Published on October 4th, 2023 | by Gareth Newnham
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review (PS5)
Summary: Assassin's Creed Mirage is the game that old school fans of the series have been waiting for. By taking the action back to its roots, Ubisoft has crafted one of the most exciting entries in the long running stealth series for the best part of a decade.
Rock the Casbah
Assassin’s Creed Mirage takes the series back to its roots in tone, setting, and focus.
Depending on what you want out of the series and your thoughts on the RPG elements of recent titles, the changes found in Mirage will feel like wishes from a magic lamp or the curse of the monkey’s paw.
Mirage acts as a prequel to both the original Assassin’s Creed and Valhalla. You play as Basim, a young thief who, after a bungled burglary, ends up drawn into the world of Bayek’s Brotherhood, rising through the ranks of the assassins in 9th-century Baghdad while on the trail of the leaders of the mysterious Order.
Combat feels like a mix of old and new, with Basim fighting with a dagger and sword, much like Altier did back In the day with players. needing to time parties and dodges in order to avoid damage, yet being vulnerable enough that if too many join the fray, you need to beat a hasty retreat.
It works for the best part, but the controls are still tied to the shoulder buttons, which worked well with the souls like sword and shield combat of the Origins and Oddysey but feels slightly off when you’re trying to hit a button in a fairly small window else you lose a fairly large chunk of your health.
This time, you can’t simply rely on being at a high enough level to stomp on anything that bothers you, as pretty much all the RPG elements have been stripped out. There are no more armour and equipment slots and the dull task of upgrading everything with animal bones and constantly changing out your sword for one with slightly better stats. While levelling has been replaced with three skill trees with points earned by completing main and side missions, and your weapons have three levels of upgrades that you need schematics and materials found in chests hidden in guardhouses and strongholds throughout Baghdad, and that’s your lot.
However, found I didn’t even need most of the alternative gear either, as the starting outfit helps you keep quiet when you shiv unsuspecting guards, and that’s how I have always preferred the play. Even your starting weapons are fairly robust, and if you stump up for the Deluxe edition, the Prince of Persia gear makes the game borderline broken.
You’ll also unlock an arrange of the usual blowdarts and bombs along with your hidden knife, and you’ll want to, as not only do they make taking out guards easier and a great way to cause havoc, but each can be used in the environment Metroid style, to blow holes in walls and burn through barriers blocking your path to upgrades and collectibles.
The only major addition from the last trilogy that returns is your pet eagle, which is used to help scout out strongholds, tag enemies, objectives, and hidden entrances (then later on gear chests and collectibles). I have mixed feelings on this since half the time, he gets shot out of the air when you’re trying to scout out later levels, and his main function still seems to be to find objective markers they could have just put on the map.
Traversal also feels a lot more like the Assassin’s creeds of the late aughts; there’s a welcome sense of verticality to Baghdad’s slums, spires, and districts, which helps to enforce the welcome return of a heavier focus on free running and platforming as your main means of traversing the smaller map (comparatively speaking). However, what it lacks in square acreage it makes up for in things to do, but unlike some entries in the series where it felt you were bogged down in busy work, Mirage mixes things up just enough to keep things interesting while the rewards for going off the beaten track are usually worth the extra effort.
There are new weapons, armour, and upgrades to find, contracts to complete, and, if you’re a history buff, tidbits of information about life in one of the world’s first truly metropolitan cities to collect.
There are also some fun side missions where you help out the locals in goofy asides that feel more like something out of your average Yakaza than Assassin’s Creed game, and include asides including helping a scholar in the middle of coronary gather his missing papers, and teaching a kid to perform a leap of faith with hilarious consequences.
However, you’ll spend the bulk of your time trying to track down the heads of the order in Baghdad by following leads and completing cases and contracts that slowly reveal who is really pulling the strings in the medieval Iraqi capital. There’s a fun sense of achievement as the investigation menu is slowly unveiled as each minor victory brings with it new revelations and new lines of inquiry that build towards your ultimate goal of ridding the city of the rotten masked cabal.
Apparently, when Ubisoft showed it to an Iraqi historian, he cried. Personally, I think that’s a bit harsh as it looks absolutely gorgeous, sitting at the top of a minaret as the sun beats down, and you can see the river in the distances, and the hustle and bustle below are spellbinding, and the world feels lived in, in a way I haven’t seen in an AC game since Unity. Rats scurry in the slums, the bazaar is a hive of commerce, it has the best sense of place the series has had since Unity, and it’s great to see the ambitions the Devs had almost a decade ago now, finally realized now that we have hardware that can handle it.
This being a AAA game, the voice acting is mostly top tier, and the cast does a great job of bringing the main cast to life; likewise, Brendan Angelides’s score weaves powerful strings and Middle Eastern chants to create a mystical sense of grandeur.
My one minor issue is with the script, which is at times a little stiff, especially when Basim is interacting with shopkeepers, and has some strange quirks that occasionally pulled me out of the game and scratch my head, It’s a shame because the actual plot and Basims narrative arc are incredibly compelling, however this si more of a quibble than a major complaint.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is much like the iconic hidden blade that Basim carries: simple, effective, and elegant. By cutting out the bloat of the last few entries and taking the series back to basics, Ubisoft has created a focused, exciting entry you are much more likely to see the credits roll on.