Assassin’s Creed Mirage

Assassin’s Creed Mirage

1 step back, 2 steps forward.

Assassin's Creed Mirage

When you think of the Assassin’s Creed series, odds are high that the first thing that will come to mind are a number of MASSIVE open world games that you can lose weeks and months exploring.
But this wasn’t always the way… before the likes of Valhalla and Odyssey the series did once offer up smaller and more condensed titles that were more story driven in ways.  So it’s a bit of a surprise that for the newest game that Ubisoft have taken a bit of a step back and have returned to this more focused formula.  Assassin’s Creed Mirage is very much an old school throwback in Creed terms at least.  Along with the smaller world and more focused tale, it has also shed a good few of the core mechanics of the more recent games – like the RPG elements.  What you get here is very much a back to basics offering that has a renewed focus on where it all started – that being with stealth and parkour.

Tale-wise, Assassin’s Creed Mirage takes place in 861 A.D. Baghdad, during the Islamic Golden Age primarily during the Anarchy at Samarra, which was a period of extreme internal instability during the reign of the Abbasid Caliphate.  Taking place a few decades before the events of Valhalla, the game explores the backstory of Basim Ibn Ishaq, following his transition from street thief to fully-fledged Hidden One, under the tutelage of his mentor, Roshan bint-La’Ahad.  Fans of the series will be no strangers to Basim though, as he played a very important role in Valhalla.  As Creed tales go it’s a solid offering if a bit so-so at times, that starts with more than a few vibes of Disney’s Aladdin – only with Basim getting a hidden blade instead of a magic genie.  From these simple beginnings you’re off (minus a finger) doing jobs and missions that start to unravel who is behind things, under the always watchful eye of your mentor Roshan.  With each mission unlocking a new thread that will take you up the chain of command, to the real powers behind what’s unfolding… the order of the ancients.

A huge part Creed games has always been its setting and Baghdad doesn’t disappoint despite being a single city location.  It offers up an interesting mix of environments, on top of a number of different feeling atmospheres.  Whereas past games focused on massive open worlds, the return to a single place really pays off here.  It’s detailed, intricate and polished with a real feeling of it being a living breathing place at times.  Gameplay is also enriched by the city design with a number of options to traverse the world or, more often than not, evading the guards by jumping from roof top to roof top.  Whereas combat is really challenging and even clunky in ways, which means if you’re going to pick a fight you’d better be ready because Basim isn’t as nimble or deadly as past series heroes.  Instead of face to face combat, you’ll rely on your assassin’s bag of tricks and stealth skills to get the job done.  This will grow over time, but you’ll use the likes of blow darts and throwing knifes to pick off guards and then smoke bombs to cover your escape.  It’s very much a slower paced affair but also a much more rewarding one, when you pull off a plan.

There is a small skill tree and upgrade system at play in Assassin’s Creed Mirage which does what it needs to, but it’s far from what some fans will be expecting and in a way it’s very refreshing as it never gets in your way.  Missions also feed into this stealth focus, often being delivered as areas where there is a target or a goal.  How you get to it is up to you by using your stealth and traversal skills.  Worth noting as well is that the game is nowhere as “bloated” as past instalments.  Sure, you get side quests and a few collectables (as is the Ubi way), but gone is having a map covered in icons all the time which is a huge plus.  Beware though as the notoriety system makes a return here, meaning you will have to be on your toes at all times as you explore the world – which really adds a level of threat to things, and that has honestly been missing from the series for some time.  However, there are ways of lowering this level, by ripping own wanted posters or bribing some officials, as per the classic early iterations of the series.

Visually for a game set in a sand filled location there is beauty to be found here: from the bustling market places, to the wild flowers growing in a merchant’s garden, or hot the sand dunes shimmering under the moonlight.  Although characters and NPCs especially do look a little off at times oddly.  Sound on the other hand is top tier as the period fitting soundtrack knows when to kick in and when to sit back.  The voice acting is also very well handled and believable, with a shoutout to Lee Majdoub as Basim and Shohreh Aghdashloo as Roshan, putting in standout performances particularly.  Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be seen by some as a step back for the series, but sometimes to move forward we need to look back.  Sure it’s a blast from the past in a lot of ways, doing very little new in the series, but what it does it does very well.  After the past few timesinks the series has delivered, this feels like a quick sharp slap to the face to remind the fan base what Assassin’s Creed is fundamentally all about and it more than achieves that.

An Xbox review copy of Assassin’s Creed Mirage was provided by Ubisoft’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation for around £40.

The Verdict

9Amazing

The Good: Setting | Back to basics gameplay loop | Parkour mechanics | Doesn’t outstay its welcome | A real return to a more traditional Assassin’s Creed

The Bad: Combat never evolves | AI can be braindead at times

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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