The Assassin’s Creed franchise has come a long way since its inception in 2007. What began as a unique stealth-action game set within a historical fiction framework has evolved into a full-blown RPG franchise with sprawling open worlds. While recent entries like Odyssey and Valhalla delivered strong narrative adventures, they strayed far from the series’ stealth roots. With Assassin’s Creed Mirage, developer Ubisoft Bordeaux returns to a more focused, classic style of gameplay.
Set in 9th century Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age, Mirage puts players in the shoes of Basim Ibn Ishaq, a street thief who joins the ancient Brotherhood of Assassins. The game promises a tighter narrative experience centered around stealth gameplay and investigation missions leading up to assassination targets.
In this review, we’ll take an in-depth look at Mirage to see if it succeeds in recapturing the core appeal of early Assassin’s Creed titles. Does the shift back to social stealth and parkour feel fluid and engaging? Do the investigations and assassinations provide satisfying progression? And ultimately, is Mirage a worthwhile entry in the storied franchise for both longtime fans and newcomers alike? Read on to find out.
Hunting in the Shadows: Stealth, Investigations, and Exploration in Mirage
At its core, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is centered around stealth gameplay. There is still combat, but it takes a backseat to sneaking, eavesdropping, pickpocketing, and silent assassinations. After Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla pushed the series into RPG territory, Mirage returns to the social stealth roots of early franchise entries. Blending into crowds, stealthily traversing rooftops, and utilizing gadgets to remain undetected are essential once again.
Investigation missions make up the bulk of Mirage’s progression. Each case tasks Basim with unraveling clues to uncover the identity and location of an Order of Ancients target. This provides strong narrative justification for exploring the city, eavesdropping on conversations, and infiltrating hostile compounds. The investigations are semi-open ended, giving you latitude in how you approach objectives while still providing a clear path forward. It’s immensely satisfying to stalk and assassinate targets after methodically unraveling their secrets.
To aid in his stealthy investigations, Basim has access to an array of useful gadgets. Smoke bombs, noisemakers, traps, and sleep darts allow for creative ways to divert or incapacitate enemies. Upgrades expand the arsenal further, like corrosive throwing knives that dissolve victims. Mirage is at its best when you’re truly hunting from the shadows, using every tool at your disposal to remain undetected. If you are spotted, the notoriety system will make NPCs more suspicious of you, and specialized bounty hunters will pursue you across the city. This encourages sticking to the shadows rather than wanton violence.
That said, direct combat is still an option, though far less fluid than the RPG trilogy. With simple sword and knife play, fights against more than two enemies at a time can be punishing. The parry-based counterattack system evokes the original Assassin’s Creed, but the clunky animations lack impact. Combat is functional, yet best avoided — Basim simply lacks the ferocity of an Eivor or Alexios.
Traversing the city via parkour is also reminiscent of the earlier games. Leaping across roofs, scaling viewpoints, and descending safely into bales of hay feels great. But the navigation can also feel sticky at times, with Basim getting caught on edges or failing to grab certain handholds. The controls lack some of the refinement seen in the Ezio trilogy, but there’s still joy in fluidly moving throughout the city while avoiding detection. With combat as a last resort and parkour feeling slightly imperfect, stealth truly shines as the most satisfying facet of the gameplay.
Overall, Mirage succeeds in centering its gameplay around stealth-driven investigations and exploration. The emphasis on social stealth and elaborate assassinations makes being an assassin feel fresh again. While combat and parkour don’t reach new heights, the gratifying return to shadowy tactics at the core of the classic experience more than makes up for it.
A Vibrant Palace of Secrets: Exploring 9th Century Baghdad
Assassin’s Creed has brought players everywhere from Renaissance Italy to Ancient Greece, but never before to Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age. Mirage leverages this unique setting to create one of the series’ most beautiful and historically dense open worlds yet. The sprawling metropolis comes alive thanks to an amazing attention to detail from the developers at Ubisoft Bordeaux.
