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Assassin's Creed Mirage: TOWCB Spoiler-Free Review

Reviews

1 Jan 2023

Written By:

Edited By:

Ashlea Blackett

''A solid entry that recommits the series to providing a memorable stealth experience''



 

Assassin's Creed Mirage is here, and our admin team over at The Ones Who Came Before headquarters were lucky enough to play the game early thanks to the Community Development Team at Ubisoft!


Taking players back to 9th century Baghdad, Assassin's Creed Mirage is a thrilling stealth game that will surely act as a turning point for the whole series. Recent entries delivered expansive narrative arcs that can be overwhelming for players, but Mirage does everything it can to deliver a more focussed narrative experience, with a main storyline which can be completed in 15-20 hours. This is a breath of fresh air, and a much needed change, as the risk of getting lost in its own size was beginning to seep in. The biggest strength of Assassin's Creed Mirage is that it isn't afraid to embrace it's identity, proudly reclaiming control over it's own image. The series found itself in a period where it began to lose itself, but Mirage is AC rediscovering itself after an identity crisis, and once again finding what makes it special. The game acts as a very reflective piece of content, and shows great awareness from the development team over the recent issues fans have had in general. It reintroduces mechanics which should never have been removed, and builds on the past to deliver an extremely strong and well thought out story that feels like the ultimate culmination of what came before.

There's no doubt that Mirage is a solid entry that recommits the series to providing a memorable stealth experience. It really is a special game, and fans around the world are in for an absolute treat.


After a lackluster marketing campaign, the main driving force of the marketing pushing general interest has been the passion of the development team who have been vocal in their belief in the project through intervews and dev diaries. After the announcement back in 2022, the community immediately got behind the time period and main character, as Basim is someone who immediately generates interest after his intriguing appearance in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. More importantly though, Mirage promised to return Assassin's Creed to its roots, and it certainly delivered. Comparisons can be drawn to just about every other game in the series, most obviously AC1 and AC2, with a parkour system inspired by Unity. The charm of the game is how it acts as a prequel to the original, released back in 2007, but drives the series forward by reintroducing elements from later games such as a notoriety system. To spark interest, Mirage soesn't need to do anything too innovative, past games laid the groundwork for mechanics, and the game just needed to reintroduce rather than reinvent. Rather than trialling new systems, Mirage examines what worked in previous titles and brings them back in a triumphant blend of past and present, colliding to produce the future.


''A triumphant blend of past and present''


Graphics and Stability


I was immediately impressed with how stable the game feels at launch, encountering no bugs or glitches whilst running the game on PC with Ultra settings. In what feels like the most stable release in recent memory, Mirage runs on PC at an uncapped framerate, meaning high-powered machines can deliver an incredible experience for gamers. Baghdad and it's surrounding area are incredibly impressive, with the game doing a great job at bringing a real sense of individuality to the Round City, with each district feeling different from the next, something which was also featured in the original game. It's noticable how poorer districts of Baghdad are run-down, and the living conditions for those living there are insufficient. It's clear that the team did their homework when creating the city, taking great care with its overall creation and delivery.


Mirage re-introduces impressive crowds, and along with it, the notion that an Assassin is but a blade in the crowd, waiting to strike. One thing that makes the city feel alive is how NPC's react to Basim's presence when he raises his notoriety. You can hear guards discussing his acts, or comment on his likeness to the culprit they are searching for. Regular civilians will even report Basim to the guards, in the hope that he will be reprimanded for his crimes. This is a first for the series, and a really nice feature to be introduced. Baghdad is a living, breathing environment, and the regularly changing day and night cycle and quest opportunities keep it interesting through the playthrough.


The controls feel familiar, something which will be a relief for long-time fans. Change can take a long time to adapt to, but the controls for Mirage feel right, with no remapping needed. Safe parkour routes can be navigated by holding down space, and parkour down returns by pressing 'C', a nice and simple system that is made more dynamic through the flair of freerunning the game adds.


One thing I did spot however graphically is how the faces sometimes let the game down. I found that Basim's facial expressions can be comical at times, especially in cutscenes. making him look wide-eyed and youthful. This may be something which the team choose to address in future patches, as releasing a stable and issue-free game at launch is more important. I would be keen to see enhanced details on faces added in a future update later down the line.


In order to capture the beauty of the game, Photomode has been available at launch, something which will no doubt thrill the virtual photography community, who are eager to dive in and explore the world. During my playthrough, I frequently found myself stopping to capture the moment with the familiar photomode tool. I can't wait to see what the community manages to produce.


''Mirage re-introduces impressive crowds, and along with it, the notion that an Assassin is but a blade in the crowd, waiting to strike.''


