Freeing or Enslaving? Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD Review

This console port of a handheld title feels exactly like a handheld game without any excuses.

Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is a “real” console game in the same sense that a children’s production of a musical is the same as a Broadway show. It’s decent, somewhat competent, entertaining, and maybe even unique at times. You can’t blame them for trying, but the real deal is vastly superior in nearly every way. Where Liberation differs is in how it is a little more than a joyless shell of a game that’s more of a chore to play than it is fun.

Few games tend to get ported from their handheld versions into a PC/console version.

Generally, there’s a reason a game releases for a handheld--and only a handheld. Occasionally, surprising gems such as Resident Evil: Revelations get ported over, but Liberation, unfortunately, is far from a gem.

The narration is boring and convoluted, the writing varies between 'tolerable' and 'uncomfortably bland', and the environments are dull and muddy looking for an “HD” game. There are better plots in some iOS shooters. The only characters who are mildly interesting, the protagonist Aveline, her stepmother, and father, are barely given any time to develop beyond one-dimensional characters.

The novelty of diversity in a video game is literally the only quality that drives the story of Liberation forward.

Aveline, a mixed-race assassin in the South, loses her rich mother in a market and apparently becomes a member of the Brotherhood after twenty years pass.

Players don’t get to see any of this transition--they only get to read a small codex on the subject. Aveline spends the duration of Liberation attempting to uncover a mystery involving slavers from Spain.

There’s really little more to say than that because little else really happens. The story isn’t even that complex, it’s just confusing and dull, and I felt no real incentive to complete it other than more opportunities to see Aveline be a badass.

Liberation also has the (now obnoxious) meta-story of Abstergo, which only adds to the confusion.

The game includes both an ending and a "true ending" that is only obtained after completing certain side-quests. The only notable part of the story is that the protagonist is both a woman and mixed-race, but the novelty of diversity in a video game is quite literally the only quality that drives the story of Liberation forward.

Aveline can don three different disguises.

The typical Assassin’s Creed gameplay of running along rooftops, stabbing people, and hiding in crowds is back. Aveline can also don three personas.

The first is that of the Southern Belle. She’ll be in a poofy dress that looks straight out of Cinderella, and will walk slower and can’t even climb; but she has the ability to charm guards to follow her or allow her past. The belle is also one of the more discreet personas.

The second is the slave persona, which allows Aveline to slip in and out of crowds easily. She can still climb in the slave persona, but isn’t given all the weapons of the assassin. The slave persona is more combat-ready than the belle persona, but not nearly as well-equipped as the assassin persona.

Finally, the assassin persona is the most combat-effective persona, and the fastest-moving, but is more likely to be spotted by guards. Unfortunately, the crowds are so small, the guards are so easily angered, and climbing is so hit-or-miss that none of these three play styles are really that fun. There are a few missions where players are given a bit of freedom with how they can tackle a given task, but players are generally told—and sometimes forced—to don a particular persona for a given task. This makes the interesting persona system far more constrictive than it should be.

Gameplay can be fun, but this is a rarity.

Running through the bayou from tree to tree is thrilling, and running along rooftops when it works properly can be engaging, but the game is more likely to cause Aveline to run where you didn’t want her to go than it is to have her go where you want her to.

This inconsistency causes the joy to wear out, replaced by annoyance.

The “HD” part of Liberation’s title is a misnomer if there ever was one.

Textures are muddy and low in resolution compared to the rest of the environment, NPCs fade in when players apparently round a corner faster than the game expected, and facial animations are relatively bland, even for a port of a handheld game. For an HD game, Liberation definitely, definitely feels like a handheld game.

Liberation is a testament to what the game could have been.

Liberation is a disappointing missed opportunity that wastes a wonderful protagonist in a poor game.

If Liberation were first fleshed out as a massive DLC section of Assassin’s Creed III, it might have been worthwhile on main consoles and PC; but the bugs, lapses in effort, and dull story make it a sorry Assassin’s Creed title. Fans of the series may find some element of joy here and there in Liberation, but newcomers won't be impressed. For players who want a port of a handheld game that actually feels like a full game, try out Resident Evil: Revelations. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD is a disappointing missed opportunity that wastes a wonderful protagonist in a poor game.

Our Rating
4
This console port of a handheld title feels exactly like a handheld game without any excuses.

Featured Correspondent

Brian transcribes for a tech company in Bellevue, WA. His favorite games are Max Payne 3, Dragon Age II, Life Is Strange, Tomb Raider, and anything involving Batman. All his reviews are spoiler-free. His brow is perpetually furrowed.

Published Jan. 29th 2014

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