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Assassin's Creed Liberation HD

By Bobfish21-01-2014
MrJenssen (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

Ubisoft Sofia
Action, Adventure
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 @ 2.5 GHz
AMD FX 4100 3,6 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 570
AMD Radeon HD 7870
4 GB
3.5 GB

The Case

The Assassin's Creed franchise is no stranger to delays on the PC. Usually they come from Ubisoft making efforts to, ahem, “streamline the experience” and better utilise the full potential of our beloved platform. Read: add in grossly heavy handed DRM that treats genuine users like criminals. This time, at least, the delay was due to the game starting out as a portable title. Originally titled Assassin's Creed III Liberation, made exclusively for the PlayStation Vita, but now remastered as Assassin's Creed Liberation HD. The only question that remains then, was it worth the wait?

The Trial

Well, it certainly feels like an Assassin's Creed game. All of the usual suspects are there, the staples of the series as it were. Multiple weapons, side quests, several environments to move between, all of that. In fact, in a lot of ways, Liberation does things better than the core series. Side quests being among the most notable. Whilst there are still an impressive variety of them, they offer much fewer instances, making them infinitely less repetitive. Notoriety has been noticeably tweaked too, so that it now takes a more concerted effort to remove it completely...sort of. See, the Lady Aveline de Grandpré has not one, but three notoriety ratings, each managed individually, and each relative to one of her three personas.

I feel so...wanted.

I feel so...wanted.

Her primary guise is actually that of a haughty, dutiful young noblewoman. The Lady persona. Replete with flowing, beautifully tailored dresses and, later in the game, a parasol fitted with a poison dart gun. In this persona, most of your weapons are stripped from you, you are unable to climb on anything higher than the width of a gnat’s testicles and you can't even run properly. But you can enter almost anywhere without being disturbed, 'charm' impressionable young men to accompany you as a meatshield (or to somewhere secluded so you can off them in private) as well as earn special brooches and jewels because...well, because why not.

In this persona, notoriety is earned rather slowly and is removed by offing witnesses to your crimes. Witnesses that are always flanked by two thugs, who will pick a fight with you the moment you kill their mate shockingly enough, meaning you invariably end up earning back some of that notoriety you were intent on removing. Since you, you know, can't run away fast enough to actually get away. However, you can switch to another person or, later in the game, use the before mentioned parasol to do it discreetly from a distance.

Next is your slave persona. Similar to the Lady, this allows you entry to most places without much attention from guards. Especially if you are carrying a box because...slaves carried boxes everywhere in 1770's New Orleans apparently. However, the Slave also allows you access to more weapons and gives you free reign to climb buildings and so forth, making it a far more viably functional. A good thing, since it is the second most commonly required outfit in the story. Notoriety, in this case, is accrued at a sedate, but not insignificant rate, and is removed by tearing down posters. Though it takes a lot more than three to work through the, now, four levels that you can build.

...I was going home after meeting a friend...and then there was this man...

...I was going home after meeting a friend...and then there was this man...

The final persona is the primary attire of the game and, unsurprisingly, is called the Assassin. This gives you access to all your equipment, as well as a skill unique to Aveline called the Chain Kill. Something not at all dissimilar to the Mark and Execute mechanic introduced in Splinter Cell Conviction. Though whilst Chain Kill is influenced and limited by the weapons you have equipped, it also relies more on distance as most of your equipment consists of melee weapons. Unless you invest in a set of dual pistols, only one ranged enemy will be dispatched per chain, with all the rest having to be not only within reach of you, but within reach of the previous target as you physically move from one to another to dispatch them.

Notoriety for the Assassin persona is both the easiest to accrue and remove. Similar to the first game, simply being seen dressed as an Assassin is almost enough to make you more notorious, whilst the minimum level remains at one no matter what you do. Meaning guards will always take notice of you and, rather quickly, will start following you to see what you are up to. On the flip side, all your have to do is bribe a merchant and all of your notoriety, barring the obligatory first rank, vanish lickity split. The inclusion of three different costumes like this offers a surprising amount of diversity to the gameplay. Even the very act of moving around the map changes depending on which you are currently wearing. Not to mention that, for fashion victims like myself, having three different outfits to customise with new colours and styles is a major bonus.

Everything else, mechanically speaking, plays exactly like every other AC title. Something which extends to both the best, and worst, parts of the series. There still remains many an occasion when you will launch yourself out into open air for no reason, or find yourself suddenly turning 90 degrees to run up that wall that you were nowhere near just because...just because. Even the whip, which is a tool exclusive to Aveline, is nothing genuinely new. The animations during combat are essentially the same as Connor's snare tool, whilst its secondary function of allowing you to swing across gaps is no different, functionally, than that of the various ropes and hanging baskets you will find scattered about all of the other games.

Oh, it’s you again...

Oh, it’s you again...

