In 2016, 10 years after the series began, Assassin’s Creed fans were begging Ubisoft to try something new; Ubisoft had, at this point, effectively made the same game seven times in a row, setting them in different time periods and with minor quality of life and graphics upgrades. And then, Assassin’s Creed Origins! The massive 100-hour open world hardcore action RPG was night and day compared to its predecessor Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. And then the nearly identical but even longer Assassin’s Creed Odyssey came along, and then Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and in time fans became sick of the new style of games as well.
We unanimously begged Ubisoft to return to the old style of Assassin’s Creed II, and Ubisoft in turn promised they would do so in the newest mainline entry Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Seven hours in, I can confirm that Ubisoft has thoroughly and ubiquitously followed through on that promise.
Mirage is an excellent game, and I feel that simply calling it a better-looking version of Assassin’s Creed II but set in 9th Century Baghdad would be doing it a disservice. Although, to be frank, that is the best way to describe it. The mechanics are, for better or worse, nearly identical to the 2009 entry that many fans consider the best in the series. The beautiful, colorful map is tighter, denser, and smaller than any game before it. Assassin’s Creed is, once, again, a game about a brotherhood of assassins.
Mirage’s gameplay is focused on stealth and trickery – the RPG mechanics are 100% gone. There’s a wanted system that you can control by working with power brokers, social stealth, light combat and parrying lifted directly from the old Assassin’s Creed games, simple armor and weapon upgrades, and the unparalleled attention to historical accuracy that the series used to be known for. Mirage is exactly what fans asked for, down to the UI and interface choices. But is it what we actually wanted?
As a longtime fan of the series, I think I too am conflicted about what I want from Assassin’s Creed. The thing that always drives me back to it is the ability to live in the closest approximation to real history we have in the video game industry. As a history buff not only getting to see events such as the French Revolution, the destruction of the East India Company, or the assassination of Julius Caesar, but actually being a part of them – that’s something no other series can provide me. Mirage has so far made me feel like part of Baghdad, simultaneously instrumental in dismantling the Caliphate and hidden in the shadows, my influence never to be known.
I love the extensive research, the details, the historic figures we get to meet, and the dense, fully realized city center of Baghdad. There are uncountable examples of the Muslim world’s contributions to arts and sciences, and preserving the work of the ancient world during the Christian Dark Ages. My only major complaint for Mirage is that so far, Basim is about as interesting as a wet paper towel and the story is so boring the cutscenes have me reaching for my phone. But it’s hard to deny that everything else about Mirage is everything that I could ever want from Assassin’s Creed.
Mirage also boasts full Arabic voice acting, not just for the main characters but for all NPCs in the game world, and according to many Arabs it uses dialect specifics, slang terms, and phrasing surprisingly well. I have been playing with the Arabic voices and I can confirm the actors are putting the work in and providing engaging performances for what are sadly pretty uninteresting characters.
Mirage is not going to make waves the way Assassin’s Creed II did back in 2009, because everything you see before you has been done before. And in that way, it’s comforting. There’s no brilliant innovation going on in Assassin’s Creed Mirage. There aren’t new mechanics, or even old ideas done in a fresh new way. There is, however, an opportunity to step into the pages of history and live in 9th Century Baghdad without being buckled under a 70-hour story and complex RPG mechanics. And when I asked for a new old school Assassin’s Creed game, that’s just what I ordered.
Our full review of Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be up next week. In the meantime, check out our guide on where to get started in the series.
Nirav played Assassin’s Creed Mirage on PC with a code provided by the publisher.