Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a stealth action-adventure game developed and published by Ubisoft and launched on October 6, 2023. It is the thirteenth major installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, and the successor to 2020’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The gameplay has gone back to the series’ roots and is akin to the more focused and stealthier gameplay seen in the first couple of games and gave me some great nostalgic memories of playing as Desmond Miles for the first time. The graphics in Mirage are incredible, voice acting superb, and the music perfectly supports each scene.
Set in Baghdad, Iraq, in the 9th century, Assassin’s Creed Mirage follows the story of Basim Ibn Ishaq, a young street urchin who becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Assassins and the Templars. He has ambitions to join the Hidden Ones who are led by Roshan bint-La’Ahad, voice acted by Shohreh Aghdashloo from The Expanse. To prove himself, Basim sneaks into the Caliph’s palace to steal a chest that is sought after by both the Hidden Ones and the Order of the Ancients. The city feels alive with people hustling and bustling about their business, with plenty of pockets to pick and items to loot.
Basim is caught and manages to escape thanks to Nehal killing the Caliph, and this sparks a murderous slaughter of the town’s people by the guards as they search for Basim. His close friends are murdered, and he blames Nehal for triggering these events, so leaves her and escapes the city with Roshan’s assistance. Roshan takes Basim to the secret mountain fortress of the Hidden One’s and mentors him through training with stealth, sword, and dagger to join their order. I loved the scenes where they are travelling on camels through the desert, and it turns out we can ride camels or horses throughout Baghdad to cross large distances where we don’t yet have fast travel points.
The game features several gameplay changes and improvements over previous titles with an enhanced parkour system and the combat going back to be more focused on stealth and assassination. Scaling buildings is easy to do and running along wires, but there are pulley ropes that can be activated to shoot you up to a roof quickly. In addition, pulley hooks can be used to swing out around the corner of a building. There are also poles you can use to swing across large gaps. It’s all very smooth and fluid when you’re trying to make a quick escape from a situation.
The graphics for Assassin’s Creed Mirage are extremely good which is fair to say about several recent Ubisoft games. It ran very smoothly on my PC with a ROG Strix 3080 12gb GPU. My PC is prone to overheating as I need more fans, so I needed to turn the graphics down from epic to high and that solved the issue for me. Baghdad is authentically detailed and includes realistic recreations of architecture and art of the era. The game’s codex fills up regularly with lengthy educational descriptions of objects and regions, images of the real-world Baghdad/artifacts, and explaining the culture and politics which all are written by professional historians.
One of the more noticeable changes in Assassin’s Creed Mirage for me is the shift back to more close-quarters stealth and assassination maneuvers. The story unfolds within investigations, and each requires clues to be found before the final step of each mission. There are many highly guarded areas we need to infliltrate to find notes, loot a chest in a secure door, or to rescue prisoners. There is a heap of guards, and we can see their field of vision by pressing V for eagle-vision, and this also highlights any guards that are carrying keys to locked doors. There will be multiple ways to approach the situation, but if you run in and try to brute force your way through, it never ends well.
If one of the guards spots you, every guard in the vicinity is going to come running, and some of the heavier guards hit bloody hard. It is possible to fight your way out but it’s tough, and much better to approach each of these areas slowly, map out the guards and their patrol paths, look for bushes or hay to hide in, and take out guards one-by-one. I played this game like I do in other stealth-focused games like Thief and Dishonored. To get that oldschool Assassin’s Creed 1 feel, there is a filter you can turn on in the settings that adds that nostalgic blue filter to the game which is brilliant.
When things do go awry, combat is fantastic and takes a lot of dodging, parrying and combat prowess to defeat the guards. If you do get spotted or fail a pickpocket or assassination attempt, you will raise in notoriety as guards start to recognise you and your exploits. Tearing down wanted posted in town will decrease your notoriety. Completing missions and gaining levels nets you XP and skill points to enhance Basim’s skill tree.
There are three specialisation paths to go down in Assassin’s Creed Mirage – phantom, trickster, and predator, but they’re not as involved as the ones seen in Valhalla. I tended to prioritise phantom to unlock powerful assassination moves but did take a couple of handy skills from the other skill lines. You will obtain other weapons to use, each with different bonuses and tiered powers as you use them more. Then you will have tools at your disposal such as throwing knives that can be upgraded with crafting material that you loot from containers. There’s plenty of ways to customise how you play Basim and the weapons/tools he uses.
I am getting the most enjoyment out of not being overwhelmed with choices. There are plenty of POI’s and icons on the map and radar for me to investigate, but with the investigations system giving me choice as to in what order I complete each clue puts the progression control into my own hands. I have a couple of options of which way to go, and once I pick a path, there’s plenty of things for me to do between point A and point B. I usually see a chest icon on the radar, go into eagle vision to see if it’s accessible and not overly guarded, but most of the time I’m heading into new areas to find a tower that will open up more of the map, then getting back to the quests at hand. I definitely feel much less overwhelmed than Valhalla and Odyssey, and I can login for 30 minutes and feel I have accomplished enough.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Mirage has struck a great balance in gameplay systems to create a more refined experience than the previous open world titles. The map and overall story are smaller than Valhalla/Odyssey, yet it has made improvements to parkour and added more focus to stealth and assassin style combat. I appreciate the refined RPG progression of weapons/tools and the more simplified skill tree. I also enjoyed the look back towards earlier games in the series with the shades of blue graphics filter option, and I personally much prefer this structure over the grander open world titles.