Whilst it would be not be fair to say the game looks great, considering that it started as a portable title, it does look good. Damn good. In fact, even casting aside its origins, it still stands as an above par game, visually speaking, in its own right. New Orleans is nothing truly groundbreaking, but the Chichen Itza sections are extremely impressive, with superb lighting effects and striking use of colour to really bring the vegetation to life. Whilst the Bayou sections feature some impressive mist effects that really help give it a humid feel.

Chicen Itza is a curious location actually, where you journey into an underground chamber built by the ancients, to retrieve the first half of a disc that contains some kind of prophecy appearing to be related to Desmond. Being a significant Mayan locale, it is quite surprising it hasn't been used, or even mentioned, in the series already. In the real world it remains an important part of the ancient alien theory, which has clearly influenced the series’ narrative as much as the Mayan 2012 prophecy. Though, of course, the in-game ancients are not extraterrestrial, they are possessed of hugely advanced technology compared to the present day. Similar to the ancient alien theory, which claims that the Gods of our myths were technologically advanced visitors from other worlds.

Aveline herself is an extremely charming and thoroughly engaging protagonist. This, truly, is what the series has been needing all along. The new features each game brings to the table, such as the absolutely outstanding naval combat of AC3 and Black Flag, are all well and good. But they all retain one constant that makes them still seem tedious and repetitive. Their protagonists are all obnoxious, testosterone fueled douchebags that are all swagger and bravado. Even Altair, who I am actually quite fond of, was a bit of a dick.

Please, not the crotch!!!

Please, not the crotch!!!

Aveline on the other hand, even discounting the obvious bias which comes from my being of the male persuasion, is a character who, for lack of a better term, actually has character. She is more reflective, introspective and, most of all, thoughtful. She does not simply rush in waggling her testicles in everyone's face and relying on her unbeatable douchebaggery to win the day. Nor is she an insufferable bore like Connor.

The fact that she is a woman, a dark skinned woman during the late 1700s, brings in a great deal of other narrative aspects as well. She cannot simply swagger in and demand to be noticed. It was an incredibly sexist time, whether we care to accept it or not, and that simply was not how it was done at the time. So yes, she does rely on her feminine wiles to engender the outcome she desires on some occasions. Though even here, she carries herself with far more grace than her male counterparts. She does not parade herself around like a walking wet dream as some female protagonists have, she simply makes use of the fact that, frankly, men are stupid.

This is helped a great deal by the quality of the game’s casting. Every character is realised with a great deal of care. Some of the performances, such as Gerald, Aveline's business partner and would-be suitor, giving a particularly unusual vocal flair that only serves to make him all the more unique, and engaging. Coupled with some superbly well written, nuanced dialogue, this makes the game’s ten plus hour narrative a solid entry to the franchise. In fact, being initially developed as a portable title, the story itself is decidedly more personal. Dealing primarily with the themes of parenthood and loss, as well as removing the 'real world' buffer. The entire time is spent playing as Aveline, making the dialogue of Citizen E, this game’s Subject 16, resonate in an entirely different way as it is now speaking directly to the player.

Meanwhile in the dressing room...

Meanwhile in the dressing room...

The fact that Liberation made it to the PC at all is quite a coup. Ubisoft have already shown an odd propensity for favouring Sony with the Assassin's Creed series. Liberation for the Vita of course, as well as Bloodlines on the PSP and some extra content for the PlayStation 3 and 4 release of Black Flag that also revolves around Aveline. This brings with it some hope that those, too, will eventually make the jump to other platforms. Perhaps not Bloodlines, but at least the stuff with Aveline might come our way we hope. Given how the game glosses over her early days in the Brotherhood, jumping straight in with her as a fully trained, experienced assassin, it is clear that there is more might be planned for her in the future. Which even raises the possibility of a core entry for her.

The Verdict

The long and short of it is that Liberation HD is almost a perfect example of an HD remaster done right. Offering close on thirty hours of content with massively improved visual fidelity, this is certainly not a half assed money-grab. Ubisoft have genuinely put in the hours to make this a solid game in its own right. It is no surprise then, that they dropped the 3 from the title. This is no longer merely a companion to another game in the franchise, it is an offshoot that stands on its own, as part of the greater narrative.

Case Review

  • Aveline: A protagonist that isn't just a walking ballsack, she has genuine depth and likability.
  • Length: With 10 hours of story and almost twice as much for side quests, this is by no means a small game.
  • Notoriety: Three personas, three sets of notoriety, allowing gameplay to be more tactical.
  • Visuals: Not a graphical powerhouse, but extremely solid and immensely improved over the original.
  • Story: Overall, extremely solid, but jumping in without any establishing backstory is jarring at first.
  • Same Old: Same old problems. Even after all these games, the free running is still clunky and sometimes flat out broken.
Score: 4.5/5
Aveline is an extremely charming and thoroughly engaging protagonist.
Comments (3)
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Posts: 3290

I loved Aveline. She was such a refreshing change

Posts: 1317

Neh. More of the same.

Posts: 596

Really want to get this title, freaking female assassin for the win. Should be a lot more interesting story :D