Assassin's Creed is celebrating its 15th anniversary with the release of Assassin's Creed Mirage. Mirage might be a smaller adventure but it returns to the gameplay formula of pre-RPG Assassin's Creed titles. Just how well can Ubisoft pull that off in 2023 though?
Basim's Origins Before Valhalla
Assassin's Creed Mirage follows the assassin Basim Ibn Ishaq who we first meet as a street thief doing odd jobs out of the town of Alamut. With a strong sense of justice, Basim wants to play a part in making the world a better place. He sees himself making a difference by joining the Hidden Ones, the Assassins of the time.
A rogue mission to impress the Hidden Ones and recover a MacGuffin leads directly to the discovery of The Order, a group of five masked individuals who run Baghdad from the shadows, the death of the local religious leader, and Basim's known thief friends being slaughtered.
Basim leaves this wake of destruction to train under Roshan, a Hidden One that he's previously worked with. When The Order starts to make plays in Baghdad again Basim, now an Assassin, is the first to volunteer to dethrone these mysterious characters.
The story picks up immediately teaching you the basics, giving you a single character to connect with among the ranks of the assassins, and then simultaneously puts a mystery in front of you while destroying Basim's life. It's an incredibly strong opening hour that takes Basim from a stranger to someone you're invested in.
Assassin's Creed Mirage's Non-linear Storytelling
Returning to Baghdad you're given the option to track down four of the members of The Order in whichever order you see fit.
Overall the story of Assassin's Creed Mirage is closer to the lengths of classic Assassin's Creed titles too. With a densely packed world and consistently strong story maintained throughout, this smaller scale is a welcome change.
Each member of The Order has their own local story that might be tied up in the illegal trafficking of prisoners, over-taxation of the merchants, or quelling local rebellions. Each region also has its own main Assassin point of contact. This is who will help point Basim in the right direction and reconvene for debriefing of events between missions.
By having each story be so meticulously developed with a full cast of characters - hero, villain, or anything in between - Assassin's Creed Mirage manages to skirt around the issues other non-linear games have where characters don't recognize achievements.
It doesn't matter that the Assassin from Karkh doesn't acknowledge what I did in Abbasiyah because they're dealing with their own issues.
A lot of plot points that Basim can find along the way are also heavily optional. In trying to uncover the identity of each member of The Order Basim needs to untangle a web of deception.
"The Treasurer" who is taxing merchants Basim reconnects with a merchant friend from his past. This connection leads to an exchange of a favor, stealing detained merchandise, for a ticket to an auction where The Treasurer will be present. Then at the auction, you'll need to speak to those present to determine the identity of The Treasurer before you can make your move.
Players will also receive ample opportunity to interact with the world to find different ways to solve a problem. You can search for a secret entrance into a stronghold, or if you have enough coin to bribe a nearby troupe of musicians they can draw the guards away from the front door giving you a clear entrance.
Basim starting with a single lead and pulling on threads until he has the whole picture felt more like playing a detective game than an Assassin's Creed game. Add the stealth and combat on top of that and suddenly Assassin's Creed Mirage is one of the most grounded Batman games to have ever released.
Parrying and Instant Assassinations in Assassin's Creed Mirage
Stealth and Combat in Assassin's Creed Mirage have returned to how they were before the RPG mechanics of Assassin's Creed Origins. With that, players can enjoy knowing that their hidden assassinations will be instant kills, and the ability to parry enemies for immediate takedowns is also back.
Assassin's Creed returning to its original gameplay formula for me was the number one thing I was excited about when Assassin's Creed Mirage was announced. Having spent 13 hours not just killing silently, but failing stealth and having to kill any foe coming my way it was great to be back.
It isn't just the satisfaction of an instant kill that's the best part about it returning, but the speed with which I was able to clear out enemy bases. Getting a chance to play a new entry with this tried and true formula really shows how bloated modern-day Assassin's Creed is.
When your game is all about stealth and doesn't let you be stealthy unless you're also strong enough, it feels counterintuitive. It's in that way that modern-day Assassin's Creed has always felt to me like it gets in the way of its own fun. In Mirage your ability to assassinate your target is solely up to your proper use of tactics, terrain, and loadout of abilities and gadgets.
That's not to say that absolutely everything is the same in terms of stealth. My favorite new addition is the ability to charge a meter by performing stealth kills and then execute a chain attack. This will let you select a number of enemies in front of you that you want to kill and Basim will animus glitch his way between them executing them all without chance for response.
It's an incredibly satisfying feeling to reach the final room of an enemy stronghold and see multiple armored enemies that you're able to immediately mow down. Here combat is always an option, but instead of getting in its own way, Assassin's Creed Mirage celebrates its mechanics.
Assassin's Creed and Technical Difficulties, A tale as old as time...
Here's where things start to get pretty rough. Assassin's Creed historically is no stranger to technical difficulties but there were more than a few bugs and glitches that I experienced in my time playing Assassin's Creed Mirage.
The issues I faced ranged from total game crashes if I was running the game on Ultra High or High settings, to the combat track never switching off after combat, and I even had issues with UI elements not notifying me of item pickups or a stamina bar not decreasing while sprinting.
Even when playing the game on low, to prevent consistent crashes every minute, there were still a number of times when the framerate would completely tank or strange textures would appear on the screen.
If you're looking forward to this Assassin's Creed adventure on launch expect a sizable portion of jank, especially if you're playing via PC.
Assassin's Creed Mirage Review | Final Thoughts
After religiously playing Assassin's Creed starting with Ezio's adventures in Assassin's Creed II it took attempting to play Origins, and giving Odyssey a half-hearted shot for me to understand that Assassin's Creed has moved on without me. It was bittersweet, but it was ok...
However, Assassin's Creed Mirage has me yearning for more titles in the style of the Assassin's Creed that I loved growing up. Mirage provides a short and sweet story, manages to successfully pull off a non-linear story, and made stealth feel even better than it ever has before.
The focus on Basim's direct story, with minimal references to the overarching Isu storyline was also very much appreciated after being out of the franchise for so long. I'm not sure I'd know much of what's going on anyway...
The big hit against Mirage in this case is its performance woes. While there's already been confirmation of a number of patches and updates coming in the near future having so many consistent issues across my time with Assassin's Creed Mirage was very disheartening.
Assassin's Creed Mirage was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 14 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Impressive non-linear story
- Returning and enhanced stealth gameplay
- Wonderfully dense world
- Technical difficulties