Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review

What’s this, another Assassin’s Creed game after three years of absence!? Ubisoft’s clearly been tempering its idiosyncratic tendencies of giving us enormous and boundless open-world adventures whilst giving us games spread apart by more than one calendar year and has instead chosen to give players what they’ve been craving – a 20-25 hour story-driven Assassin’s Creed title like the ones we were spoon fed with between 2007 and 2015. Now now, just because this latest Assassin’s Creed offering is a return to a well-cherished format, doesn’t mean it’s absolved of all sins, so while Mirage is a decent-enough Assassin’s Creed title, it struggles to leave its indelible mark like its forebears managed to carve out so convincingly back in the day.

Situated in Baghdad in the year 861, you take the role of a young street thief named Basim who has grand ambitions to join up with a secret order of assassins called The Hidden Ones, named as such because if they’re discovered by unrelenting guards and armed retinue, Basim will be cleaved as finely as donner meat in a kebab shop. Basim isn’t alone in his initial thieving endeavours as he’s accompanied by his oldest friend Nehal, and the two attempt to filch from an ornate palace, but the plan goes awry and Basim considers Nehal a traitor at first, though they reconcile later on in the story for reasons that don’t seem abundantly clear.

The set-up and aura of Mirage is rather low-key for a core Assassin’s Creed entry as it lacks a compelling punch to drive you forward, especially when Basim becomes disappointed that The Hidden Ones reject him at-first, which goes hand-in-hand with getting rejected from the school prom because you smell like a grease rat from the sewer. Basim does eventually get a free toy in his Happy Meal though and is able to join up with The Hidden Ones, tutored by his mentor Roshan, who allows Basim to conduct himself formidably in combat by showing him the blade-tipped ropes.

If you’re a veteran of the Assassin’s Creed series, Mirage will feel as comfortable to slip into as a pair of fluffy slippers due to a familiar framework that gives it an accessible edge. No, Baghdad isn’t as substantial as Egypt, Greece or Anglo-Saxon England, but the trade-off is the smaller townships and marketplaces give it a homelier essence, with the inviting sense you aren’t becoming visually overwhelmed, but rather soothed by its meagreness given the warmly tearooms and tranquil harbours. While huge treks through miles of desert terrain may exhaust you if you don’t opt to ride a camel, Baghdad is otherwise a pleasantly uncanny location for an Assassin’s Creed game.

Another plus point in Mirage’s favour is it provides something of a middle-ground between burlier Assassin’s Creed titles and the classic pre-Origins format. Aspects from recent titles like spy-birds return, this time with Enkidu as the latest winged watcher from the skies, who’s great at picking out targets during espionage and spotting key figures you need to locate to proceed with story missions, although the connection between the birdie and Basim is strictly and disappointingly business-related. Meanwhile, the way Mirage abides by the old Assassin’s Creed formula and utilizing it in an attempt to provide a smaller but finely-honed experience, allows it to feel condensed and focused, a far cry from the overblown and quest-littered open-world series’ entries.

Shaking up Mirage a bit is the structure of how missions are laid out. Now under an umbrella of Investigations, your missions are about trekking to your locations finding leads to your next assassination target, which commonly tasks you to find informants to guide you by giving you key information in exchange for currency or something they’re after.

Unlike previous entries in the series, Mirage puts up more of a fight thanks to tattle-tailing citizens, who’ll squeal to guards if you’re spotted conducting your business regardless of whether your activity is troublesome or not. It’s a great idea to give off an air of danger to your endeavours in an Assassin’s Creed game, it really does keep you on your toes and onto rooftops to evade the angry mobs below, though it’s a tad silly that so many innocent people feel they’ve got to behave like whiny infant school children, who tell the teacher of your misdemeanour of calling the child a poopy nose, or something equally immature.

 The Sword-slinging deserves some praise this time as well, placing emphasis on well-timed parries and dodges when the garrisons glow a red hue to keep yourself from getting cut up. A successful parry can deliver a super-satisfying repost, where Basim will dole out a brutal finishing move, which can be chained together to dispatch more fodder. Again, the element of danger in Mirage is heightened and grants it a pleasing motif, if only Mirage was more polished elsewhere.     

Mirage is an unmistakable wannabe classic Assassin’s Creed title, and while its intentions are certainly on-point, results are definitely mixed. On the one hand, Mirage is smaller, has a much- welcome emphasis on stealth-action gameplay, and doesn’t feel overstuffed with map icons that have plagued the series’ since its debut. However, there remains plenty to deride about Mirage that disappointingly shovels it into the realm of mediocrity and puts a mound of dirt over the top of itself.

First off the premise and the characters are ineffectual, doing little to deviate from the series’ cliches, with side jobs posing as menial tasks instead of relatable quests. You may head off to pick flowers for a bereaved woman who recently lost her husband, but that’s all you’re tasked with performing; the interactions with her are sterile too, as she’s at first weary of letting Basim do the deed, but seeing as he dryly explains he’s lost people too, she lets him help her. Assassin’s Creed games usually do a poor job of letting you inside the lives of the citizens you provide charity for, and here it’s the same old cut and dry thing, where interactions don’t feel authentic or attention-grabbing, just bland and without an engaging hook to draw you in.

