom themselves to the controls of the game before it begins.
One of the most notable differences in gameplay that Liberation has from the other games in the franchise is the unique “persona” options. Aveline is a woman trapped between worlds – she is a black woman during the time of slavery, an assassin, and a member of a well-off family. While stuck between these three competing worlds, Aveline makes the most of them – by utilising three different personae in order to gather intel or complete her missions. Each of these personas has their own infamy level that can be changed in various ways, and swapping between two to complete a sequence is not unheard of.
The “Lady” Persona is unable to hold any weapons outside of her wrist blades and a few other small unlockable items as the game progresses (like a blowgun parasol). Likewise she cannot run or climb and must rely on her beauty and grace to charm the town guards into letting her get to places. Her standing as the daughter of a wealthy businessman allows her to access areas that she would otherwise be unable to, in order to gather information.
On the other end of the spectrum is her “Slave” Persona. The slave can run and fight, but is also able to blend easier with the crowd; especially if she is carrying a box or crate. Lastly she can be
herself” in her Assassin guise – with her own set of unique robes (that come included with a sweet as tri-corn hat). In this form, Aveline is more likely to be spotted by guards, but can freely move, run and assassinate with ease. The persona system is a new and frankly pretty cool addition to the series. The problem is that it doesn’t feel all that fleshed out, and maybe if the game was a little longer or with a little more content, there would be more use to it. Regardless I am hopeful that it will make a return in a future AC installment.
Liberation was originally intended to be played on the go, and this is very noticeable even now. Missions are relatively short, with the whole game only lasting about 10 hours. While this is by no means a short time, the Assassin’s Creed games have notably long campaigns. It isn’t unthinkable to smash through the entire game and collect all of the game’s hidden objectives in under 15 hours total, which doesn’t leave much of a chance for replayability. The missions themselves are all pretty easy compared to its brethren.
Mostly you will find yourself running from point a to point b, killing a few guys then running to point c. Not only are the missions themselves easy, but they will frequently have nonsensical or just inane 100% sync goals. The best example of this is when you are given a side-goal of “not swimming” in a mission that hardly even takes you NEAR the water. These kinds of goals are the majority, with another large amount being dedicated to time-based objectives. The small-burst style of gameplay works well for hand-held consoles, but just doesn’t make the transition to at-home playing.
Visuals & Audio
It is undeniable that Assassin’s Creed Liberation looks better now than it ever has – but it isn’t without its faults. The character models have been almost completely redone from the original Vita version and now look on par to many of the previous games in the series. While it looks great, it still doesn’t hold a candle to what we saw in Black Flag. Environments have all been given a face-lift too, and the Bayou especially is one of the most unique and interesting locations in the AC universe.
The game’s bugs sadly don’t just extend to the gameplay, but also affect the world itself. Frequently while playing I found sections of the world would take a considerable amount of time to “pop-in,” while other times I would be able to see the entire game’s map-grid. Even cut-scenes suffered from visual glitches, and more than once I had characters facing different directions to one another and talking into a brick wall. At first I thought this was assassin’s trying to be sneaky and look like they weren’t talking to one another – until they starting doing gestures to the other person while not actually looking at them.
The Assassin’s Creed games can be (somewhat) violent – but that is the nature of a game where you kill someone. However Liberation offers a slight alternative – you can turn off the blood. For many of us, this would detract from the game but none the less it is a nice feature to have, especially for parents with younger children. It may seem silly, but turning off the blood really does help you feel like it is not as violent (if you don’t believe me, compare the original to the uncensored version of The Wolverine).
The audio here has gotten a massive boost too. Everything sounds so much more clean, crisp and natural. Character voices are spot on and feel authentic to the time and place. In the original version, sometimes the heavy Louisiana or Spanish accents made it difficult to properly hear all of the dialogue, but that is another problem that has since been done away with. While the accents are still quite thick, they are much clearer and easier to hear – resulting in a game that is notably more fun to listen to.
This is the best looking, sounding and playing version of Aveline’s story and if you are a fan of the series who hasn’t been able to play this one yet then there is more of that sweet run, climb and stab gameplay for you to enjoy. Sadly though, Aveline’s story just isn’t all that compelling; and its biggest flaw is that it was designed as a portable experience. As an on-the-go Assassin’s Creed game, Liberation worked. Now however, many of the gameplay mechanics that were introduced to facilitate the shorter play-times just make the game and its world feel all that much smaller. The same can be said for the missions themselves as they lack any real depth, difficulty or length. Many of the sequences take about the same amount of time as a long mission in any of the other games and all contribute to Liberation HD being the weakest installment in the franchise.
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