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Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review: A Return To Its Roots or Another Misstep in a Tumbling Franchise?

Danyal Arabi  |   Oct 4, 11:26 PM   |   6 min read

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Highlights

  • Assassin's Creed Mirage is out now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, iOS, and Microsoft Windows.

  • The base version of the game costs ₹2,499.

  • Players can 100% the game in under 30 hours, marking a significant shift from recent entries.

 

Picking up from the (depending on who you ask) disaster that was Valhalla, the bar was pretty low for Assassin’s Creed Mirage to impress. While Ubisoft has taken a lot of feedback into consideration while crafting AC Mirage, it seems most of the criticisms have been taken at face value and the changes have been in a manner that doesn't feel fully fleshed out.

 

As per the developers’ words, AC Mirage was meant to be a return to the franchise’s roots, and to a degree, they delivered. The world is significantly smaller, and most of the RPG elements from recent entries have been gutted, but what’s left behind is a rather hollow take on what made the original Assassin’s Creed titles great. Here’s a spoiler-free review of Ubisoft’s latest attempt at salvaging what’s left of the Assassin’s Creed franchise after a decade and a half of evolution.

 

Also read: Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Review: Righting The Wrongs Of The Past

 

Assassin’s Creed Mirage: Why a Formula isn’t Guaranteed Success

 

 

Preface on in-game mechanics and AC Mirage’s design philosophy

 

Before delving into specifics, it’s important to go over what AC Mirage represents as a whole. Splitting from the blueprint of unreasonably large maps and collectible hunting, Ubisoft has clearly made an attempt to create a smaller, more intricate world with space that serves a purpose, rather than force exploration. 

 

This scaling down of everything applies to the protagonist, Basim, as well. Gone are the ludicrously large skill trees of AC Valhalla and in its stead is a humble progression tree that many players who aren’t willing to put 100+ hours into a game will appreciate. While this is certainly welcome, the way this is implemented in the game leaves a lot to be desired. While upgrading skills and items can be worthwhile, one can simply ignore progression and complete the game without any issues by just blazing through it.

 

Additionally, Ubisoft has done away with a number-based XP and ranking system. Instead of certain Assassinations, or combat moves awarding XP to rank up and gain skill points, progression is now tied to Basim’s journey. While other smaller activities and side missions do provide some skill points, players must simply get through the story to unlock the majority of skill points available.

 

Basim now has a set of tools that he can use to his advantage. Of these, the throwing knife is the most essential, allowing players to get into inaccessible areas by destroying bars that block them. The game encourages players to use all the other tools like the blowdart, smoke bomb, trap, and noisemaker, and each of these tools can be upgraded, offering more functionality based on your playstyle. Unfortunately, the Assassin’s Rush ability more or less nullifies the need for any tools whatsoever. Allowing you to chain kills by teleporting to targets, this ability almost singlehandedly breaks all the effort put into emphasizing stealth. More on this later in the review.

 

Story and Characters

 

 

Players returning from AC Valhalla will already be familiar with Basim and his cryptic motivations as a Hidden One. Set a fair few years before the events of AC Valhalla, players will start their journey as a young Basim, a thief on the streets of Baghdad. Haunted by visions of a ghost or ‘jinni,’ Basim is always ill at ease, looking for a way to be free of what haunts him. 

 

As part of his exploits as a thief, he is regularly contracted by the Hidden Ones to procure items for them but is never told why. Eventually, overcome with the need for answers and a better way of life, Basim undertakes a job for Roshan, the Master Assassin. After begging to be inducted into the guild and being subsequently rejected, Basim tries to prove his worth by stealing an artifact in secret. 

 

In typical Assassin’s Creed fashion, things go sideways fairly quickly, and spectacularly. The fallout results in his thieves guild being brutally slain because of his actions and Roshan ultimately saving his life. Now taken under Roshan’s wing, Basim trains to be an Assassin, a journey that he eventually does complete despite his visions and nightmares. After completing his initiation, Basim returns to Baghdad where his journey as an Assassin continues.

 

Here, Basim needs to work through the web of the Order, meeting allies, and snakes in the grass while doing so. Through his journey, Basim’s relationship with his closest friend, Nehal, his mentor, Roshan, and his fellow guild members evolves in a way that’s believable and interesting. However, the way the antagonists are set up leaves a lot to be desired, something that will be discussed in a later section of this review.

 

Gameplay

 

 

During Basim’s training phase, players are familiarized with the revised combat system in AC Mirage. While still fairly simplistic, the combat system disincentivizes full-blown combat, punishing players for rambo-esque brawls in large groups. The rudimentary stamina bar, parry, dodge, light strike, and heavy strike remain unchanged, making it easy to pick up for both new and returning players. 

