For better or worse, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is reminiscent of the older games in the series.
The phrase “identity crisis” has long been tossed around when it comes to Ubisoft’s acclaimed and dependable Assassin’s Creed series. Gone were the days of slow-and-steady stalks with assassinations largely replaced by brawls and beatdowns fueled not by patience but by gear scores. With Assassin’s Creed Mirage, a new mantra was put forward to counter the identity crisis – returning to the series’ roots, a commitment that replaced the suggestions and solutions the community continually put forward with hurrahs of the nostalgic Assassin’s Creed experience instead.
After playing games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and even Far Cry 6 which is from a far different series that adopts a distinctly similar RPG formula as of late, I too was in Camp Good Old Days. Excited to see what Mirage had to offer, I soon found myself confused (and slightly embarrassed) to realize how much I missed the bloat of Valhalla, Origins, Odyssey, and others that’d strayed from the path. It delivers on its promises for the most part, but after getting accustomed to the new take on the series, it’s difficult at times to shake the feeling that there’s just not that much to do in Mirage.
Not that much to do in the sense of newness, however, which I suppose is the tradeoff when asking for a return to how things used to be. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is familiar to a fault in that it certainly does feel like a game you would’ve played 10 or so years ago, for better or worse. Parkour still feels weighty and clumsy at times despite the swiftness the assassins boast with Basim continually running up ledgeless walls or taking accidental leaps off of precipices. Animations for stealth kills similarly feel dated in Mirage whether from above or below or anything in between. Ironically enough, the best combat animations come from using the swords and parrying daggers your acquire through quests and exploration which is the very combat method the game tries so hard to steer you away from despite arming you to the teeth should you ever want Basim to be a glass cannon.
Fast-paced, loud combat still works in Mirage, but only to a degree, and not in a fulfilling way. Enemies flash red when a heavy attack is coming that must be dodged and flash yellow when an attack can be parried. For many of the usual grunts, one parry is enough to crack their defenses and lead to an instakill, though that’s not the case with elite enemies and the like. Still, the windows of both defensive moves are so forgiving that getting caught out is more likely to make you want to reload out of being frustrated you were discovered as opposed to knowing a hard fight awaits. If you cast off the roleplaying element of Mirage and don’t fret about wanted levels or hoards of enemies, Mirage is pretty easy.
But when you do lean into the playstyle Mirage asks of you, the one that longtime Assassin’s Creed fans have been pining for, you start to see some of the initial appeal of the series. Upon investigating suspected members of the Order by unearthing clues via infiltration and assassination, you work your way towards the climax of taking down one of those big bads yourself. This usually entails a heavily guarded compound with multiple options presented to players: bribe these people to temporarily support your efforts, instigate a quarrel between some hotheaded NPCs to cause a commotion, or pick your way through locked rooms till you know who you’re looking for. Like other stealth-focused games, these sequences are dreams come true for perfectionists. With the option to save your game (seemingly) disabled whenever you’re in a restricted area in Mirage, these more involved escapades are playgrounds for self-imposed rules and opportunities to beat personal bests.
Even if some of the fetch quests and searches for countless chests do feel a bit monotonous outside of the slow-paced stealth segments, Baghdad really is a wonderful setting for an Assassin’s Creed game. The music, architecture, and bustling spaces will make you want to walk amongst the people as much as you do atop roofs and stretches of rope. Basim makes for an excellent protagonist as well in the sense that he truly feels like a man of the people at times, someone who has others’ best interests in mind with a background to show for it. In a game that’s all about killing, Basim provides an honest and thoughtful perspective on events without sounding overly virtuous and inspirational for the sake of standing apart.
Perhaps it comes from being tainted by the RPG-style Assassin’s Creed games, but even when tallying Mirage’s successes, the thought creeps in that the game doesn’t always have quite enough to keep players engaged in a fulfilling way. Because of that, Mirage may not be the course correction that many were hoping for – it certainly doesn’t feel like the solution to Assassin’s Creed’s identity crisis, but it could be a start or at least an indication that both styles of the series can coexist with one another instead of only getting one or the other.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage was reviewed primarily on the PC platform with a code provided by the publisher.