Platforms: Xbox Live / PlayStation Network / PC (digital)
Publisher: Ubisoft Developer: Ubisoft Sofia
Genre: Action-Adventure Platform Played: PlayStation 3
Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation was released on Sony’s PlayStation Vita in late 2012, to coincide with the Assassin’s Creed III console release. Liberation wasn’t highly regarded, but many believed it was a proof of concept that a game of this magnitude could work on the PlayStation Vita. Fast forward to 2014, and Ubisoft has released a remastered version of Liberation for consoles, dropping the III and adding the HD.
Those who have previously played the original version of Liberation will appreciate the drastic jump in graphical fidelity, which, at times, can make Liberation look quite astounding, and even rival Assassin’s Creed III. Environments themselves definitely benefit from the remastered graphics, with more detailed textures and an improved draw distance making exploring each area more enjoyable. Character models have also benefited from the upgrade, with some characters looking extremely different from their original version, due to the added detail. However, lip syncing has definitely not kept up with the visual upgrades, and can be astoundingly bad during cinematics, and even worse during dialog that takes place throughout gameplay.
Liberation HD also improves on the disappointing frame rate that appeared in the original game. There were only a few instances where the issues still came into effect, but for the most part, the big changes are welcomed. The HD improvements make for a better viewing experience, yet it makes areas of the game that have missed the upgrade stand out. For example, water and foliage textures look radically out of place, seemingly looking like a mirror image of their Vita counterparts.
Aside from visual improvements, Liberation HD also alters the methods of the original touch features used for pick pocketing and chain killing. Picking pockets is now the same as console versions, while chain killing has been altered to work with the L2 button, making it more responsive and smoother to use in combat. The usual brutality of the Assassin’s Creed combat is still here and satisfying as ever. Due to the improved frame rate combat is now less of a chore than it was originally.
All these improvements make Liberation HD the definitive location to enjoy Aveline’s adventure. Though, all graphical improvements aside, the same problems that were ever present in the original game involving other aspects are still here; which, ultimately, holds back Liberation HD.
Liberation follows Aveline De Grandpré – an assassin who lost contact with her mother at an early age, and now dedicates her life to helping those the Templar’s wish to control. The main narrative is convoluted, confusing, and bland. Even after playing through Aveline’s tale a second time, I actually found myself more confused at the events taking place. The enemies we are sent to assassinate are barely explained, and the side characters introduced are hardly explored. These characters mostly possess some poor voice acting, coupled with some cringe worthy dialog that can make them almost laughable. Aveline is the only strongly developed character, possessing great voice acting in the seven hours it will take to complete the main story.
Though Aveline is a great protagonist, her motivations are never explained, and we are never shown her evolution to become the assassin she is now. Each Assassin’s Creed protagonist has had their own personal goal, aside from the main story at hand. Ezio wanted revenge for his family’s death, Altair was trying to make up for mistakes he had made, and Edward Kenway was seeking riches for his family. The abrupt introduction of Aveline as a fully trained assassin takes away the strong bond players have formed with previous heroes, as we evolve alongside them and learn of their introduction to the brotherhood.
One of Liberation HD’s biggest problems comes from the mission structure, which has clearly been created for a handheld experience. Most missions in Liberation will be over in the blink of an eye, which is due to the pick-up-and-play nature of the PlayStation Vita. You will find yourself constantly stopping and starting as bite-sized sections of each mission are completed, which never allows you to invest in any mission. These missions are forgettable, and rely on the bland nature of tailing, random assassinations, and travelling from one location to another. Since these missions are so quick, they feel rushed and make the entirety of Liberation HD feel like a bite-sized version of what should be expected from a console version of Assassin’s Creed.
Liberation HD also contains many side missions, but they all become repetitive and mundane quite quickly. The side quests themselves can easily be completed in two minutes or less, and usually involve you assassinating an unknown target.When the pre-mission dialog is actually longer than the mission itself, it makes handling these missions more of a chore than they should be.
Aveline is given freedom in how she can dress for most missions with the Persona system, which has her wearing three different outfits: the Assassin Attire, which is your standard outfit, the Slave Garments, which allows Aveline to blend in with slaves and is quite similar to the Assassin’s Attire, or the Lady Attire, which greatly decreases your ability to attack and stops your ability to free run completely.
The problem here is that these attires are predetermined for most missions, which gives the illusion of player-choice when tackling missions. Some tasks will require the Lady Attire, and will not allow you to change outfits until Liberation allows it. It is an interesting premise that could perhaps develop into something deeper if a sequel is made, but it feels barren, and doesn’t allow you to truly utilise the feature to your advantage.
Assassin’s Creed Liberation HD is the definitive version of the original game, improving on most of the graphical and technical flaws of the Vita release. That said, the move to high definition doesn’t correct the problems with the game itself, providing players with the shortest and weakest story in the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
The jump to console hasn’t been too kind on Liberation, as the handheld-based design and the lack of memorable locales and missions stand out amongst the graphical improvements. Those who have experienced Aveline’s story before won’t find much reason to experience it again. However, those looking to soak up each morsel of Assassin’s Creed should definitely play the high definition release over the original.
Liberation proved that an Assassin’s Creed title could work on the PlayStation Vita, but the high definition remaster cannot iron out the all the issues the original release provided, and instead, only further emphasises the problems that a glossy remaster cannot fix.
+ Frame rate greatly improved.
+ Graphical improvements provide better detail.
+ Aveline is a strong protagonist.
– Convoluted story.
– Bland missions are designed for handheld play.
– Poor voice acting.
– Forgettable characters.