 

Now trained in the ways of the Creed, Basim must help each bureau in Baghdad weed out Order members belonging to their borough. Purpose-built to allow smooth parkour and quick getaways, the streets of Baghdad feel natural and a lot more fun to traverse than its inspiration, the first Assassin’s Creed. The world itself is divided into the Wilderness, the Round City, and its three surrounding districts, each representing different aspects of society like industrialism, trade, and arts. While the latter three areas are incredibly dense, the rest of the world is an empty expanse barring a couple of settlements dotting the map. These settlements do serve a purpose in the story, which makes them fun to explore as part of the narrative but give little to no rewards when out exploring of your own volition.

 

Gameplay is fairly open-ended with most Assassination missions dropping players into a sandbox with multiple ways to tackle a problem. Weeding out a target feels rewarding and the path you choose feels unique enough to make you proud of your decisions. However, the non-assassination missions all fall short. Players WILL have to go through a few dull missions that simply task them with either tailing someone, stealing something, or breaking in somewhere.

 

To open up more gameplay opportunities, players will more often than not have to use a new form of currency called 'tokens.' These tokens are Merchant Tokens (can be used for discounts/opening certain chests), Scholar Tokens (used to distract guards by paying musicians or getting maps from the Cartographer), and Power Tokens (used to bribe your way out of notoriety or pay mercenaries to fight guards). These tokens can be gained via pickpocketing in the open world, completing contracts, and finding loot chests. These tokens can help reduce the running around Basim is meant to do in certain missions by bribing people for information. This is a strange design choice as this ultimately reduces active gameplay.

 

Outfits, weapons, and gear are much like AC Valhalla with limited sets being available. Each set is unique and provides buffs of a certain kind that can be upgraded later on. Overall, a prudent decision as opposed to AC Odyssey where players would hoard loot and swap swords every two fights because some NPC dropped a better one.

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Disappointing

 

 

What’s evident about AC Mirage is that it’s a turning point in the Assassin’s Creed franchise much like AC Origins. The developers have acknowledged that things went too far with Valhalla, and it was time to dial things down in terms of scale. This feedback, however, has been taken a little too literally. Instead of delivering a smaller, richer world with more detail and care, we get a smaller city, a less rewarding progression structure, and a story without the aspects that make it interesting. 

 

As compared to AC Unity with its faithful recreation of the Notre-Dame, or AC Brotherhood with The Colosseum, Baghdad feels strangely characterless, a space for a ton of NPCs to be crammed in just to make it feel alive. The way the narrative is delivered in this space doesn’t help matters. Unlike older games where players come face to face with their enemies (think Elpenor from AC Odyssey) and truly despise them for who they are, your targets are mostly unknown, only being revealed via the clues left behind in the main story, giving the player zero investment when it comes to dealing with them, dehumanizing them, and ultimately making them feel like NPCs.

 

Digging deeper, here lies my main gripe with AC Mirage: Basim feels like a pinball. To get your target, you get bounced around from NPC to NPC, either being told to retrieve something or take a smaller target out. In this pursuit, the hand-rubbing anticipation of taking down someone you hate from the bottom of your soul (like Cesare Borgia) is simply absent because you never even knew who your enemy was just five minutes before stabbing them in the throat. All of this makes the middle portion of the game incredibly tedious, (which in some ways is like the original Assassin’s Creed, so kudos to Ubisoft, I guess?) prompting you to just speedrun the missions. 

 

The main assassination missions are well thought out with limited entry points, and a few intelligent opportunities to work around barging your way through. Whether this is via bribing someone, distracting a group of guards by hiring mercenaries, or finding your own way through, the possibilities feel endless. Disguises can also be applied to get closer to your target with well-constructed scenarios and believable exchanges between characters.

 

 

However, this brings us back to the Assassin’s Rush ability that completely undoes all of the effort the developers put into making a tricky level. Just upgrade your ability, rock up to a group of guards, mark five of them, and slice through them in a second. This is especially overpowered in the earlier parts of the game where most enemies don’t stand around closely, filtering out individually or in groups of two. Enemy AI is generally poor and its response to dead bodies is laughable as it just puts them in a low detection state, aware of a presence, but not aware enough to raise an alarm. 

