Assassin’s Creed: Liberation
Developed by: Ubisoft Sofia
Published by: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC
Originally released as a portable spin-off for the PlayStation Vita in October 2013, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation introduces gamers to the franchise’s first-ever female protagonist as Aveline de Grandpré works to thwart Templar schemes in New Orleans and the Bayou. The game itself takes place during the same timeframe as Assassin’s Creed III and even includes a mission where Aveline teams up with Connor in the snowy wilderness of New York. Aside from this brief bit of cross-promotion, the game is largely standalone and doesn’t impact upon the core Assassin’s Creed storyline. The title is actually the fourth handheld spin-off from the main franchise, following on from Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines for the Sony PSP and Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles and Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery for the Nintendo DS. Unlike those prior games, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation retains the main franchises’ open world exploration and gameplay, bringing the full gameplay experience to the handheld.
The version of the game that I played was Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD, a remastered copy of the original title that was specifically formatted for home consoles. As a result, the game boasts some truly spectacular graphics, even surpassing Assassin’s Creed III itself, which seemed to have a less vivid colour palette than the bright and inviting New Orleans and the lush greenery of the Bayou swamps. The character models are also impressive and I found myself often admiring the facial details of the characters during cutscenes. Considering its handheld origins, this game looks absolutely incredible after this remaster. It would have been very easy for Ubisoft to just reuse assets from Assassin’s Creed III to save money on the spin-off, but Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is its own thing with a completely unique storyline and locales, which is probably why it earned a ‘remake’ over the other handheld spin-off titles.
In terms of the plot, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is presented as a videogame manufactured by Abstergo Entertainment for the general public of the Assassin’s Creed world, acting as propaganda for the Templar Order. Part of the gameplay involves unlocking the truth behind the censored cutscenes using hacks provided by the mysterious Erudito. This more minimalist and “meta” approach to the current-day storyline is more engaging than the Desmond sequences of the mainline series, and helps to separate Assassin’s Creed: Liberation as a ‘game within a game’. Aveline’s story is relatively bare-bones when compared to the sprawling epics of Altair, Ezio and Connor, but I found it engaging nonetheless. The daughter of an aristocrat and a slave, Aveline has a foot in both worlds making her determined to overthrow the current slavery system within New Orleans – both in public as Lady Aveline and in private as a member of the Assassin Brotherhood.
Mirroring her complicated background, Aveline can adopt three distinct personas during the game; the Assassin, the Slave and the Lady. Each of these personas have a unique set of costumes and skills, for instance, the Lady is unable to free roam on rooftops but can perform secret assassinations using her parasol dart gun. Equally, the slave is able to blend in with other slave workers but will quickly gain ‘notoriety’, if she is performing the wrong type of actions. This adds a new level of strategy to the game as the player must pick the persona best suited for the mission that they are performing, or even just what will be easier to use to explore the map. The game features a number of side-missions related to each of these personas, as well as exclusive collectibles that provide bonus rewards for that persona when collected. Annoyingly, most of the collectibles do not show up on the map (even when you’ve found them once) so I found myself at the mercy of online guides to achieve 100% completion.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a decent-sized title for the PlayStation Vita, although it is much smaller than the mainline Assassin Creed games. It took me 12 hours to get 100% completion on Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, whilst Assassin’s Creed III took a whopping 50 hours! Each of the story missions are quite short and compact, clearly designed for portable “pick up and play” gameplay rather than long slogs in front of the TV, and so the pacing of the game feels slightly staccato at times, especially compared to the smoother narrative seen in the console titles. Another hangover from its portable origins are the lengthy loading screens, particularly when loading the game for the first time. One time I was waiting almost two minutes for the game to load up, and even thought that it had frozen or glitched before it sprung into life.
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a tricky game to review as it is extremely successful as a handheld title in replicating the home console experience, but when ported to the home consoles, it feels a bit lacking in depth in places. One of my criticisms of Assassin’s Creed III was that it felt bloated with too many side-missions and extra modes, whereas Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is definitely more streamlined (often, by necessity) and it feels more consistent gameplay-wise with the earlier titles. It is graphically where Assassin’s Creed: Liberation impresses the most, benefitting from the HD remaster to deliver gorgeous 4K visuals that look absolutely amazing on the big screen. While it may not be the most essential addition to the Assassin’s Creed universe in terms of both plot and gameplay, it is definitely a fun accompaniment to the Assassin’s Creed III experience and quite rightly sits alongside the title in the recent Assassin’s Creed III Remastered collection.
With a refreshingly diverse lead character and a new set of locales to explore, Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a bite-size snack of a game that is best enjoyed between the hearty meals of Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Score – ★★★★
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is available on PlayStation Vita from Amazon. It is also available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch as part of the Assassin’s Creed III: Remastered collection from Amazon and direct from the Xbox Store.