Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is a port to Xbox 360, PC, & PS3 of Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, which first launched on PlayStation Vita over a year ago near the end of 2012. It is currently the only entry in the Assassin’s Creed series to feature a female protagonist. Since I did not own a Vita at the time of this games original release, Liberation HD was my first time stepping into the boots of Aveline. She’s an interesting protagonist, much more so than Connor from Assassin’s Creed III. Unfortunately, some slightly bland storytelling, dated mechanics, and tedious missions hold her back from greatness.
The game takes place between 1765 and 1777 in New Orleans, Louisiana and allows players to explore the historical city, as well as the famous Louisiana Bayou. Liberation HD stars Aveline de Grandpré, an African-French assassin near the end of the French and Indian War, when France’s defeat has resulted in the city being over taken by the Spanish. The overall story actually runs concurrent to Connor’s story in Assassin’s Creed III.
While I am glad that Liberation is now available to those of us who do not own a Vita, it is obvious the game was originally designed with Sony’s handheld in mind. Long time Creed fans will appreciate what Aveline’s story adds to the series timeline, but the narrative itself is broken up into bits and pieces. Missions (for the most part) are short, repetitive and fairly easy. This is what makes the origins of Liberation so obvious, as the game is not meant to be completed in one or a few, but multiple sittings and played in short bursts. In fact, I suggest you play it this way, as you will probably enjoy Liberation more for what it is.
The combat in Liberation also feels dated, especially if you have played the sublimely awesome Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Aveline is missing the smooth counters and defensive breaks of Edward Kenway, and thus the combat feels clunky in comparison. Enemies will attack with the exact same blows, over and over until they are defeated. Also, no matter how many are on screen, you will never feel overwhelmed. This is because only one enemy will attack Aveline at any given time, with other foes on screen waiting their turn to swing. I suggest avoiding open combat whenever possible, and playing the game as it was meant to be played – the assassin’s way.
Liberation’s biggest draw is Aveline’s ability to switch personas and play out missions in different ways, based on the persona you have chosen to use. Abandoned houses are for sale throughout New Orleans, and can be purchased. Doing so will add another possible dressing room to your map, allowing Aveline to switch personas quicker. The Assassin persona is best at free running and combat, but also stands out like a sore thumb and players will have to be extra stealthy when playing the assassin. The Slave persona is similar to the Assassin in free running and combat, but blends in better by standing around other slaves or carrying a crate past guards. The Lady persona differs the most, as she cannot free run at all and her combat abilities are severely limited. However, she does have the ability to charm guards and move about in more elegant ways.
While Liberation is very much a bite-sized Assassin’s Creed experience, most of the things you have come to expect from the franchise are present. You can free roam all over New Orleans and the Louisiana Bayou, synchronizing view points to reveal locations of side missions, activities, and treasures on your map. Shops are present around the city and you can purchase better swords or other items for Aveline as you progress through the story. Unfortunately, the ship battles and pirate plundering from Assassin’s Creed 3 and 4 are not present in Liberation, but this is most likely due to the limitations of the games origins on PlayStation Vita.
The biggest draw here, aside from the controls, which are definitely better on a traditional gamepad – are the newly upgraded HD graphics. While Liberation HD is an obvious improvement over its Vita counterpart, there are areas where Liberation’s origins become more apparent. Aveline herself seems to have received a nice amount of attention in upgrading her textures, while other characters in Liberation appear bland in comparison. There are moments to behold, taking in the vistas of New Orleans from its various view points as the sun beams down over the well detailed city. The Louisiana Bayou, however, doesn’t fair as well and looks a little washed out at times.
Overall, Assassins Creed: Liberation HD is a solid, but dated entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise that is mainly held back by its handheld origins. Missions are quick and to the point, and some of them feel like filler meant to keep the player busy. Aveline herself is an interesting character (and someone who I would like to see more of), but her story ultimately falls flat and is a tad boring. There are moments of greatness sprinkled in here and there, but not enough to justify the entire experience. While graphically the game is an improvement over the original Liberation, it pales in comparison to the recently released Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. If you are a dedicated fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and missed out on the Vita version of Liberation, then I would definitely recommend checking out Liberation HD. However, if you are a casual fan of the franchise, then it becomes harder to justify the $20 price tag. There is definitely fun to be had with Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD, but don’t go in expecting the mind blowing experience of Edward Kenway’s pirate plundering from Assassin’s Creed IV.