Review – Assassin’s Creed: Mirage

Sneaky Formidable Execution

Overview

Developer Ubisoft
Publisher Ubisoft
Genre Stealth, Action Adventure
Platforms PS5 (reviewed), PS4, XBOX consoles, PC
Release Date October 5, 2023

What was once DLC for Valhalla is now its own game. Assassin’s Creed: Mirage has been released, and I couldn’t wait to play this new installment that promised a good story and homage to the older AC titles. I’m eager to get into the review, as there have been many opinions already about the game, and I want to get my own out there. Let’s take a leap of faith and dive into the review.

This brings a whole new meaning to airmail

Content Guide

Violence:
This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of a thief/assassin battling a secret order in ancient Baghdad. Players explore open-world environments while performing missions (searching for items, fighting enemies) and using stealth to kill human targets. Players use swords, daggers, arrows, and a concealed blade to kill soldiers, guards, and boss characters in frenetic melee-style combat. Fights are highlighted by screams of pain and frequent blood-splatter effects. Cutscenes also depict instances of violence: a bound prisoner stabbed slowly through the chest, a victim assassinated by hanging.

Language:
The words “f**” and “s***” appear in the game.

Spiritual Content:
There are a lot of praises and religious statements made throughout for Allah.

Review

This installment of AC tells the tale of Basim Ibn, a street thief turned master assassin. His tale from rags to retribution is the first thing to highlight. Though not original, the story of Basim is a solid telling of a hopeful coming-of-age young man who learns about hard decisions and loyalty. The overarching narrative of the latest AC titles also seamlessly capstones the end tale, continuing the Isu storyline, and hopefully sets up what I hope is the story going modern. We have to get through Red first, and I have no doubt we’ll have a blast going through Asian Isu culture with Hidden One and Order of the Ancient shenanigans thrown in, but after that, we better start seeing some high-tech assassin warfare! Since ending with Desmond, I have wanted to storm that original Abstergo office building from AC1. I hope to get that chance one day.

He’s climbin’ in your windows…

Okay, let’s talk about gameplay. Mirage takes some things back to the roots of Assassin’s Creed. Remember when all a player had to do was parry and counter-kill the guards? That’s back; the combat was mostly scaled back to Altair days. The attack buttons are still on the shoulder buttons, and you can use Assassin Focus to assassinate up to five targets quickly, so it’s not entirely the same. Stealth is a priority again, first indicated by the Notoriety meter that returns. Getting caught and being openly foolish will raise the bar to three different levels: First, getting noticed and having the guards called; second, having archers attack on sight; and third, the use of Shakiriyya; elite fighters will be after you. Another note on the game that goes back to its roots is how the citizens react to Basim—falling off a building or climbing a wall in broad daylight and hearing their exclamations of a madman going about it felt like the old days. It’s a touch I don’t hear most reviewers commenting on. What I don’t hear either are the familiar tricks: following somebody and keeping track of them, listening in on conversations, hiding in plain sight amidst crowds of people. It felt like I was playing a mashup of past games’ sneaky parts.

My stomach can’t deal with this culture’s food!

Speaking of past games, many tools from different titles resurfaced, such as the blowpipe from AC4, the smoke bomb from AC2, torches from Odyssey and Valhalla, the Noisemaker from Revelations, and the classic throwing knife from AC1. It was a pity he didn’t wear them on his shoulder like Altair (but then I got the Altair costume from Ubisoft Connect, so this isn’t a complaint).

The best new gameplay comes in the form of new mission styles. On two occasions, Basim can find costumes to take a scripted route to the target. This is very similar to the gameplay of another stealth-heavy game, Hitman. I noticed it right away, and I was here for it. As I pulled my perspective away from the details, I noticed that the game promoted free thought for every mission. This has always been an option in one way or another in the past. Though the games in the past preferred you to be as stealthy as possible, barging in and knives blazing at some point were no longer frowned upon. With stealth being important again, there are numerous ways to take down your target, both scripted and non-scripted. What makes it different is that, like Hitman, you just have to walk around (or locate important things colored orange) until you encounter an event that could help you. The mission beginnings will show you what paths you can take to reach your target. However, you can ignore it all and make up your path to the target. This is exciting to me. Borrowing costumes and scripted events from Hitman is a massive plus; it made the missions exciting and will make them different in subsequent playthroughs.

Thank you, Whiskers, you’re one of our best…

Speaking of multiple playthroughs, players can finish this game quickly. It’s even faster than AC1 (because, for one thing, you don’t have to go through mission selecting and listen to the opening cutscene just to pick up one flag you missed in Jerusalem). The scale of the game has been reduced drastically. This is where you can see the DLC backbone. The main story is to find four of the Order of the Ancient members until the clues for the fifth are revealed. There are other Ancient members, but they hold crystals for a side quest that gives a nifty set of armor and weapons. It took me less than twenty hours, even with some goofing, random exploring, and viewpoint nabbing. This. Felt. Great. Valhalla has to have the most content in any Assassin’s Creed title, including the Ezio collection combined. I spent one hundred hours in Odyssey, DLC included, and sixty in Valhalla. I adored my time with them; I really did. But Mirage’s length felt like a reprieve. A bite-sized yet still-filling game that can bring some gamers who don’t have a lot of time and are looking for a game to honor that. After beating it, I have achieved 50% of the achievements, so completing it feels like a quick platinum.

It’s Basim time!

Now, here comes some of the grime to stain this polished treasure. The game is glitchy. I watched some early reviews dealing with some freaky stuff, and my time in Baghdad wasn’t nearly as wrong, but not without some hiccups. Getting caught on corners of platforms, NPC’s shrinking and growing during conversations, and the worst, was untying people. Sometimes, after combat, the triangle prompt would not appear. These happened during major events, one at the end, where it doesn’t allow you to save. Thankfully, after running around and clearing some more enemies, the prompt appeared again. But the loss of progress was on the line, and that was not a fun time. Some glitches were funny like NPC’s or even Basim getting caught behind a low wall and their walking animation dramatically changing. Things like that don’t bother me; sometimes, I hope funny glitches happen. That probably makes me a problem for people who want tight, seamless gameplay.

I didn’t get the off-road package for my camel!

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is not a perfect game, but it’s an improvement to me. It is an excellent blend of all the series has done and imagined. Small-scale, stealth-focused gaming formula, a mix of mechanics from other games, and a smidgeon of new content make me hope they stay the course. I don’t even care if they make them bigger again (okay, maybe not as big), but I believe Assassin’s Creed is about being sneaky and seeing how invisible players can be. It’s not that the other games weren’t fun; they are immensely fun, but I agree that the series lost its way- just a bit. Thank you, Ubisoft, for pulling it back, even if it’s just this once.

The Bottom Line

 

With some buggy hiccups, Assassin's Creed: Mirage offers a tightly packed experience with a good story.

 

9

Johnathan Floyd

Writer, Editor, President, and overall complete goofball.

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