Assassin’s Creed: Liberation HD

  In her mind’s eye, the world changes color as she rounds the corner and catches sight of her quarry. She focuses her breathing, and light and color fall away, outlining the man in sharp relief. He turns, and she fades into a corner behind a scaffolding, just out of sight. She falls into a routine of weaving between people and structures, staying mostly in shadow and just out of the corner of his eye, an ability honed by years of training. 

     As the man stops, she judges the distance between them, the eyelines of the passersby, and the ambient noise level, and comes to a decision. Now is her moment. She walks purposefully but silently towards him. Mere steps away, her wrist flicks ever so slightly as a thin blade slides into place and locks just below her palm. In a move that would make a pickpocket proud, she brushes against the mans shoulder, excusing herself, while sliding the blade between his ribs and into a vital artery. She walks briskly away, rounding a corner before bounding up a fence and onto a rooftop. The man will be dead in seconds, and she’ll be safely away. 

     Aveline de Granprie is a frustration to me. I’m well known as someone who rails against the overzealous social justice bullies of Tumblr at the same time that I ridicule the far right conservatives, but I’m all for diversity and variety and representation in my hobby. I love a good character that’s not a white 30something male with short brown hair. Aveline is a female character. A conflicted female character with depth that is not oversexualized, is the protagonist of her own game, and the daughter of a mixed race couple, her mother being a freed slave. This game should have been embraced by the socially progressive, and should have been propelled to success by that alone.

     Which kind of makes me sad that, like another similar protagonist (Nihlin of Remember Me), that Assassins Creed Liberation kind of landed with a soft thud and was quickly forgotten, ironically like the protagonists of the series. Except Ezio. He was rather loud and flashy.

     Assassins Creed Liberation HD was originally released (without the HD tag) on the PS Vita, some years ago. It’s helpful to remember this when you see some of the limitations it has. I’m playing the PC port, for reference, and taking into account the technology that this game was built on (an engine that was compatible with the PS Vita), it’s actually pretty impressively well-built. The maps aren’t terribly large, with New Orleans being *maybe* the size of one of the cities from the first Assassins Creed (if that) and the bayou and worksite maps being even smaller, but still very well detailed. That said, the optimization is on par with the last few PC releases in the Assassins Creed series. In a word, terrible. I’m fully aware that I have an aging video card (GTX 560), but when I turn everything all the way down and can’t maintain a steady 60 FPS on a game that looks like this, that’s a problem.

     Story-wise, this is still Assassins Creed, with every bit the conspiracy theory jammed into it that you could imagine. There’s no real-world aspect this time, what with Aveline not being part of the Desmond bloodline, but there’s an in-universe reason for the story it’s telling, which is rather clever and plays into the end of ACIII and the real-world segments in ACIV. It touches on some interesting aspects, what with playing as a woman and situations of slavery being shown, but it never comes across as heavy-handed. Less of a THIS IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD and more of a “this is how the world used to be. It’s not like this anymore, and that’s a good thing.” The mechanic of playing as a woman is put to good use here, as well, in that Aveline has ‘guises’ she can use; simply put, she can change her clothes. Her normal Assassin’s gear (which has full physical capabilities, but starts notorious and gains attention quickly), the Lady’s dress (which gains notoriety slowly and can charm certain gentlemen or guards, but limits your weapons and can attract the attention of muggers), and the slave’s rags (virtually invisible to the world around you as long as you don’t draw attention to yourself, and can carry more equipment than the Lady).

     This is a *good* game, but it’s by no means a *great* game on its own, like Assassins Creed II or ACIV: Black Flag was. This is like Revelations or III. Fun if you’re a fan of the series and can look past its flaws, but probably best to pass on if you’ve never played an Assassins Creed game.

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