More of the same.
Under the assumption you’re not looking for an in-depth game that’s just about entertaining enough to tie you over until something better comes along, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is the perfect choice. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a game that manages to be exciting as it is obvious in where the series maybe heading. It’s not by any means a bad game if you’re looking for a quick bit of fun, it’s just a sign of what’s to come if Ubisoft really are planning to release the series on an annual basis.
In the past two years we have been treated to three Assassin’s Creed games, and have somewhat struggled to truly establish and fill out their main protagonists as characters we should truly care about. Assassin’s Creed III was an ambitious game that did so well in so many areas, via new game mechanics, new side missions to engage in, crafting systems, and its improved free-running system through the use of trees and nature.
The only problem it faced was its inability to create a worthwhile protagonist that people didn’t hate. Connor had the potential to truly take the series to an entirely new level, due to his divided culture, nationality, animalistic fighting style, and his fictional input on the American Revolution. However, Ubisoft’s abandonment on the young warrior following the release of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag made him completely forgettable due to a more interesting setting and lively character, Edward Kenway.
The most positive outcome from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was in its goals and ambitions to top what was achieved in the previous game, and rightfully so it did. The obvious selling point of this game however, came from its pillars of success in sailing the waves of Johnny Depp’s popular Pirate Movies, and making us intrigued with next-gen visual splendour. Unfortunately, the HD version Assassin’s Creed: Liberation somewhat struggles to take the momentum further.
"The game introduces a new feature known as the persona system, this plays on Aveline's social status within the world and allows you to take on the role of three entirely different people."
There appears to be a tremendous amount of emphasis being placed on geographical location, and which cultural simulation to be accurately portrayed in what’s to come next. With Ubisoft asking the for fan feedback on where the series should be taken to next, the first thing they should be doing is deciding which one of these three current characters they should be expanding upon, and placing more focus on.
It’s worth noting that I use the word “Assassin” very lightly here as neither Connor or Aveline had any real excuse nor provided any real contribution to actually downing the hood and becoming an assassin. Aveline is a character who’s life takes place in a very interesting era, that allows Ubisoft to tackle controversy and deal with touchy subjects. I tried so hard at giving Aveline the benefit of the doubt and really trying to engage with this character as I did Altair and Ezio, sadly though it borders impossible.
Despite the flaws that appear to holding the series back, not everything here is gloom and sad. One thing that’s been largely apparent to me in past Assassin’s Creed games is the repetitive copy ‘n’ paste nature of character animations. In Assassin’s Creed: Liberation however the change is almost certainly noticeable. Past characters of the series have all had re-used character animations from the game prior to their forthcoming. This is particularly noticeable in free-running and traversing the environment.
Additional animations for new means of traversal increased as the series moved along, but each animation was exactly the same, and this applied to all characters including Desmond, who for the most part was barely played as. Everything from sprinting, climbing, tumbling to the ground, and even the position and stance of the character’s limbs were identical when engaging in a simple movement such as a jump. The copy ‘n’ paste formula here was becoming tedious and stagnating, the only thing separating these shadow-clone warriors was the game’s branching story lines and variations in their environments.
Playing as Aveline breaks this reoccurring trend and this isn’t just down to the change in gender, as most people would expect. The game introduces a new feature known as the persona system, this plays on Aveline’s social status within the world and allows you to take on the role of three entirely different people. The first persona available is the Assassin, if that wasn’t obvious enough. The second would be the lady persona, which is granted by her family’s popular name and reputation amongst the game’s inhabitants. The third persona is rooted in Aveline’s main selling point and reason of interest for the game, and this is the slave persona.
"The size of the game world itself may not be as big or as open as the main games in the series, but this doesn't mean it has been majorly dwarfed in any way. Traveling from one place to the next is achieved by an automatic fast travel system with minimal exploration outside the current town or location."
Each persona gives and takes away different abilities and skills to Aveline, which plays a major role in how you go about in completing your mission. Where the game fails to truly expand upon this idea is in the same concluding outcome following the completion of a mission. It would have been a good idea to add a multiple choice feature dictated by the chosen persona in which you played as in that specific mission. Seeing how the persona system is forced upon you as a state of mandatory requirements however, means it wouldn’t have been possible without completely redesigning some of the core mechanics in the game’s missions and overall storyline.
Something that is amongst the obvious regarding Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is something that isn’t commonly used within other games, it’s also the one thing that sets the Assassin’s Creed series apart from other games. This is the diversity in racial background and nationality.
