Artistic Director: Jean-Luc Sala
Design Director: Jean-Philippe Mottier
Narrative Director: Sarah Beaulieu
Release Date: October 5, 2023
Assassin’s Creed Mirage evolved from DLC into its own game, and what a game it is. Following the past three massive games, the smaller title has been a breath of fresh air. The more modest map and the move closer to the original gameplay had me keen to play.
In the streets of Baghdad, we take control of Basim; players might remember him as a main character in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. I was introduced to his roots in the streets of Baghdad. Basim, being a thief, lives his life a day at a time, working to get money and goods in whatever way he needs while also working to his code. One day, while fencing some stolen goods, he overhears his fence speaking with one of their contacts and discovers the Hidden Ones; listening in on their mission, he asks to join their Order but is refused. He leaves but eavesdrops on the conversation, hearing about an object they are searching for. Basim chooses to steal the loot and prove himself to The Hidden One, thinking he will gain an invite.
Basim returns home and discusses the plan with his friend Nehal. Together, they enter the Caliph Palace at night and discover the target being handed off by a masked Order of the Ancients. After the Order leaves, Basim breaks into the chest, finding a strange disk. As he touches it, a strange glow and hologram project from the object, alerting the guard captain. A struggle ensues, and Nehal kills the captain to save Basim. The two thieves flee the Palace. The captain’s death has the city guards searching for two thieves and the city guards slaughtering known thieves. By the time Basim and Nehal arrive at their hideout, the other thieves are dead, and their bodies hung as a warning. Seeing this causes conflict between Nehal and Basim, and they split up, deciding to flee the city. Roshan soon assists us and the Hidden Ones, after some conflict, Basim is soon free of the city. After this scene, we time jump a few months and see Basim being inducted into the Hidden Ones and leaving his old life behind.
Training is used as the tutorial for the game, seeing Basim use his skills honed from a life on the streets, using parkour and thievery, scaling walls and being stealthy; arriving at the end of the small trial, we see Basim still scared of committing himself to the Leap of Faith, with his first attempt having him curl up in a ball and have a rough landing, instead of the common swan dive we have come to know. Time skips again, and there is another chunk of time and training completed in the Hidden One’s hideout. Basim has now grown and changed into one of the new novice Assassins, completing the previous tasks more easily, and finally, we see him finish the Leap of Faith without hesitation.
The early part of the game was used as a tutorial and allowed me to learn the nuisances of this title. While the smaller map and design are closer to the original Assassin’s Creed, it has also taken many lessons from the vast array of titles in between. As Basim, we move around the guild headquarters and speak with various members of the Hidden Ones. The hideout is lodged deep into mountains and is only accessible in this and one other part of the game. In this area, I learned to scale walls, commit to the leap of faith, and was taught about combat. Utilising time skips, Basim grows and progresses into a novice Assassin in the eyes of The Hidden ones. His final assessment was a one-on-one combat with Roshan, your mentor and instructor. Using the learned combat skills of fighting, parrying, and dodging, I came ever so close to beating her. After this little skirmish, Basim was deemed worthy, and I worked my way to the main temple. Basim was fully inducted into the Hidden Ones Order, citing the creed and having his finger removed for the Hidden Blade to be attached.
From here, I was given additional story beats that led me out of the hideout and back into the larger Baghdad area. I was soon tasked with investigating the Order of Ancients corrupting the wilder world, local government, and leadership. The map is petite compared to Valhalla, and travelling from end to end was no longer a weeklong journey. Arriving in the first city, I was tasked with searching out and finding the Assassin’s Headquarters, easy to find after climbing a tower and synchronising the map with the local area. The Hidden Ones’ headquarters were shown on the map with the Assassin’s Creed symbol. It is also discoverable by heading to that area and seeing that same symbol plastered all over the building, carpets, walls, and even cats, the assassins always being discreet.
After arriving at the hideout, you meet more members and discuss your first job, an investigation. In the hideout, there are several other items of interest: a contracts board; this board supplied side missions and tasks that award Basim with items needed to upgrade gear, swords, tools, and daggers and provide coins to bride the locals when required. Aside from missions being assigned, the base featured a shop for upgrading and modifying tools that Basim could use. I was given access to two selectable tools, but later skill upgrades allowed for a total of six. All the tools had various and modifiable abilities also available to be unlocked here. I began my journey with daggers and smoke bombs. The daggers were good for longer-range sneak attacks. They later also dissolved bodies, making it easier to kill guards and not worry about them being discovered, and the smoke bombs were great for infiltration and escaping.
