It’s almost been three years since a new Assassin’s Creed game, which is the longest gap in the series’ history. In recent entries, the franchise has increasingly veered away from the stealth and parkour mechanics that defined the franchise’s earlier adventure game design, embracing a more action-oriented open-world RPG focus. But the newest installment returns to what made Assassin’s Creed stand out when first released way back in 2007.
Mirage forgoes the formula seen in the likes of Odyssey and Valhalla. Ubisoft Bordeaux has marketed this version of Assassin’s Creed as a “return to [the series’] roots,” something that has had fans, myself included, excited, hoping that we could relive the days of playing as Altair and Ezio through a modern take. So, did the team achieve its goal? In short, yes. Mirage feels nostalgic and is an homage to the early games that also stands on its own. It reminds us why we follow the creed.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review: Back to the Past
Assassin’s Creed Mirage tells the story of Basim, who appeared as an intriguing character with mysterious origins in AC Valhalla. Here, we learn more about him. He’s a thief from the streets of Baghdad turned a prodigy of the Brotherhood — and he’s haunted by his dreams. The narrative plays out in 9th century Baghdad, where the Assassins are still known as The Hidden Ones. While the story isn’t the deepest or most captivating in the series, it’s enjoyable and serves the game’s trappings well.
Basim, as a protagonist, is fine, despite all the mystery surrounding him. He’s friendly and charming enough with everyone he interacts with, but if you were hoping for another lead like Ezio, you’ll likely be disappointed. However, I think we’ll never reach that high again, to be fair to the character. Overall, Basim has excellent chemistry with his childhood friend Nehal, but with other characters, things fall a little flat. I wouldn’t say he’s as bland as Altair in the first game or Connor in AC3, but you won’t necessarily be as invested in his story as you might be hoping for. At least I wasn’t
But how is it actually playing as Basim? Great fun. In fact, it’s the most fun I’ve had in the franchise in years. There’s a significant focus on stealth gameplay in AC: Mirage, letting you seamlessly blend into crowds and use Baghdad’s bustling environments to your advantage to remain undetected by enemies and targets. There are multiple benches, wagons, and bushes to hide in, so you can complete your missions however you want.
You can also use a few tools to help you stay unnoticed. Smoke bombs make a return and let you disappear in an instant. You also can use throwing knives to take out enemies from a distance. One of Mirage‘s best additions is the ability to upgrade these tools. You can make them both more powerful and more useful, depending on your playstyle. You can do things like extend the duration of smoke bombs, for example. With throwing knives, there’s and ability to have enemy bodies dissolve after being killed.
That’s good fun, but Parkour is hit or miss for me. While I love that you can maneuver through such a densely-populated place like an acrobat, it’s less seamless than it once was. Baghdad is incredibly compact with buildings, and you can get to your objective in plenty of ways. That opens up emergent gameplay possibilities, but the mechanics aren’t as fast and smooth as they are in Unity. Instead, they feel like the sluggish days of the first Assassin’s Creed, perhaps fitting considering this return toward the franchise’s beginning.
Climbing and jumping through the city is fun and lets you take in the beauty of the scenery. However, running is slow going, and there’s always a slight slowdown before Basim jumps. It’s nothing major, but it adds a hitch in what should be an otherwise flowing, effortless move.
Combat in Mirage is a mix between the old and new. Attacking, parrying, and dodging decrease your stamina meter, so you must be ever mindful of the strategies you use and the moves you make. Though single foes don’t often pose much threat, especially for series’ veterans, large groups of enemies can be challenging. While you have a fast attack and a heavy attack, these aren’t the days of Assassin’s Creed 2, where you could counter-kill literal armies by yourself. The saving grace against these mobs is that they have less health than in recent entries, so there’s a nice balance.
One of the most significant issues I’ve had with recent AC entries was the overall lack of assassinations. If you snuck up on an enemy and used your Hidden Blade, it wouldn’t kill them. Thankfully, assassinations are back in Mirage. Sneaking around and stealthily killing all the guards in an area is the bread and butter of the gameplay here — and it’s solid.
If stealth isn’t your forte and you’d rather not fight alone, you can hire mercenaries, similar to Valhalla‘s Jomsviking, and walk straight into an enemy base and have a bloody battle, killing every guard that comes after you. Weapons and armor are upgradeable and can be made to have stronger attacks, stronger defensive stats, and even unique abilities to help you in combat.
Unsurprisingly, there’s also a skill tree system that you can use to gain new abilities, gaining points by completing missions. They can be spent to get more carrying capacity for your tools or to increase the effects of your Eagle Vision to see enemies and secrets.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review — The Bottom Line
- Stealth is back with multiple places to blend in and tools to use
- Various ways to do missions
- Upgrading weapons and armor to suit play style
- Dense and lively city to run around
- Parkour can feel sluggish
- Combat can feel slow
- Basim isn’t that interesting of a protagonist
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a stunning game from a visual perspective. From the highly-detailed, expressive characters that add life to each location to the stunning city of Baghdad itself. It’s full of rich texture, lighting, and atmosphere, and there’s a sense of life and history that weaves through the game because of it. The Bazaar is the most diverse and colorful place you’ll visit, full of people from all backgrounds selling all types of goods and wares. In ways, it’s a mirror to the places the franchise has been, and how it’s come full circle.
If you’ve been waiting for the old days to return, this game is what you’ve been waiting for. But newcomers should also take heed. There are just enough new mechanics from recent titles, like the skill tree and upgrading systems, that will keep it fresh and welcome fans of recent games, as well.
Although Basim isn’t the most interesting protagonist, he’s likable and has an eager charm. The stealth mechanics are solid; however, the parkour can sometimes feel sluggish and almost choppy. The missions are fun, letting you tackle them in multiple ways depending on your play style, too. This doesn’t quite have the agency of Valhalla, for example, but there’s enough freedom to give that illusion.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a step in the right direction for the series and a solid entry. Old and new fans don’t want to miss out on this tale of Baghdad.
[Note: Ubisoft provided the PS5 copy of Assassin’s Creed Mirage used for this review.]
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review: Back to the Past
Step into a time of the Assassin's of old in this tale of Baghdad.What Our Ratings Mean