Mirage’s take on 9th century Baghdad is breathtaking. Lush gardens, bustling markets, and grand palaces adorned with intricate geometric patterns make every district feel distinct. Citizens from all walks of life fill the streets – scholars debate scientific ideas, merchants hawk their wares, and children play games. The mix of Arabic and Persian influences is visible in the cuisine, clothing styles, and architecture. Mirage makes you feel transported back to an era seeing astonishing advancements in education, commerce, and culture.
Verticality is key to Mirage’s level design, creating ample opportunities for parkour. Minarets, viewpoints, suspended market awnings, and rooftop ropes allow you to traverse above the crowded streets. Climbing to synchronize areas reveals just how much care was taken arranging the city’s layout. The setting is an urban playground tailor-made for an assassin, with countless handholds and hiding spots. Moving through Baghdad by roof and grappling hook feels instantly familiar yet refreshingly new.
While the city aesthetically impresses, Mirage’s codex provides fascinating insight into Baghdad’s history and cultural contributions. The encyclopedia contains dozens of illustrated entries detailing Islamic scholars, astronomical advancements, economic systems, architectural achievements and more. It’s clear Bordeaux intricately researched the period to make the world an authentic window into a forgotten age. The codex transforms Mirage from a mere backdrop into a vivid celebration of a pivotal time in human history.
By embracing the unique traits of Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age, Mirage joins the ranks of the most striking and unforgettable settings in the series. The visual splendor combines with impressive historical accuracy to make the world feel alive. While Mirage presents a pared back open world experience compared to recent entries, the detail and care infused into 9th century Baghdad sets a new bar for crafting immersive virtual cities rooted in actual history.
The Making of a Hidden One: Basim’s Journey from Thief to Assassin
Assassin’s Creed Mirage aims to flesh out the backstory of Basim Ibn Ishaq, a pivotal yet enigmatic figure from Valhalla. We follow Basim from his origins as a cunning thief on the streets of Baghdad to his induction into the ancient order of assassins known as the Hidden Ones. While the narrative succeeds in showing his transformation, it falls short when it comes to supporting characters.
We’re introduced to Basim as a likable rogue who steals to provide for his best friend Nehal and young protege. Haunted by disturbing visions tied to a mysterious artifact, he seeks answers about his past while trying to survive. After a tragedy, Basim’s desire for direction leads him to the mentorship of Roshan and the Hidden Ones. Under her stern guidance, his skills become honed towards a higher calling.
The premise of hunting various members of the nefarious Order of Ancients gives the story focus. Uncovering clues about each target through investigation missions provides satisfying pacing. The intelligence gathering culminates in elaborate assassinations that showcase Basim’s cunning. Slowly moving up the Order’s ranks provides solid narrative progression.
The biggest connections to Valhalla center on foreshadowing Basim’s future as a Sage searching for ancient Isu artifacts. We see the seeds planted for his later obsession, but Mirage is relatively self-contained. You don’t need knowledge of the wider mythology to follow Basim’s personal journey.
Where the narrative falters is in the supporting cast. Basim is well-realized, but characters like Nehal and Roshan never evolve past archetypes. Their interactions with Basim needed more screen time to properly resonate. The villains also lack depth or nuance. Mirage had room for a more memorable antagonist.
In the end, Basim’s arc from thief to assassin is competently told but fails to transcend. The structure provides satisfying beats but the characters surrounding Basim needed more development. While Mirage adds welcome context for fans of Valhalla, Basim’s origin story feels more focused on hitting mythology benchmarks than delivering an exceptional standalone narrative. But there’s enough here to satisfy those seeking his hidden backstory.
A Feast for the Senses: Mirage’s Audiovisual Excellence
Assassin’s Creed Mirage delivers a stunning sensory experience matching the finest entries in the long-running franchise. Ubisoft Bordeaux’s meticulous attention to visuals, audio, and overall polish results in a title that immerses you in the splendor of 9th century Baghdad.
Mirage represents a new visual high point for the series. The illuminating rays of sunlight, vibrant bustling crowds, and lavish architectural details bring Baghdad to life with unparalleled fidelity. The excellent use of color, from the emerald palms to sapphire rivers, creates a vivid landscape. Basim and other key characters have an impressive level of realism. Mirage’s beauty lies not just in technology but art direction, capturing the aesthetic essence of the Golden Age.
