Truth be told, I was cautiously excited for Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Although I had some fun with the last few games, I wanted the series to go back to being a city-based stealth game, focused on sneaking and assassinations. This is exactly what we got, but there’s a big problem. I assumed that, with all of the additions over the years, that going back to stealth would offer players improvements across the board in regard to the series’ mechanics and game design. Yes, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is much closer to pre-Origins games, but it’s let down by the fact that absolutely none of the problems that have been plaguing the series for years have been addressed.
While Assassin’s Creed II was a giant step forward compared to its predecessor, the gameplay started to feel a little long in the tooth after a few extra years. While the games were pretty, the climbing and movement were insanely rigid and clunky, the combat was one-note and uninteresting, and the stealth itself was underwhelming due to the aforementioned movement and questionable AI. With Origins, the series pivoted to larger-scale action-adventures where there wasn’t as much need for free-running and sneaking. As a result, the combat got a much-needed overhaul. Assassin’s Creed Mirage mostly pushes the combat back to pre-Origins.
Conceptually speaking, this is a good thing. An Assassin should be sneaking around and not using overpowered abilities to easily dispatch hordes of foes. However, the combat in Mirage is clunky and annoying. Just like older games in the series, I avoided combat because it sucks. The game’s boring, milquetoast protagonist, Basim, uses weak, unsatisfying attacks and once again has to fight by mostly waiting to parry an enemy strike and then one-shot kill them. It’s just as subpar as it was before Origins. Understandably, there are no special combat abilities which have been replaced by Basim being able to instantly assassinate unaware foes by using a bar of focus. This is Mirage‘s sole unique feature.
City of the damned
Although there’s still a bunch of barren space in the form of wilderness, most of Mirage is spent in Baghdad itself. You’ll once again spend most of the game getting around by free-running, even though you can still call a mount and use that if you wish. Much like the combat, the free-running here is exactly the same as it used to be. It’s sluggish and horribly imprecise. Mirage makes it extremely clear that Ubisoft never improved many of the series’ mechanics with the modern games. It merely just didn’t use them as much, so it was harder to tell that they’re just as dated as they’ve ever been. Basim gets an eagle he can use to scout out locations, but you can also turn on Eagle Vision, which I preferred as I never cared much for the eagle mechanic. As such, I only used the eagle when necessary.
The AI is as inconsistent as it’s ever been. Enemies still sometimes detect you even if you’re not within their line of sight. They won’t call alerts if they find the corpses of their comrades. The city is still covered in invisible restricted areas where the guards will immediately give chase if you cross a magic line. It’s so horribly dated. It’s been 14 years and Ubisoft has not truly improved on Assassin’s Creed II in the most important areas. It’s so disheartening. At least the game isn’t bloated to hell and back this time around. The last few games have had huge worlds packed with content that became unbearably stale well before I even hit the story’s midpoint. Assassin’s Creed Mirage, by comparison, is a 20-30 hour game.
The scope here is very much in-line with the older series entries. You do main quests to unlock the identities of members of The Order to assassinate. Meanwhile, there are side contracts, chests to find for new gear and upgrade materials, as well as some collectibles to pickpocket. There’s a good amount of content here that feels reasonable, much like in the pre-Origins games. With that being said, it’s weird that Ubisoft considers a 100+ hour game in the series to be worth $60 USD, while this much smaller entry is somehow worth $50, despite having a fraction of the content. Don’t worry, though, you’ll still be able to use real money to buy outfits and skins because milking the customers will never stop being a priority.
Assassinating my patience
Despite my many issues with Assassin’s Creed Mirage, I didn’t necessarily have a terrible time with it. The game is still very pretty and Baghdad looks great. From the era-appropriate architecture to the sandy desert geography and colorful foliage, running around carries a lovely aesthetic. The PC version of the game also runs wonderfully, as I had no framerate issues even in the densest of areas. The game comes with an Arabic dub in case you like to play these games with linguistically appropriate audio. Many of the English performances are of questionable quality, regardless, although I appreciated the attempts at correct name pronunciations and the frequent use of Arabic phrases in dialogue.
As for the game’s systems, gear all has different perks which can be upgraded by finding schematics and using materials. You’ll also get skill points to use in Assassin’s Creed Mirage‘s extremely dull three-pronged skill tree. Most perks aren’t anything to get excited over and I didn’t look forward to unlocking new upgrades. I also didn’t bother with changing my gear up much, even though I went out of my way to find gear chests. There are also Enigmas to find that show you hidden treasure locations via clues.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage was a great chance for Ubisoft to not only go back to the series’ roots, but also improve the mechanics to a modern standard. Instead, it’s mostly the same old janky game that fans have been playing for over a decade, now with pretty new textures and an interchangeable protagonist. Some folks will be glad to have it back, while others will feel that it’s just another nail in an overcrowded coffin. Maybe next time we won’t be forced to contend with stealth mechanics that were blown out of the water by Metal Gear Solid 3. Wild to think that this series has always been behind the curve compared to a game that came out three years before it and was never able to reach its level.
Assassin's Creed Mirage: Assassin's Creed Mirage might be a return to form, but that form is so dated that it's a wonder that more wasn't done. – Andrew Farrell