Combat took a back seat in this game, another item closer to the original. In Mirage, combat is seen as a last act, stealth is highlighted, and if a fight is engaged on one or even two-on-one, I found I had a chance to eliminate the enemies and escape back into anonymity. Whereas taking on more than two opponents or even two opponents when one was a heavy or advanced guard, I was unable to stand my ground and was killed or forced to flee. Emphasis on stealth made me more inclined to follow a plan and work on my strengths. Distracting guards, hiding bodies, and moving in the shadows had my adrenaline pumping on more than one occasion.
On top of the stealth obligation, the area investigation and puzzle solving played distinctly into this game. From tailing a lead and eavesdropping to finding alternate routes into areas, there was always something new to try. The combat and stealth elements also worked with a skills upgrade menu. The menu defined the skills into three categories, including phantom, trickster, and predator, all containing eight skills for me to learn. Each leaning towards different approaches in the game, I relied heavily on the trickster and phantom skills early upgrading to gain access to the full set of tools as soon as possible. While there was no official levelling in the game, there was an advancement tied to the missions, and it was a noticeable advancement that had Basim moving with more flexibility and fluidity during combat and parkour.
The Assassins Creed Mirage story has brought me back into the series after not enjoying the direction Valhalla had taken—the smaller and more direct story made for a fun game with an interesting twist. While there is still a supernatural ethos to the game, it feels like it was toned down, and the story focused on Basim’s journey even if he was tortured by dreams of a mysterious Jinn, a spirit that seemed to haunt his dreams.
The voice acting in the game was great, with each character having a unique and rich voice, and while speaking English for the main part, they utilised local customs and sayings diversely and naturally. The main story took precedence when developing the animations as it was superb, and the characters acted naturally, but when straying from the main story when speaking to characters in the street or missions, the movements became more stilted and less natural.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage missions themselves had a fluid structure, with many new options on how to plan and complete them; utilising hidden passages, mercenaries, and merchants to enter or escape areas undetected felt more exciting and let me choose my path with ease. While the main story was interesting, the side missions and contracts were fun and ever-changing, with some even carrying over multiple contracts. Along with these were tales of Baghdad to be discovered in each area; all of these had unique structures, from assisting a dying man with his final goal to helping a child to complete their own Leap of Faith. These stories and missions helped make the city feel alive.
Like many Ubisoft games, there are microtransactions, but they are all in the menus, and I never found the need or want to bother looking at them more than once. Ubi-Connect did have some nice outfits for free, so as always, I added those to my collections. I was also lucky enough to have the Deluxe Version of the game and unlocked the Prince of Persia set, which included a different styling for my mount and bird and provided me with an outfit, talisman, sword, and dagger. Which were so outrageous for an Assassin I used it for the majority of the game. The time effects help a little during combat.
As with many of their latest titles, the history and charm of the game’s focus are detailed heavily in the menus, and you can spend hours learning about the areas you are playing with. These are on top of the Assassin’s Creed lore. There is so much reading that can be completed on top of the gameplay. This information is broken down into various categories, and additional information is spread throughout the game. I was so overwhelmed by it all I stopped reading it. While in the menus, I explored the options available, from graphics to audio and even the assistance settings. I found the graphics worked best when running in performance mode, which allowed the game to run at a standard sixty frames while the image quality was maintained. In my thirty-five hours, I didn’t see any real difference between quality and performance mode other than finding it easier to parry in performance mode. The subtitles were of much help when there was additional noise at my place, and the assistance modes had a great option to change the pickpocketing to a button instead of a quick time event, which I was ever grateful for.
Assassins Creed Mirage has been a delightful game with its twentyish hours of the main story and about forty hours of completionist gameplay. I had a blast while never feeling like the fun had been taken from the game. There was enough to do in this more condensed map, and I am hoping that Ubisoft will continue to supplement their larger games with these titles in between. I do, however, wish that the vast amount of information and reading resources in the game could be looked at outside of the game itself, as reading about the city and its history was exciting but not what I want to be doing on the couch.