I have been playing Assassin’s Creed games with Ezio’s story since Assassin’s Creed 2. To me, they were the pinnacle of the AC experience, which subsequent games tried to capture with mostly positive results. With the RPG era of Assassin’s Creed games, with Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, I felt the games went in a direction that wasn’t the franchise’s spirit. They were trying to imitate the top RPGs of that time, mainly The Witcher 3.
But with Assassin’s Creed Mirage, I felt similar to how I did with AC 2, Brotherhood, Revelations, and other old-school titles. It finally felt like I was an assassin, not a cheap imitation of Geralt thrust into a historical setting. Mirage is focused on stealth mechanics, the roots of the franchise where you work as an assassin. Naturally, the role demands you take a sneaky approach instead of taking targets out in a straight-up swordfight.
Mirage takes us back to ancient Baghdad during the 9th century when the Abbasid Caliphate ruled the land. You take control of Basim, who previously had an antagonistic role in AC Valhalla, but he is our protagonist in Mirage. Basim is still a novice with the Hidden Ones at this story stage and is learning to find his place in the world. He works to bring the Order of the Ancients down and, in doing so, learns the truth of what and who he is.
Return To Stealth
As I mentioned, Assassin’s Creed Mirage emphasizes stealth once more than straight-up swordfights. You will still need to fight out in different situations, but the game encourages you to sneak around and use your hidden blade over your swords. If you botch your attempt, get discovered, or get ambushed, you will then have to rely on your sword and dagger. The combat is unforgiving; even a low-level enemy can put you down in a few hits. You will have to be on your toes throughout, as enemies can flank you and ruin your day. The best strategy is to parry enemies and quickly follow up with an assassinate option to insta-kill them.
Moreover, it makes you work for your targets. Instead of revealing Order targets with story progression, you’ll have to put in the work. Basim turns investigator and hunts for clues, looking for leads, and looking into the case before discovering who his target is.
There are also contracts that work as side quests. Although they are not required to advance the main quest, they serve as additional content to add some life to the Mirage experience. You will work to reduce the hold of the Order in Baghdad, and you can get some Tokens through this process. You can use these in-game currencies to get favors from merchants, vendors, mercenaries, and other NPCs.
Microtransactions Are Few But Pricey
I have always opposed microtransactions in AAA games. If you’re buying a full game for $60-70 dollars at full price, there shouldn’t be any further microtransactions to purchase additional content. You can buy some outfits and weapon packs in AC Mirage for nearly $10-20. Although they are mostly cosmetic, they are pricey.
$20 is nearly 1/3rd the game’s price, and you get one outfit and two weapons for this price. If I were getting a quest, a few missions, or longer content at that price, I’d be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But considering the amount of content we get and the price, it sours my mood and tarnishes all the good things this game has going on for it.
Parkour Is Better But Still Feels Labored
An improvement in Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the parkour system, which seems to return to the olden days. You can jump, scale, hop, and free run around Baghdad much like we did in Renaissance Italy, in Napoleon-era France, etc. The parkour is a staple of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, and you can’t be an assassin if you can’t effectively free run around roofs, balconies, and more.
Although this is a vast improvement compared to Odyssey or Valhalla, I couldn’t help but feel Basim had labored movements. He felt a bit slow as if he was making a massive effort moving his limbs. In some parts of the game, it even felt as if it snapped me through the motions rather than moving fluidly as one may expect.
I thought it might be because I lost FPS during that section, but I got 60-80 frames consistently. Basim can also get stuck around edges and ledges on and off a platform. Moreover, he doesn’t always go where you may want him to go. Sometimes, you may want him to drop down a few feet on a wall, but Basim completely dismounts and jumps off, falling to his death.
Environment, Ambience, And Music
Ubisoft has always created amazing environments and ambiance in their game, and such is also the case in Mirage. 9th-century Baghdad looks amazing and feels even better. The NPCs feel lively, and the clutter is vibrant and beautifully fills the world. Go to a marketplace, and you will see people going about their day and interacting with each other. Go to an alleyway, and you will see baskets, benches, and crates around that tell you that people live here.
The music is also the icing on the cake. The Arabic influence shines through the soundtracks and immerses you further in. The combat tracks are thrilling and get your blood pumping; the ambient tracks are subtle and never take away from the experience.
The World Is Smaller And Sweeter
Another thing I love about Assassin’s Creed Mirage is that they made the game world much smaller. There is no need to spend half an hour in real time traveling from one end of the map to the other for one quest objective that takes 5 minutes to do because you haven’t unlocked the fast travel point there. You can easily parkour your way through the map or even walk through the city streets, and you’ll arrive at the destination in a few minutes.
Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla offered an expansive world to explore. You could go from entire city to another to complete missions and enjoy other content. But they were too big, and there was too much to do. Sometimes, you just want to get on with the story and not worry about traveling. Maybe you don’t have time, maybe you’re doing a speedrun, or it could be another reason entirely. With Mirage, that isn’t an issue. Although Basim can use a mount outside of Baghdad to explore the wilderness area, you won’t need it for most of the game.
It takes 20 hours on average to complete the main quest in Assassin’s Creed Mirage; 30 if you take a leisurely approach. Now, although I welcome this improvement, there is no replayability value here. Once you complete the game, it’s over. There’s no NG+ mode that lets you play again with all your unlocked content. So, while the game is smaller and shorter, it may seem too short.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has flaws, yes, but if we look at the product as a whole and the direction Ubisoft seems to be going, it is an improvement over previous titles. AC Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla were all trying to be something they were not. They were attempting to emulate popular RPGs of the time such as The Witcher 3, Shadow of Mordor, or even Zelda: Breath of the Wild. They did not feel like Assassin’s Creed. When that name comes to mind, you picture sneaky and stealthy assassin killing their targets from the shadows and disappearing before anyone can even notice what happened.
AC Mirage captures that essence after what feels like ages. You play as a stealthy death dealer, not a Geralt wannabe. Basim is far from the assassins of old; he’s no Ezio, he’s not Connor, Edward, Arno, or even the Frye Twins. But he is what the franchise needs. He’s at least halfway there and can proudly say that he is an assassin. Basim at least follows the formula.
That is not to say the game is perfect; the parkour is better but sluggish, the animations are snappy instead of fluid, the enemy AI sometimes gets confused, and the facial animations are still from 2017. AC Mirage was originally a DLC for Valhalla, and sometimes it shows. It would have been better if Ubisoft had started fresh with an updated engine instead of building it off a DLC.
All in all, AC Mirage took the franchise in a direction that was needed for a long time. Instead of trying to be something it was not, Assassin’s Creed is finally becoming itself: a stealth-focused, high-flying, free-running, Templar and Order-stabbing adventure.