Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD Xbox 360 Review
Most of you have by now read our well-done review of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. As a strong entry in to the series, and a nice variation from the typical experience for Assassin’s Creed (even in the modern levels), Ubisoft was not quite finished working upon the series with regard to releases. Along with the DLC related to Adewalé, Ubisoft Sofia and Ubisoft Montreal have managed to take a title that was originally written and programmed for the PlayStation Vita and put it on to a console generation that is in its last years. Whereas one might think that they would have put minimal effort in to improving upon the game, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is a fully fleshed-out game that, while brief due to the nature of its origins on a portable game system, deserves to be on a console. As a downloadable title, its availability is somewhat questionable, but the most important question is this: was porting this game in to HD format so that it could be on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and computer systems worth the effort?
The game itself has the same premise in the console version as in the Vita version. A mulatto woman not related to Desmond Miles, but still an Assassin by training and mission, by the name of Aveline de Grandpré, is based in colonial New Orleans around a similar time frame as the main Assassin’s Creed III title. However, you deal solely with Aveline instead of multiple individuals. Also, unlike every other console-based game in the series, there is basically no modern-day experience. The conceit of this game is that it is in fact a game released for an Animus released for mass consumption by Abstergo. The story of Aveline is that she is living trapped between three worlds – the world of a slave sympathizer because her mother was a slave and her mother went missing when she was very young, the world of a young socialite because of the world of her father and her stepmother, and the world of an Assassin. As Louisiana passes from French to Spanish control, slaves, the poor, and day laborers begin to disappear in droves from both New Orleans and The Bayou. As such, it falls to Aveline, with guidance from her Mentor Agate and her business associate Girard Blanc, to investigate why this is happening, and to put a stop to it – permanently. Along the way, she learns some interesting truths about the people in her life, and has a brief encounter with the First Civilization. Some interesting plot twists show up, including a “hacked-in” aspect of the game that reveals the true nature of the memories through which you’re playing, instead of Abstergo’s careful editing.
The game play is an interesting mix of the old school Assassin’s Creed style with the things that you witness in Assassin’s Creed III, as well as a few new elements that are truly unique to this installment. As per usual, you have the hidden blades, a small blade and a heavy blade, fisticuffs, and projectile weapons. However, for this game, you also have the addition at a certain point in the game of a whip. It allows you to introduce some interesting moves in to your combat repertoire, but unlike other wire and line weapons in the series, the whip allows you to navigate around in ways that would otherwise be impossible. There is even a part of the game with another Assassin where you have to use the whip to help said Assassin progress, because the other Assassin can’t jump that far. Like the main title for which Liberation was originally named, you can also navigate through trees and basically anything else that seems like somebody might be able to traverse it if he or she were particularly nimble. However, because the Bayou is a rather expansive area, they have included canoes, which act similar to the gondolas present in parts of Assassin’s Creed II and the subsequent games that featured Ezio Auditore da Firenze. Another aspect of the game that is familiar while still being different is the Global Trade experience. As a woman of business, Aveline has access to vessels that can go from port to port, acquiring and selling cargo to Aveline’s financial benefit. The number of ports available expands as the game progresses, so you’ve got places in the former New France, the British Colonies, the Caribbean, and New Spain from which to purchase and to which to sell goods. You can expand your fleet as the game progresses as well, and even sell one ship to purchase another. There are also three kinds of side missions – eliminating business rivals, acquiring crew members for your business, freeing slaves, and curing sick individuals. They each have a different flavor to them, and they all have their pros and cons.
However, the major addition to this game is the introduction of the Persona System. Unlike every other Assassin, due to the nature of her life, Aveline must attire herself in certain ways in order to do what she needs to do. Her Lady persona allows her to dress in high society clothing, which subsequently lets her bribe and charm her way around officials, and to escape notice simply by being seated, but with the trade-off that she can barely fight and has no ability to free run or climb, and in order to reduce the notoriety of this persona, you have to kill witnesses. When she dresses as a slave, her dark skin allows her to mingle with the crowd as just a servant girl, and the lack of restriction allows her to free run. Her combat skills are still limited in this persona, however, and she gains notoriety for doing anything out of the ordinary for a slave, although on the plus side, lowering the notoriety of this persona simply requires taking down posters. The Assassin persona gives her everything available in her combat retinue, but with the trade-off that guards will always react upon seeing her, you are always somewhat notorious, and you have to find somebody to bribe to lower your notoriety. Another addition in the game is called a Chain Kill, whereupon you can have Aveline automatically attempt to eliminate multiple opponents in one swift set of motions.
With some ports of games, the conversion winds up being completely jarring, and does not work in any way, shape, or form. Here, that is not the case at all. The graphics for this game really look like the rest of the Assassin’s Creed series, with an expansive and varied appearance, attention to details that others might overlook, and some very unique environments. It is visually stunning, and it is clear that the Ubisoft personnel did not simply re-render the game in a wider aspect ratio, but rather re-did their visual work to make sure that it looked like it belongs on a console. There is no environment that feels half-done, and the character models are also quite realistic, at least in relation to the visual style that the rest of the series has adopted. As far as the sound aspect goes, the voice acting is all spot on, with each part being done well. The music is all quite fitting, and little of it feels like a rehash from previous games, save for some borrowed pieces from the main Assassin’s Creed III title. The sound cues also work quite well.
Of the flaws in the game, there are very few, and they are all complaints that are present throughout the entirety of the series. Free running is not always intuitive, and so manages to be a hindrance rather than an aid at times. Some random events break the flow of the game. Combat is not as seamless as one would like, especially with some stronger opponents. Also, the game itself has somewhat of a limited time frame for those that are experienced with the series, clocking in at about an hour per game sequence, provided that you do no side missions whatsoever. The Citizen E side games do not seem to have any logic behind how, when, or where they happen besides the ones that are necessary to advance the regular game, leading to extended cut scenes for events which the player may have forgotten. The side missions can, after some repetition, become tiresome. So, basically par for the course here. None of it detracts too much from the experience.
Ultimately, Ubisoft made the right call in bringing Assassin’s Creed: Liberation to the console format. It is fun to play, and as it is presented as a downloadable title instead of a full-on game, few people will expect it to be as epic as its fellows. For those that enjoy the Assassin’s Creed series, this is a definite must-have. For anybody else, it’s still recommended. Overall, Ubisoft has done well here.