Parkour


Parkour is encouraged at every turn in Assassin's Creed Mirage, and the city of Baghdad provides many paths to elevation that compliment the enhanced flair of Basim's movement, which takes inspiration from Assassin's Creed Unity. The dynamic new parkour system is a break away from the wooden, sluggish freerunning styles recent games have provided, opting for a complete overhaul that introduces a splash of intensity and charisma. It feels as if the team behind the parkour animations really wanted to give Basim some personality within his movement, moving away from an uninspired, dated system. Elevators can be found on the streets to take Basim to the rooftops in seconds, giving him the element of surprise over unsuspecting enemies. Movement across the city is aided by the return of the corner swing, which featured heavily in Assassin's Creed Revelations. Ropes bridge the gap between buildings, providing clear routes to navigate. Mirage introduces a new mechanic for parkour, the pole vault, a balanced piece of wood which can be used to cross gaps between buildings or even water. This is a particularly useful feature when Basim is being pursued by guards, as each pole has a one-time use, meaning he cannot be followed. Speed of movement is adjustable in the settings, meaning players can tailor their parkour experience.

Basim is faster and more agile than Eivor, and animations were produced specially to give players a sense of speed when running, jumping, vaulting and free roaming. Players will notice how the new parkour system allows Basim to glide over objects, moving seamlessly with flair. Also noticable is Basim's ability to jump further than previously possible, leading to more opportunities when on the more. I actually found the new parkour system to be much more realistic than what Assassin's Creed fans have been working with recently, leading me to wonder if the team possibly took inspiration from real-life parkour artists / freerunners. The range of movement in this game is seriously impressive, and it's only a matter of time before we see masters honing their craft and navigating the city of Baghdad with creative variety. You can climb fallen trees, which I found to be incredibly useful to gain an aerial advantage. In what is certainly the first 'traditional' Assassin's Creed game in years, Basim certainly has the moves to match his status within the Brotherhood. The game brings back Open windows for Basim to climb through, like in Assassin's Creed Unity,making the game feel more open and lifelike. Overall I think the game lends itself well to parkour, hinting at it's existence at every opportunity. I felt that it was especially pushed within the layout of Baghdad, and missions seem to provide routes for parkour which make quests easier when followed correctly. A good example of this are the tailing missions which make their return. I think Mirage's parkour is way better than the sluggish system we saw in Valhalla, and the introduction of new animations and fluidity makes it interesting and useful rather than a painful hinderence.


''Basim moves seamlessly with flair.''


Stealth


Stealth in Assassin's Creed Valhalla was a step in the right direction, but Mirage goes even further fixes all of the issues players had in the previous title. Social stealth has been restored to it's former glory, and feels more alive than ever before. Basim can blend with crowds, pay groups for cover, use benches and hay bales for cover, and finally, stealthily enter a roof garden to dispatch a nearby guard with a whistle. It feels like the series has come full circle, bringing back the original stealth mechanics in a more lively open world. I like how guards are inquisitive, but don't spot you straight away like in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. The player can once again hide in long grass and bushes to keep out of sight, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Basim can hide in prayer booths, and use them to hide bodies. The same can be said for the roof gardens, which featured in Assassin's Creed I. The most noticable change from Assassin's Creed Valhalla though are the new kill animations. Whilst waiting on a corner, Basim will cleanly dispatch an enemy with the hidden blade to then calmly drag their body out of sight. It's an instinctive but deadly manouver, and it very often prevents other enemies from spotting a body.


Basim also has 'Assassin focus', a rapid series of moves that take out enemies so fast, the Animus simply can't keep up, resulting in a glitch effect. This feature was heavily controversial at first as some fans felt it was a supernatural fast-travel power, but it has since been explained as Basim's lightning fast reflexes. It can be incredibly useful to get out of tricky situations. The system stems from a similar thought process to what we saw in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, where Evie Frye could practically turn invisible by controlling her breathing.


Air assassinations are the best they have ever been in the series, aided by Basim's long distance jumps, you can take an enemy out from further away than usual. You don't have to be directly above the target, which makes it fun to run and jump down on a target, dropping in to deliver a killing blow. The game provides great variety when it comes to assassination animations, so with practice, fans will soon be performing incredible speed runs featuring a balance of parkour and aerial assassinations. Death from above is extremely satisfying, and it seems that Basim and his Eagle Enkidu have more in common than first realised, moving swiftly like an Eagle above the crowds.