Aveline’s standout presence of being a black woman although partly European, makes way for a very interesting and almost alien approach for storytelling, as well as gameplay. As seen with each iteration and locations of the Assassin’s Creed games, the diverse backgrounds of each main protagonist is why the series has lasted and done so well in terms of storytelling and bringing something new to the table, in regards to where the following games will take place next.
Starting with Altair back in the lands of Syria, Ezio traveling through various parts of Europe, Connor fighting for freedom in Native America, and lastly Edward, who we can happily thank for blinding us with sun rays sets amongst the beautiful sights of the Caribbean, each game has managed to capture the culture, architecture, wildlife, and standards of living that existed during the times in which they were set in. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation continues to follow this example with Aveline’s three different outlooks on life, the Persona system, taking place in New Orleans. It’s also this sense of culture, racial differences, and general world immersion, that feeds directly back into Aveline’s character animations, that do well to set her apart from previous characters.
Aveline’s differences in the way she sprints, climbs, stumbles, and leaps stood out to me quite clearly, and although the button mechanics and layouts are fairly the same, her bodily movements are not. This is a first in the series that I am pleased to see and hope to see taken further with characters in the future. Aveline’s actions in the Slave Persona are more inline with her position and hierarchy in society, and her missions and the way in which other characters such as guards respond to her reflects this.
Aveline’s behavior and bodily movements once again mirror her persona, and every detail right down to the differences in her walking, fast walking, and running are accounted for. Fast walking as an Assassin presents attitude and a threat to those around her. While fast walking as a Slave displays desperation, or someone in a hurry running errands and going about work. These details may seem small and may not be of an obvious factor to some, but they help in contributing to the overall feel of the game and representation of character.
As Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is a port taken from the Sony PS Vita, the concerns and questions regarding the size of the game’s world is one to be bought up a fair number of times. The size of the game world itself may not be as big or as open as the main games in the series, but this doesn’t mean it has been majorly dwarfed in any way. Traveling from one place to the next is achieved by an automatic fast travel system with minimal exploration outside the current town or location. This is most likely down to the limitations on the PS Vita’s hardware in producing large scale worlds and more complex scenes.
"As far as the visuals go Assassin's Creed: Liberation is a decent port. It's significantly better than most ported games on the market and the studio even took the time to completely redesign assets, objects, and characters in the game."
Liberation reminds us that Assassin’s Creed seems to have reached a point within its gameplay mechanics whereby, the addition of new abilities to both the character and objects regarding the characters use-case, have become something of a benefit while at the same time over saturated. It seems to have reached a crash a burn in how it can diverse and present itself to be more complex and in depth with its combat system.
Don’t get me wrong combat is still as brutal and enjoyable as ever, but the lack of choice in what plays out regarding how you defeat your enemies, is still subject to the random nature of the game’s decision following your enemy counter and corresponding attack. An additional feature to the combat system is one that allows you to tag your enemies before actually engaging them, and watching Aveline chain together a serious of unavoidable kills one after another. This is a refreshing pace to the tedious combat of waiting for an enemy to attack you first, just so you can hand out a satisfying yet overly used slew of boredom counter attacking, that the series has relied on for far too long.
As far as the visuals go Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a decent port. It’s significantly better than most ported games on the market and the studio even took the time to completely redesign assets, objects, and characters in the game. The majority of ports being released these days consist mostly of poorly worked cash grabs with no overhauled assets other than a bumped up resolution in gameplay, that falls flat to a 480p resolution everytime a cut-scene appears. The effort is appreciated.
Looking at the game from a more detailed approach, it’s fair to say the game is short compared to Assassin’s Creed III. While Assassin’s Creed III had a more visually interesting environment with plenty to drool at, Liberation takes place in a swamp. It’s fun when it chooses to be unless you’re strolling through the towns and hoping across rooftops, it’s largely irritating and dull. The hazy blur which seems to make its way across most third-party games on the PlayStation 3 is more prominent here, and the gassy and misty setting of the swamp makes it that much more of a pain. That being said though, the face-lift treatment it received is pretty impressive, not to mention the improved textures, draw-distance, and character models.
All said and done, Liberation reminds us how the series as a whole was in need of some serious help until Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag came along. If you happen to be a fan of the series or just one of those people who don’t have a PS Vita, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD might just be an enjoyable ride for you.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
A valauable contribution to the current theme of gaming, "Female Protaganists that aren't Escort Missions", improved textures and draw distance.
A character that's just as forgettable as the one with the tomahawk, some gameplay mechanics are still bland.
Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD is a significant improvement of the original, and stands to be one of the, if not the best port that's ever made it's way from a hand-held device.