Compounding Mirage’s woes are a collection of technical problems that riddle Mirage to a point where it seems like a bad joke Ubisoft are in on. Jittery performance shouldn’t be anywhere near a concern in a smaller AC game like this, but low and behold Mirage’s incompetence in maintaining itself with consistent stability. Once the game froze temporarily whilst dashing through the Baghdad streets before the game decided to keep on going. It’s like Mirage behaves like a 100-hour RPG instead of a 20 hour adventure, it’s gobsmacking how poorly it runs at times, especially compared with its far-more polished open-world predecessors.

Clambering in Mirage once again has many of the same likes and gripes as previous games. Mainly it’s smooth and trouble-free, but sometimes it’s fiddly and imprecise, especially this time around, as grabbing onto a specific handhold or stone/brick jutting out of a wall can be more trouble than expected. On one occasion during a stealth mission, an attempt to climb through a window proved taxing, and when inside there were several heavily armed guards awaiting to deliver vivisection, so the tactic was to clamber up the inside wall and strike them down with individual assassinations, but the slipperiness of the controls proved costly and the last guard managed to skewer Basim as viciously as gutting a fish at a factory – thankfully the knife goes in and the guts don’t come out.   

Viewpoints have been a staple of Assassin’s Creed games since their inception, but the ones that are spread throughout the landscape of Baghdad are uninspired, mainly consisting of spherical towers with a wooden perch for Basim to survey the wide-open expanse laid out before him. One of the pleasures of ascending Viewpoints is the tremendous sense of verticality and the gorgeousness of the views, but this time the sense of scale when manoeuvring up them isn’t exciting, even if the views are still breath-taking.

Assassin’s Creed still looks impressive in places, most evident when the Series X’s technical brunt is laid bear, like when you witness gusts of dust hush on by, and when you happen upon the hustle and bustle of a cramped marketplace. Yet in some peculiar way, Mirage is an unpleasant reminder of the 14 year-old PSP game Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines, whether that’s inherent in the way Basim moves or some of the less-impressive imagery, it’s quite disturbing to encroach upon such a comparison, yet given how uneven Mirage is, these suspicions are warranted. The music is good for an Assassin’s Creed entry, compatibly evoking the time period and the setting, whilst feeling coherent with other Assassin’s Creed adventures.

Conclusion

There’s no easy way to express it, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a big puddly mess of good and bad. The setting, the shorted Assassin’s Creed experience, the emphasis on stealth, and the heightened sense of danger gives Mirage worthy ingredients for a small and sumptuous Assassin’s Creed stew, but the seasoning has been left out this time, leaving the latest AC looking disjointed, feeling ineffectual and plagued with a handful of technical blemishes. This isn’t the kind of quality Assassin’s Creed Ubisoft are truly capable of, despite it being a rather welcome one thanks to its reduced length. All told this latest outing has its bright spots but could’ve done with some serious sprucing up.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Unique setting for an Assassin’s Creed title or any open-world title for that matter
  • Good emphasis on stealth over face-to-face sword-swinging action
  • The sense of danger and feeling like a marked man is well-realized
Bad
  • A technically and visually uneven game
  • Classic Assassin’s Creed without the charisma
  • Forgettable story, characters and dialogue
6.4
Okay
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

3 Comments

  1. My favorite of all ACs remain AC Odyssey. Characters speak with a genuine accent in English so at least it feels close to real. I thought Basim in AC Valhalla sounded more authentic then the one in Mirage. Sounds like an American pretending to be an Arab…. Not immersive. At least Roshan is genuine along with many others. Basim sounds like an American exchange student in Iraq…

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  2. I have to say I agree with you. The graphics are mediocre at best. The fighting is humdrum, and Basim seems to run like he’s stuck in muck – the guys with polearms can run him down. Trying to climb buildings and Basim gets stuck and begins just bouncing rapidly, or once just stopped, “stood up” to the standing position, and levitated up to the next level. Ubisoft really does not have it together on this one, and I have played every one of the AC games… (that are available on Xbox)

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  3. Uk as a veteran ac player it was a breath of fresh air in my opinion. No mythical beast, no over the top leveling, or crazy abilities. It def had its bad moments glitching. Or not much to see in the desert. Gameplay tho and the way they set up the structure of the story. It was very immersive for me. And yes the game was shorter than som previously released titles. Yet I could feel they were really trynna improve on their story telling. And I appreciate that from Ubisoft. All in all I was satisfied. I wasn’t collecting a million cosmetics and doing things that had no real significance with the plot of ac. This game tho made me feel like I was a kid again trying to figure out, why the hidden ones or templars were up to. I really hope in the next game they can incorporate bot rpg and story telling qualities. Again it was a breath of fresh air, the stealth, the secrecy, even the character development made me feel I was an assassin for a reason, not just there. Overall great game and for any veteran ac players I highly recommend.

    Reply

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