Assassin’s Creed Mirage: Specs
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: October 5, 2023
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a return to form for Ubisoft’s long-running action-adventure game series. Mirage eschews the enormous side-quest littered maps of the three previous installments and delivers a stripped-down and tightly focused affair. If you’ve been with the franchise since the beginning as I have, Mirage gives you what you’ve been missing.
The game’s brevity is both a strength and a weakness. As I said, you get a focused experience with minimal excess. However, since you can finish this game in around 15 to 20 hours, you might feel there’s not enough content here to warrant a purchase. That said, the cheaper $50 asking price (compared to the $70 standard) balances this out.
For better or worse, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a huge love letter to the franchise’s roots. I think it’s the course correction the series needed since it reestablishes what made Assassin’s Creed so captivating in the first place. I’ll explain why in my full Assassin’s Creed Mirage review.
Follow the creed
Assassin’s Creed Mirage takes place in Baghdad in the late ninth century. While that’s over 300 years before the first Assassin’s Creed, the Baghdad setting is reminiscent of the original’s Holy Land. This was almost certainly intentional since Mirage is effectively an homage to the series’ inaugural title.
You play as a younger version of Basim, whom we met in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and follow his journey to become a member of the Hidden Ones (i.e. the Assassins). As the game progresses, you’ll work to uncover and thwart whatever plans the Order of the Ancients (who become the Templars) is hatching.
Basim’s journey is reminiscent of Ezio Auditore’s in Assassin’s Creed II. We see him go from being an average person to a master assassin. If you’ve played Valhalla then you’ll have an idea how Basim’s story plays out during the course of Mirage. However, there are enough twists to keep the proceedings interesting, and those completely new to Basim’s adventures won’t feel lost as Mirage keeps its tale comparatively self-contained.
Depending on how many of the previous Assassin’s Creed games you’ve played, you might find the core plot repetitive. As before, your core objective is to assassinate the Order of the Ancients and undo their evil schemes. Even within Mirage itself, the narrative quickly settles into a pattern when you go from target to target. Thankfully, Basim’s unfolding personal journey gives the title a nice sense of forward momentum.
Back to basics
The last three Assassin’s Creed games (Assassin’s Creed Origins, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla) veered far from the previous titles thanks to their sprawling maps, near-endless supply of sidequests, and MMO-style color-coded loot. While enjoyable, these titles became unwieldy in terms of available content and playable hours. In short, Assassin’s Creed games had become overstuffed and intimidating.
In contrast, Assassin’s Creed Mirage goes back to the series’ roots with its emphasis on parkour, investigations, assassinations and stealth. While gameplay hearkens back to the original titles, some elements of recent entries persist — including skill trees and various combat abilities. In that sense, Assassin’s Creed Mirage offers the best aspects of older and newer installments.
Baghdad, with its dense assortment of large and tall buildings, proves a perfect environment for parkour traversal. Jumping across rooftops or climbing up the side of buildings is effortless. All you have to do is move forward while holding the dedicated parkour button. While I wish parkour controls were more complex as they were in early Assassin’s Creed games, I can’t fault Ubisoft for keeping this essential mechanic simple.
Like the older games, you have to gather intelligence on targets before assassinating them. This involves talking to folks with information relating to the target and also sneakily following others around to overhear their conversations. In certain instances, you have to disguise yourself in different clothing to enter restricted areas. All of this is incredibly enjoyable since it builds anticipation for the inevitable assassination.
Speaking about sticking to the shadows, stealthily taking out opponents remains a viable way to avoid large brawls. Stealth remains relatively unchanged from previous games, which is good since there was never a fundamental mechanical problem with sneaking up on and eliminating unaware guards.
Stealth isn’t always an option and you’ll inevitably have to face enemies in open combat. When swords are drawn, combat is reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed II with a focus on parrying, dodging and counterattacking. Though you can use instruments like throwing knives, smoke bombs, blow darts and more, your main weapon is a long sword. Combining all of these instruments together to defeat hordes of foes or a single powerful opponent is immensely satisfying.
An immersive world
Assassin’s Creed Mirage might technically be a “last gen” game since it’s also available on consoles like PS4 and Xbox One, but that doesn’t prevent Mirage from delivering some truly awe-inspiring vistas. Everything in Baghdad, from its dense urban centers and the people who populate them contains a great amount of detail. Dreamy desert nights and the scorching daytime sun look equally impressive.
The game’s map consists of Baghdad, the desert surrounding it and a few scattered settlements. Though the open world isn’t sprawling, it’s remarkably dense — filled with tightly packed slums, magnificent palaces and intricate mosques. The desert’s size can be intimidating, but traversing its many sand dunes on camel or horseback doesn’t take too long. You won’t find much out in the desert, but it contains a few worthwhile surprises for those who want to explore.
Sound design is on par with the visuals. This is most evident within Baghdad, which hums with the sounds of forceful merchants, baying animals, rushing rivers and omnipresent winds. Voice work is similarly solid, with the main cast delivering sincere performances. Of course, the clash of swords and the screams of the dying also come off authentic. The enigmatic Arabian-esque music further enhances the already great sound design.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the palette cleanser the franchise desperately needed. It delivers a tight action-adventure experience that series veterans and newcomers alike can enjoy. While it might be a tad short, its thrilling combat, engaging story and captivating world will keep you thoroughly engaged. For a long-time fan like me, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is exactly what I wanted from a new entry in the long-running franchise.