Assassin’s Creed Mirage could almost be a story of Ouroboros, the infinity serpent that eats its own tail in an eternal cyclic renewal. The franchise has changed so much over the years, from the major changes in Black Flag to Odyssey and Valhalla the game evolved to a point that it feels like a bold choice to revert to its origins. However, it achieves this while still delivering something refreshing to the audience. It’s an amazing achievement for a title that started life as a planned DLC for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and grew into something much much more.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage marks a return to the franchise’s core values, emphasising linear storytelling and stealth gameplay. This departure from recent more RPG-focused titles heralds a revival of the series’ roots that harks back to the essence of the Assassin’s Creed saga.
Players are transported to 9th-century Baghdad amidst the turmoil of Samarra. The narrative revolves around Basim Ibn Ishaq, a character initially introduced in “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.” but as I’ve learnt, a very different Basim, at a different time, with different ideals and goals. This instalment chronicles Basim’s remarkable journey, starting as a humble street thief and culminating in his transformation into a formidable member of the Assassin Brotherhood.
The Assassins, champions of peace and liberty, stand in stark opposition to the Templar Order, whose ambition is to achieve peace through control.
The cities and surrounding areas are visual eye-candy, the teams at Ubisoft are well known for creating vibrant worlds that feel alive and full of colour. In some ways, the scenery is like a painting of what we imagine that world to look like and the historical lessons that are hidden beneath it.
Narrative Director Sarah Beaulieu explained to me in a recent interview the process of making sure the franchise is as historically accurate as possible. “It was a challenge because as you probably know, there is nothing left of ninth-century Baghdad, so recreating that city was actually a big challenge. And also because we don’t have many sources about the city itself and the historical characters that live in there. So we had to work with historians first at Ubisoft. That’s the way we do it.”
The game also features many characters from multiple regions Sarah went on to say that “We had some experts on slavery at that point because that’s that’s that’s a topic. So we had some external experts. And inside Ubisoft, we also have what we call the diversity and inclusion team and that’s people who were there to make sure that we would be as accurate as possible in terms of, for example, depicting accents. Would it be, you know, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Chinese? We have all of these. So we would make sure that it would be accurate and authentic, as much as possible”.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has a plethora of supporting characters, including a stand-out voice that you will recognise immediately. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays Roshan a mysterious master of assassins who becomes a mentor to your character. Shohren plays the character to perfection in a way you would only expect from an Academy Award-nominated Actress. This is as big a deal as when Giancarlo Esposito appeared in Far Cry. You’ll recognise Shohren’s husky vocal talents from shows like 24, The Expanse and multiple others as well as films of various genres, but also from major video game titles like Destiny 2. She brings gravitas to Roshan in a way that no other voice could and makes you pay attention and feel for the character.
That’s really the heart of Assassin’s Creed Mirage, it’s not just an action-adventure game with great combat, stealth and parkour, it’s a story you can really throw yourself into. A story of revenge and redemption as you go on a journey with the character to overthrow an evil oppressor. There are classic folklore elements that are just great storytelling moments and a reveal along the journey of supernatural origin that is balanced really intelligently with the real-world feel of the game.
Combat is focused heavily on stealth. If you try to take on too much you’ll quickly become overwhelmed, but sticking to your training and hiding in the shadows to deliver those killer blows seem to have more reward than ever before. That’s not to say you won’t have fun waving around your giant sword but it’s just that feeling of accomplishment is on full display when you embrace the game’s title.
Much like the famous “Leap of Faith” the game is full of focus, in that it has remembered everything that makes an Assassin’s Creed game fun to play and really focused on those key elements. The developers must have had a ball spring cleaning the wardrobe of features the titles had built up and stripped it back to its essentials before adding that new season flair.
That’s the feeling I get with the stripped-back RPG mechanics which are not gone completely but instead scaled right back to include 3 main tiers. This simplification of the process won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I didn’t mind being able to assign what needed to be and moving on with the gameplay. There’s a real emphasis on less time in menus and more time actually playing the game.
In a franchise that has worn many hats over the years, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is really solid. It would be easy to confuse returning to its roots as a step backwards, but the game is a great homage to the original titles of 1 & 2 that took the world by storm over 15 years ago while at the same time showing the growth of storytelling in the gaming medium.
Join the Hidden Ones and explore the world of 9th-century Baghdad in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the next game in the much-loved Assassin’s Creed franchise. Available now on consoles and PC.