Have you ever watched those movies that are supposed to be something to connect two major points of a story? Like it not a sequel or a prequel? I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but we’ve seen this done to death with the Star Wars IP. With Rogue One, Solo, and even stuff like the Clone Wars. And guess what? Not all of them are great. Being stuck with a setting where not only the starting point but also the end is pre-defined doesn’t give you a lot of wiggle room to do anything new. Or if you do, you know it can’t carry it through to the future of the series because it has to follow the preset rules and lore that the story will now reside in. I’d argue the same thing happened to Captain Marvel, who was tacked on when the story was already finished. Despite being clued in that she was going to play a large part in Avengers: End Game, she was ultimately Iron Man’s delivery service. So, how do I connect this to Assassin’s Creed Mirage?
Basim, who’ll be the character you play in the game, is more of a background character in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. He presents himself as a full-fledged Hidden One and teaches Eivor the ways of the assassin. Yes, he was going to become a playable character, originally as DLC to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
But now he’s got his own full-fledged, mainline game. It even returns to the more classic mechanics that the series first became known for. So I think this title was actually between a rock and a hard place during its development cycle. It has to be robust enough to justify its presence as a mainline title, but at the same time, it can’t influence any of the pre-existing titles. And that led to a rather mixed experience for me, where I did enjoy playing through the game, but didn’t quite sate my appetite for what it had offered.
Let’s break it down.
Production (4 / 5)
When it comes to Ubisoft and making a game that looks good, they know what to do. Basim is depicted beautifully and can depict even subtle emotions through his expressions. Other characters do look impressive enough though I’m not sure what their range of expressions are since they seem to rotate between wise, smug, and angry. Movements are about as you expect it to be, it looks good, but I don’t think there’s anything notably different if you’ve seen any of the more recent titles of Assassin’s Creed. If there’s anything I would like them to improve on, it’d be how they put facial hair on their models. Beards end up as these old-school-looking sharp polygons that I think should have something better to show given the level of today’s technology. But hey, maybe it’s just that nobody in the modeling team decided that they’d try to grow a beard and have no idea what it should look like.
As for the cityscape, I’d have to say the place looks convincingly authentic, lived in, and populated. I do think some places could have used a bit more identity. Some areas could look more like a farm, a bazaar, or a slum, but don’t go too far in standing out from the rest of the city. You could drop me into any neighborhood of the area and I wouldn’t be sure where I am except if there are maybe very prominent landmarks in the area. And let me get ahead of you by saying that a lot of the landmarks look pretty similar to each other. However, the developers did a good job of masking the parkour playground around as objects you’d find in this setting. So it feels pretty natural jumping across rooftops and sliding between walls.
It’s performance on the PlayStation 5 is pretty acceptable. I stuck to playing on getting better graphics than framerate and was pretty happy with the result. I could recall stutters but I can’t think of a time where it was consistently happening. So I think anyone playing this on console will not be having issues while playing Assassin’s Creed Mirage.
The audio dimension of this title is also on a good level. The music when in combat or getting chased does give a good amount of tension. But what I like are the audio cues that candidly tell the player of nearby enemies, or anything hostile that is getting alerted to Basim’s presence. This helped in letting the game give me as much information as it could without the need for a complex UI.
The voice work is something I’d label as ‘good enough.’ I do think that the tone and manner of speaking match the character they’re trying to portray. Just that, they can only take their performance as far as their script will let them. More on this, later. But all in all, the presentation of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is something I think looks good, but is generally level with what you expect out of the series.
Mechanics (4.5 / 5)
As an action game, Assassin’s Creed Mirage isn’t that great. It adapts a system similar to Dark Souls, where you have stamina, and you can attack, dodge, and parry. But you being able to do any of this relies on whether or not you have the stamina to do it. If you don’t, you straight up can’t do much. This does okay during 1 on 1 fights but quickly falls apart if you’re fighting maybe 3 or more enemies. So in the end, direct combat isn’t something you’ll want to do if you had the choice. And that is a good thing.
