Assassin’s Creed: Mirage Review – A Return to Form

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage Review

In 2017, Ubisoft made the bold decision to redesign the Assassin’s Creed series. The intricate environments morphed into large expansive worlds and stealth gave way to over-the-top action. Although the RPG adventures are fascinating, many elements that fans loved about the games slowly dissipated with each release. Mirage is a return to the roots of the franchise, but will this leap of faith back to its origins resonate with modern audiences?

Set in ninth-century Baghdad, you play as the young street thief, Basim. Stealing to survive, the charismatic protagonist aims to take something of note to help those who struggle to live. After the plan goes awry, the oppressive leadership takes out their frustrations on the poor. With anger and guilt racing through his mind, he is given an opportunity to escape with the Hidden Ones, a secret organization that works beneath the surface. Following a period of absence to learn the assassin’s ways, you return to bring justice to a corrupt society.

Back to its Roots

The plot is classic Creed. You experience Basim’s journey from a naïve boy to a confident man who fights against authority. Like Ezio and Altair, his motives are honorable which builds his personality. He is charming and endearing which makes each step towards his search for equality a joy. Although he projects confidence, haunting visions rupture his psyche and make him question himself. This develops on the traditional protagonist as Basim’s vulnerabilities help you form a stronger bond with the character.

The stripped-back tale is more refined than recent outings in the franchise which makes the story more compelling. While there are side stories, the focus is on dissecting the Order of the Ancients, which feeds into the mission structure. Before an assassination, you must gather intel. This comprises different missions to learn about your target which will eventually lead to the confirmation of the character’s identity and location. The structure harkens back to earlier titles and helps to capture the notion of being an assassin.

Mirage manages to balance mechanics from the entire franchise to create a game that celebrates its rich history. Basim is much more agile than Eivor and can cross the terrain in style. The dense world includes wonderful lines that allow you to acrobatically get from A to B. Tightropes, tree branches and poles give you the ability to stay unseen on the rooftops as you search for your objective. Many elements that aid the parkour make a return. Vertical lifts, swingable environmental items and ziplines make free running the best it has felt in years.

A Living and Breathing World

Beautiful vistas fill the world and encourage exploration. Market stalls are congested, and citizens meander the streets taking in groups. If you are wanted, or if they witness you perform a crime, they will shout for guards and highlight your location. It’s a great way to enhance the importance of stealth and make the world feel alive. Posters adorn the walls of cities and the removal of these lowers your wanted level so that you can go back to being anonymous. 

Combat has morphed several times over the course of the series. While many will have an affinity to a particular style, Mirage manages to balance the numerous mechanics to create a complete combat system that will appease fans of old and new. You can await strikes to parry and deliver a visceral insta-kill, or chip away at their stagger bar to overcome them. Juggling several enemies can be difficult as you will need to read attacks and dodge them before you get hit with a lethal strike. This emphasises the importance of stealth which I’m glad to say is the best it has been.

Surveillance is key and your trusty eagle, Enkidu is there to support. You can scope out areas to identify the location of guards before you venture into a fortified location. While this isn’t a new mechanic in the series, it is the first time this has been in a stealth-focused iteration. This improves your ability to sneak into areas and leave without a trace as you can plot your route and plan effectively.

A Stealth Adventure

Lingering in the shadows is a thrill. You are given the tools to take out enemies quickly and swiftly without alarming others. In addition to hiding in the shadows and whistling to attract foes, you can also take out guards with a deadly blow dart and disappear with the help of a smoke bomb. A new addition is the Assassin’s Focus, which is similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction’s Mark and Execute feature. With this, you can quickly clear an area in a slick and stylish manner. As you need to fill your gauge to activate this, timing is vital. There’s nothing more satisfying than sneaking around a heavily guarded area and using all your abilities to take out your target and leave without a trace.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a return to form. While the RPG titles offered a huge world, there’s something about the smaller, tight-knit areas that lend themselves to the life of an assassin. The smaller scope and focus on stealth are refreshing which makes the moment-to-moment gameplay a blast. Combat is diverse allowing you to adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in and missions give you the freedom to find your own route to the objective. Aspects from the history of the franchise combine in Mirage to make this the best release the series has offered in years.

***A PlayStation 5 key was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Stealth-focused Gameplay
  • Assassins at the Heart of the Story
  • Slick Parkour

The Bad

  • The Odd, Infrequent Performance Issue
  • May Not Appeal to Fans of the RPGs