After the phenomenal last three Assassin’s Creed games, the latest title takes a different approach despite its predecessor’s success’. Called Assassin’s Creed Mirage, it takes us to Baghdad of old and strives for a shorter Assassin’s Creed game with its gameplay returning to the root of the franchise. Read our Assassin’s Creed Mirage review to find out how it worked out.
No more Action RPG
Before we get into the meat of the review, a small introduction is in order. With Assassin’s Creed Origins, the one set in Ancient Egypt, Ubisoft took the franchise towards a more Action RPG approach. It turned out to be a good move, as the game received critical praise. The following two games, Odyssey and Valhalla improved upon these even further. While they were amazing games, in my opinion, the main criticism the games had was that they strayed too far from the Assassin’s Creed formulae and were way too bloated.
While I loved the games, I have to agree. You could easily spend between 200 and 300 hours in the games in order to fully complete it. Not to mention, they felt more like an Ancient Greece and Viking RPG rather than an Assassin’s Creed game. The plot regarding the Hidden Ones, as the assassin’s are called now, was paper thin and flimsy at best.
A prequel to Valhalla
Enter Assassin’s Creed Mirage. During its reveal Ubisoft immediately announced that they’ve listened to the criticism and we could expect Assassin’s Creed Mirage to be much shorter in order to complete. Additionally, they wanted to put a heavy emphasis on the stealth gameplay yet again as that is or should be a core to the franchise. Did Ubisoft exceed? Well, yes and no. There is a shorter game with an emphasis on stealth. But there have been compromises to get there which shouldn’t have been made.
If you’ve played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you’ll recognize this game’s main character. It revolves around Basim and explains how he joined the Hidden Ones and became an assassin. The game starts before he even gets into contact with them, following Basim around Baghdad’s slums as a street urchin. His friends are his family, he goes from day to day and relies on his pickpocketing skills to get him through the day. It immediately gave me Aladdin vibes as did the scenery.
The Hidden Ones
Before long, he’ll come into contact with the Assassin’s and you’ll learn how and why he has become an assassin. The great thing here is that the story finally focuses on the Hidden Ones again, instead of it being tacked on the side. Unfortunately, the thirteen hour story is pretty cookie cutter. There’s some character development regarding Basim, which slowly unveils why he does what he does in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. But his motives seem pretty one dimensional. The same applies to all the side characters, apart from one or two, who don’t really seem to have any depth. It’s not to say the story is bad, just exactly what you expect an Assassin’s Creed game to tell without many surprises.
As mentioned before, this installment in the series focuses on the stealth aspects of the series yet again. In the past few entries, due to its Action RPG nature, you would become so powerful due to special abilities that you could handle entire forts and armies without much effort. That’s finally been addressed. Special abilities are gone. There’s just your sword, dagger, dodging, blocking and your tools.
Basim against the world
In previous games, even just these options wouldn’t stop you from handling massive crowds. But Assassin’s Creed Mirage takes a more balanced approach to combat. As always you have stamina, but this easily depletes. If you just spam dodge and block without success, you’ll be left without stamina soon and will easily die from your opponents ganging up on you. Especially the tougher enemies require you to keep your wits about you. While combat is still easy to master, you can easily get overwhelmed. Especially in larger locations, stealth is pretty much required instead of aggroing the entire base. An improvement compared to the previous games.
There’s also been some balancing regarding tools. The classic franchise tools are back, such as throwing daggers, smoke bombs, blow darts and so on. However, if you rely solely on them to clear enemies you’ll find they’ll thin out quickly but so does your ammo. And ammo is precious. Sure, you can always refill them at a merchant, but in a fight you’ll have to pick and choose when to use the right tool for the right job. The same applies to stealth. You can use some tools to dispose of enemies quietly. But I often found myself out of throwing daggers at critical moments.
In terms of stealth, the game does nothing new (Although it didn’t really have to). You can sneak up on enemies to quietly dispose of them, hide in bushes, stalls, blend in the surroundings and ideally assassinate your target without alerting anyone. I found it to be a lot of fun and fairly easy at the same time. This even applies to the endgame. The reason for this is the enemy AI is absolutely terrible. I realize it’s a game and not fun when there’s true line of sight, however I often found myself assassinating someone meters from an enemy, which clearly sees us but is “too far away” in terms of detection radius. Even when they discover a body, there’s really no issue. They’ll rarely find you. I even saw some mercenaries who assisted me while attacking a camp, idling five meters or so from an enemy while they pretended to ignore one another.