You see, we may have learned from Origins, Odessey, and Valhalla that direct combat is pretty easy and fun as it has adapted more of an epic RPG format rather than tactical stealth where the first titles of Assassin’s Creed originated from. And that’s where Mirage decides to go. It relies much more on you being able to stalk enemies from the dark. Infiltrate heavily guarded forts and castles without anyone knowing. And strike down enemies when they’re not looking.
Honestly, playing this return-to–how-things-were game did reinvigorate my interest in Assassin’s Creed. You’re forced to act within the restrictions of the game forced upon you because there’s no way you’re doing a 1-man army campaign like how you used to back in Valhalla. Figuring out how to get in, or in which order I’m supposed to take down enemies does make me have to fire up my one remaining brain cell to figure out a solution. If I feel like I can’t use the conventional jump and stomp method, I can make use of the few tools available to simplify the situation. These range from throwing knives to smoke bombs to even noisemakers that all have a unique role to play. Thanks to these I can feel badass even when I screw up on my sneaking because I couldn’t help but want to break open some treasure box.
These tools and even skills that are integral to making Basim the predator he is are unlocked with skill points that are attained through clearing quests. Plus points for being able to re-spec your tools and your skill build if you wanted to, allowing you to explore the many ways you can play as a Hidden One. It’s gotten me into this loop of finding a problem, thinking of a way to fix that problem, and finally getting out of there without anyone knowing.
I honestly thought that I was going to miss the whole swashbuckling experience that the more recent entries have given. But surprise, I enjoyed the fact that I had rules to play by and couldn’t get around. I had to maximize the use of my limited resources and fine-tune my actions to achieve my goal without catching unwanted attention. In other words, Assassin’s Creed is back!
Content (3.5 / 5)
Ubisoft games in recent years, have given me a fear of looking at maps. As they tend to spill a pile of map markers reminding you of the hundred or so things there are to do in their open-world game. It’s like watching a clumsy dungeon master suddenly drop all of his board game pieces on a city map and it’s hard to make out or plan anything as you have no idea if clearing one map marker will make two spawn in its place.
Happy to say that Ubisoft has since learned from overkilling its information overload and can pace it within the context of what you’re looking for. Map markers generally stick to showing you fast travel outposts and help you to focus on relevant objectives to what you are looking for or currently tracking. This allowed me to steadily pace myself not only through the mainline quests but also the side content that Mirage has been offering with relative ease.
The content offering doesn’t deviate much from the old formula. After a lengthy jump through many cutscenes and setups, you’re finally set to look through Baghdad to take down the five shadowy figures doing nefarious things to the populace through the shroud of anonymity. And to be honest, that’s about the long and short of it. The story could have been better paced instead of dumping everything at the start and end, a bit of a drip-feed of some elements across the playthrough would have helped tie story elements together. But I do admit that might make the impact of the ending lose a bit more edge, even if you already know where this is going.
As for the kind of stuff you play through, such as missions and side-quests. There’s not a lot of variety to them. But this is where I think Assassin’s Creed Mirage flexes a bit of its creative muscle. By working within these limitations, they’ve learned how to pace the use of mechanics. Quests initially just require getting from point A to point B undetected or finding a certain person. They later mix it up by introducing more open-world solutions towards your way of achieving your objectives. Whether it be through looking for cracks in a fortification, eavesdropping on people familiar with what you’re looking for, or even just bribing your way to another solution. This along with the platforming puzzle given to you when having to go through an increasingly dense patrol through wherever you’re trying to be, does make even the good old AC formula refreshing to play through. Heck, even the collect-a-thon games that I’ve come to know this series for have been revamped to be more interactive, interesting, and not as tiring to do. Gone are platforming challenges where I have to chase a hundred of papers or feathers across the streets, and are now more about figuring out a way to get into a treasure room or figuring out how to steal
And it’s not like the creators of this title are not capable of writing compelling scenarios either, I experienced quite a leap in quality as I got to the tail-end of my playthrough for even simpler investigation quests that were supposed to just help me identify my final target. A few of the final bad guys also presented me with some unique situations and stand-out experiences when I was finally on the hunt. I just wish these things came up a bit more often than they didn’t. Basim or any of the other characters don’t have a particular connection with most of the quests that play out, investing feels rather shallow. As it’s almost all of it is a simple painting of black and white between the good and bad guys, when I think the franchise is much more mature than this.