 

To illustrate why this is an issue, here's an instance I faced during my playthrough. During a mission, there were multiple sections where I couldn’t break up a horde of guards. I simply killed one, barely in view of the others, prompting them to come investigate the body one at a time. Standing in the exact same spot, executing more soldiers invited more to investigate the spot until there was no one left. This completely broke the illusion of the world and a challenge, prompting me to take the easiest route out every time.

 

While the developers have done a good job incentivizing stealth, it is still completely possible to take on a hoard of enemies and survive. By stocking up on heals, you can survive almost any encounter regardless of enemy type. Light enemies can be parry-killed instantly like in AC 3 while heavier enemies are armored, only taking damage via the legs or the back. What is laudable is the removal of enemy levels which means that a stealth assassination is a guaranteed kill. To me, this is an extremely welcome move. After all a blade to the temple is a blade to the temple, no one should come back from that no matter how high their “rank” is.

 

Final thoughts - Assassin's Creed Mirage is a sign of better things to come

 

 

While playing through the game it was evident that Ubisoft was caught between safety in their Assassin's Creed formula and delivering something truly unique. Instead of blending the best parts of the old and new Assassin’s Creed philosophies, what we get is a mish-mash of dull ideas that are ultimately less than the sum of their parts. Comparing AC Mirage to the peaks of the franchise, Parkour isn’t as fluid as AC Unity, Basim isn’t nearly as interesting as other protagonists like Ezio or even Kassandra, and the world design is at par with something like AC Syndicate’s London, but nowhere as enthralling as Paris. 

 

But, what AC Mirage does deliver on, is being an improvement from AC Valhalla. Unlike the last few entries, AC Mirage does bring the Creed back to Assassin’s Creed. We come face to face with the brotherhood, learn its principles, grow with Basim, learn that not everything is black and white, and learn that there could be a purpose higher than oneself. This is something AC Mirage has to be commended for, daring to break the mould of the last three games that made the player feel like a God, bringing them back to Earth as a mortal. 

 

As for the modern component, it straight up doesn’t exist. Those looking for more exposition on the modern-day story will have to wait for another installment. While this isn’t a deal breaker, it failed to ground the stakes of the story in the real world, other than the game states that we NEED to care about Basim. 

 

All in all, AC Mirage is a mixed bag with a few strong points, but many more flaws. While no part of the game is egregiously poor, there’s nothing spectacular about it either, and depending on who you ask, that makes the “return to roots” claim, void. For anyone picking up this game, it's important to temper expectations and go in expecting nothing but an interesting story with rudimentary Assassin’s Creed gameplay that is somewhat reminiscent of older titles. Expecting an AC 2-esque game would simply be folly. 

 

PC Port Report

 

AC Mirage is a phenomenal PC port. Light on VRAM usage, high on fidelity, and easy to run, the port is a breath of fresh air considering the spate of disgusting PC ports in 2023. Players on weaker hardware can comfortably churn 45+ FPS with maxed-out textures and adjusted settings that lean towards medium. All upscalers work fairly well with even Intel XeSS providing an acceptable experience. 

 

Through my 20-ish hour playthrough I faced 0 crashes, soft locks, or game-breaking glitches. Those worried about performance on older hardware like the GTX 1650 can rest assured that they can push 40+ frames a second at 1080p medium/high with FSR 2 on. Maxed out, the game looks brilliant. Lighting is masterfully done, streaming through the lattices of structures, softly illuminating indoor areas. The world emanates a warmth that you’d expect from a region like Baghdad, perfectly highlighting the Ubisoft design team’s excellence. 

 

Review key for Assassin's Creed Mirage provided by Ubisoft and reviewed on PC. 

 

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Assassin's Creed Mirage

amazaon

amazaon2499

Release date : 2023-10-05

Market Status : LAUNCHED

Studio : Ubisoft Bordeaux

Brand : Ubisoft

Pros
  • Crisp, concise, and entertaining story
  • No gameplay prolonging bloat missions/exploration
  • Quick progression
  • Simple, nonconvoluted gameplay mechanics that feel true to Assassin's Creed
Cons
  • Unexciting gameplay overall
  • Assassin's Rush ability undoes the emphasis on stealth
  • No motivation when dealing with targets, leading to a lack of investment
  • Repetitive mission structure in the mid-game
Rating
7.2/10
  • Gameplay

    6/10

  • Story

    6/10

  • Performance

    9/10

  • Visuals and Sound Design

    8/10

  • Value for Money

    7/10

Author Avatar

Danyal Arabi

Editor - Esports

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An avid gamer from the days of Doom 2, Danyal is a fan of everything video gaming. Enthused by Quake 3 Arena, his passion for shooters eventually led him to CS:GO where countless hours were spent. Sin...

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