The excellent visuals are matched by superb animation. Parkour movements appear silky smooth, while stealth kills are viscerally satisfying. Little touches like merchants carrying wares or children playing games further enhance Mirage’s lifelike quality. Even minor NPCs move with realistic purpose. Mirage’s technical performance also impresses, with rock solid framerates and no noticeable glitches.
The voice acting casts a spellbinding ambiance over Mirage. Basim’s thoughtful gravitas is credibly conveyed by actor Lucien Dodge. The supporting cast ably captures the colorful patois of Baghdad’s citizens and classes. Highlights include Roshan’s smoky wisdom, brought to life by the superb Shohreh Aghdashloo. The vocal performances truly ground you in the time and place.
Mirage’s soundtrack evokes Arabia but with distinctly Assassin’s Creed melodic flavors. Rhythmic finger cymbals echo across vast deserts, while tense bowed strings heighten stealthy unease. Vocals alternate between haunting ululating chants to lone soulful singing. Familiar themes swell at key moments, reminding you that you’re reliving history within the Animus simulation. The atmospheric audio design further grounds you in Baghdad, with bazaar commotion and call-to-prayer echoes.
With visual splendor, fluid animations, exceptional acting, and stirring music, Assassin’s Creed Mirage represents the pinnacle of the franchise’s audiovisual storytelling. Ubisoft Bordeaux was granted a gorgeous backdrop, but it’s to their immense credit that they fully brought 9th century Baghdad to wondrous life. Both longtime fans and newcomers are in for an incredible sensory feast.
An Impressive Return to Grace
With Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Ubisoft Bordeaux succeeds in steering the franchise back to its stealth-focused roots. The shift away from RPG bloat and combat puts the emphasis squarely on social stealth, open-ended assassinations, and methodical investigations. Traversing across the breathtaking recreation of Baghdad by grappling hook and well-timed leaps recaptures the thrilling parkour fantasy that defined the series’ origins. For fans longing for classic Assassin’s Creed, Mirage delivers in spades.
That’s not to say Mirage is perfect. Direct combat feels like a step backwards, with glaring animation issues and unreliable feedback. The parkour, while great for exploration, retains a degree of unwieldiness compared to the smooth navigation of Ezio’s trilogy heyday. Yet these shortcomings hardly detract from Mirage’s strengths. Stealth purity was the prime objective, and Ubisoft nailed it.
When it comes to narrative and characters, Mirage has its highs and lows. Protagonist Basim Ibn Ishaq sees thoughtful development, but surrounding players need more depth. The self-contained plot works fine on its own, but gains extra intrigue when viewed as a prequel to Valhalla. Regardless, the vividly realized setting of Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age remains Mirage’s strongest narrative pillar. Ubisoft Bordeaux took a fascinating slice of history and brought it to astonishing life.
For Assassin’s Creed fans exhausted by bloated game worlds and checklist questing, Mirage provides a vital reset. It consolidates the franchise’s vision back into tense, focused stealth action set in a beautifully crafted city with well-researched history etched into every alley and rooftop. The return to basics bodes well for the future of the series, proving the core fantasy can be recaptured. Assassin’s Creed Mirage delivers a pure distillation of what made us fall for these games over a decade ago.
Assassin's Creed Mirage
Assassin's Creed Mirage succeeds as a back-to-basics reset that revitalizes the series' stealth gameplay foundations. Though not without some flaws, Mirage captures the intrigue and thrills of carefully planned assassinations within a beautiful recreation of historic Baghdad. This focused experience will delight longtime fans while remaining accessible for newcomers seeking a pure stealth adventure.
- Returns to classic stealth gameplay.
- Breathtaking recreation of 9th-century Baghdad.
- Vibrant audiovisual experience.
- Well-designed investigation missions.
- Rich historical context and detail.
- Clunky combat mechanics.
- Parkour sometimes lacks refinement.
- Underdeveloped supporting characters.
- Antagonists lack depth.