It’s also fairly easy to get kicked out of the immersion when the dialogue from the characters doesn’t seem to match the era they are existing in. Many of them speak of grand ideas like helping the oppressed or seeking a better life for them. But without being able to form a connection with the world that they currently walk upon, it just feels like people who are waiting to make their soapbox speeches and make themselves out to be the good guys. When you start noticing things like these, you start seeing other tendencies in things like character design, scripting of lines, and even the ratio of men and women that seem fashionable for the modern day. You can quickly look past this as well, these characters are of their own, and can thereby operate within their own rules. But when you take notice, there tends to be a domino effect that ultimately gets me out of the immersion. I have to actively keep it out of my thoughts and focus on reviewing the game, and to be honest, the game is good enough to play it that way.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage did serve up to me some experiences that I feel like I’ll be able to remember even long after I’ve put the game behind me, but the fact that this experience didn’t come across as consistent may hurt its chances as being looked upon as a success.
Features (3 / 5)
When it comes to making it easier or more convenient to play. Assassin’s Creed Mirage makes iterative auto-saves so you can backtrack much further if you want to, though I never felt the need to. One thing that sort of upset me about this system is how it generally auto-saves at the start of a mission. So if it involves a series of tasks without breaks in between, you guessed it, you have to start from the very beginning if something bugs out.
Speaking of: bugs! Now and then something sort of bugs out, an attack or assassination doesn’t connect because of a height difference. Something doesn’t spawn like a key item from a soldier. Something SPAWNS and it screws up my stealth status while I’m sneaking past several guards. Through my 24-hour playthrough, I’d say I encountered these bugs enough times for me to remember them. Especially since it left such a strong impression on me during the tutorial mission, where I started doubting myself. Do I understand the developer’s intentions here? Did I misunderstand the ways of the Hidden Ones? Do I even know how to hold my controller properly? As it turns out, all I had to do was reload the game. Where the key I was looking for spawned from one of the guards I already took out. Man, that was frustrating.
Certainly, the spawning guards weren’t necessarily a bug. They wanted to make sure that there was always a threat to deal with while in a restricted area. But there should be better ways of applying this, and not just ninja-teleporting into the area when I’m not looking. I’m the one who’s supposed to be doing that, not the game.
One thing that they’ve carried over from older titles would be the photo mode, which I never used. You can see on your map photos that people have made and then uploaded. I don’t check it out since, if it’s about appreciating the scenery, you get plenty of this just trying to complete the fast travel points around the map.
How easy it is to get to shop is a little suspicious, but it’s not like you’d end up accidentally buying anything, so I’m not going to look too deeply into that one.
Finally, there’s the Codex where you can access not only the lore of the characters and the story you’re playing through. But also learn more about the historic locations that Assassin’s Creed Mirage has based its journey upon.
To put a verdict to my experience with Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a mixed bag. There are definitely points that I enjoyed, especially the return to the traditional formula of exploring the many ways to be stealthy. However, it shows that the game wasn’t planned to be all that big in the first place. Where you can feel points where the content felt pretty bare-bones in an attempt to pad out the game to give more of a respectable playtime. And to be honest, the play time isn’t a problem for me, as I’m quite tired of RPGs that require at least sixty hours to finish. But the quality of the content does strike a few points away from my appraisal.
Still, it does not take away from the innovations they’ve taken to make the game feel more meaningful in gameplay while being concise in the gameplay they want you to play through. They’ve converted activities that feel more like chores to challenges and puzzles that take a little more brain power to clear. On top of that, they’ve integrated them in such a way that you can clear these side objectives while finishing mainline story quests. If not, they’re brief enough so as not to overstay their welcome.
This is probably my favorite game from the series in a long time. As Origins and Valhalla gave me such a strong departure that in my opinion, made it harder to discern from the many open-world options that have been made for us to play through in the last decade. Despite the challenges, the restrictions, and its rather odd start as DLC content to becoming a full-blown title. I think Assassin’s Creed Mirage manages to deliver a genuine experience that we’ve come to recognize the series for. Proving that we don’t always have to change what already works. I hope they stay on this path since this is something that we uniquely get from this series.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage scores a 3 / 5.
Available on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and iOS.