However, one of the coolest improvements is definitely the more important assassination targets. During the story, you’ll find key targets to assassinate. This isn’t new to the series. They often reside in a huge location, like a palace or a mansion, and it’s up to you to infiltrate them. There are multiple ways to approach this. Sword swinging, hidden entrances or manipulating personnel. Also not new. However, the scale at which this can be done, the level design and the details put into the various opportunities rivals the critically acclaimed Hitman games. You can truly replay it and do it truly differently. Key targets have their own routines and weaknesses.
Obviously taking inspiration from the Hitman games are disguises. Sometimes, you’ll get the opportunity to acquire or buy costumes. Under the right circumstances, you can wear a costume to slip in right along your enemies and get close to your target. It opens up a new range of possibilities and is an excellent addition to the series.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has pretty much thrown the Action RPG part overboard. There are no more levels to be gained. You do obtain skill points at various points in the game, which you can spend on three small skill trees. But eventually you’ll max out all of them. There are also no levels and your weapons and armor isn’t so much about raw stats but secondary abilities. While I preferred the latter, there is no good or bad here. It does make sure the game stays challenging, as the Action RPG aspect of the previous games made you into a god at times.
Not a lot to do
In terms of side activities, I was left very disappointed. Spending more than 200 hours in a game because of side activities and a massive open world may be a bit much for most people. I get that. But Assassin’s Creed Mirage has pretty much cut all meaningful side content. Sure, there’s still collectibles to gather (But definitely not a lot). But there aren’t any meaningful side quests with interesting stories. I think I can count side quests I found on one hand, which aren’t about collectibles. There’s also no elite beasts to defeat or amazing locations to explore for extra powerful gear. Most people will probably be done with the game after the main story, which takes you about 12 to 15 hours.
Beautifully crafted Baghdad
The course of the main story does take you through most of the world map. It’s a lot smaller than previous games which makes sure you’re spending a lot less time traveling. The majority of the game is spent in the city of Baghdad itself. Surrounding it is some wilderness which is mostly desert. There are a few small settlements outside Baghdad as well. And I have to say, the game world is stunning yet again. I am convinced Ubisoft can be called masters of crafting open worlds. Stunning locations, which make you truly immersed in the Baghdad of old. There’s also a lot of codex entries which you can collect, telling you a bit of actual history regarding sites you can visit in the game. I love how they’ve integrated this into their world.
The city of Baghdad comes alive even more with its use of authentic Persian sounds and instruments. With a soundtrack that perfectly manages to set the mood, I often found myself wandering through the city hearing musicians play instruments which immediately made you feel present in ancient Persia. Both visually and musically, the game is great. Although, I do feel that the engine starts to show its age in terms of animation. It wouldn’t surprise me if the next game runs on a new engine.
After having completed the game, I needed to reflect on the game. Because I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt. I enjoyed my time with it but it was much shorter than I expected. When Ubisoft mentioned a shorter experience, I figured they’d go from 200/300 hours towards 60 or maybe 80 hours. Because it’s still one of the biggest franchises in gaming and you should be able to enjoy it for months. But after fourteen hours, I saw the credits roll with little interest in gathering the remaining collectibles (Which wouldn’t have taken me very long to begin with). This is a first for me in the series. It’s an absolute shame, because there’s a great game world which is beautifully crafted but it feels empty.
By no means is it a bad game. The focus on stealth is an improvement in my opinion as is the combat. The core mechanics are great and the story enjoyable. It’s just that it feels like an appetizer while we wait for the next big Assassin’s Creed game. In order to give an authentic and shorter Assassin’s Creed game, it seems Ubisoft has gone way too far and sliced off a lot of what made the last three games great. I hope the next game is somewhere in between and where they should have been in my opinion.
- Stealth and combat gameplay has improved
- Stunning game world
- Key Target locations are well designed
- Not enough to do in the game world
- Bad AI in terms of stealth
- Too watered down experience