The notoriety system returns in Assassin's Creed Mirage, and will affect all players as it did in the Ezio games. Tear down Wanted posters or pay heralds to reduce Basim's notoriety, reducing the heat as he moves through the city. When the wanted level is at its peak, the city will turn on him, making it incredibly difficult to operate undetected. For the first time, civilians will inform the guards of Basim's actions, and call for them to intervene should you commit a public offence. Information gathering plays a crucial role in the game, with all assassination missions starting out with an investigation. This is a real throwback to the original game, where Altair also had to conduct investigations to discover information before he could act. This is because he was demoted to the rank of a novice, which Basim is at the start of Assassin's Creed Mirage. Eavesdropping returns, and is once again a clever way of gaining information. During my play sessions, I have found it quite rewarding to once again sit on a bench and listen out for intel which could aid a later assassination mission.


Basim's tools are essential to unlocking the full potential of stealth, with each tool in his Assassin arsenal acting as a lifeline in the right circumstances. The smoke bomb provides cover, masking his actions. This can be useful for assassinations or even for disorienting targets in order to pickpocket. You can escape guards in a cloud of smoke, as was demonstrated in the first trailer for Assassin's Creed Mirage. The Trap is a bomb which condures a plume of gas that renders guards immobile, giving Basim the chance to swoop in and deliver the finishing blow. The blowpipe, which returns from Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, can be used to either knock out or poison enemies from distance. Throwing knives are similar, providing clean kills from distance.

As the game does not allow for Basim to carry a bow, this is the main option for long-range distance kills.

The noisemaker is a distraction device that can create a diversion, moving guards away from certain areas or clearing the path long enough for Basim to move. Finally, the flame, to light dark tunnels. This is my least favourite tool as I have not yet found a way of making it work in a stealth situation. Ideally, I would like to be able to throw the torch to set oil spillages on fire or even tents, but so far they have simply burnt out. Overall, the tools are incredibly important to increasing Basim's chances of a successful stealth mission, so I recommend unlocking them all as early as possible when playing Mirage.


Finally, Basim's Eagle Enkidu can be used to look for opportunities in the world, and highlight the presence of nearby enemies. After a while I found the eagle mechanic to be quite jarring, as it hones in on a particular point of interest, but it certainly gets better with upgrades. Overall, I found the stealth system in Assassin's Creed Mirage to be excellent, restoring old mechanics and making it deadlier than ever. Basim has the killer instrinct, and his actions feels decisive and calculated. I think fans will be extremely pleased that Assassin's Creed is once again focussing on its stealth roots, and is now pushing itself to be better than ever before.


''The player can once again hide in long grass and bushes to keep out of sight, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.''

Combat


In Assassin's Creed Mirage, combat is a last resort for Basim. Before enhancing skills, the game provides a primitive combat system, which amplifies the overall commitment to providing a masterful stealth experience.

Attacks are hit-for-hit, and stamina depletes quickly, so it can be tough for the players who wish to battle their way through Baghdad. It certainly can be challenging, especially when facing numerous adversaries. Basim will be cut down in the street as his stamina depletes. Some attacks cannot be parried, leading Basim with just one option, dodge out of the way, a move which heavily depends on stamina. On hard mode, it's frequent to die whilst trying to take on numerous enemies, something which was never a problem in the RPG games. I like that this is the case though, as it really encourages players to reconcide their method, and resort back to a stealth approach.


Skills add another element to the combat system, introducing features that make it easier when facing opponents. 'Kick Back' is a skill which introduces a powerful kick attack upon completion of a successful parry, which can be used to disorientate or even cause the death of an enemy by kicking off buildings or even into wooden structures which can collapse. This skill is similar to the Sparta Kick from Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

'Counter Roll' allows Basim to quickly move out of the way as an unblockable attack is about to land, moving him into a strategist position behind the enemy where he can inflict damage. Finally, 'knife recover', which is also a useful skill for stealth, which adds auto-collecting throwing knives which have already been used. In close-quarters, throwing knives can be used to eleminate enemies who are charging towards the Assassin.


Although combat is quite basic in comparison to previous entries, it does provide a real sense of progression, as Basim climbs the ranks within the Brotherhood. The once-charistmastic thief uses his new training to defend himself in a scrape, and that's what the game does well. It feels like Basim only uses combat if there are no other options, as a true Assassin should act as a blade in the crowd.



Plot


Assassin's Creed Mirage follows the transition of Basim from a street thief to a Master Assassin. Players begin the game in Anbar, where Basim the thief uses his skills to steal money and food to help those around him and himself. The early on pickpocket tutorial introduces players to the timing mechanic, which can be tricky to master, but essential if you wish to avoid conflict.


He wants a better life for himself and others around him facing poverty. He is a conflicted character, carrying a family burden, as his father Ishaq was an architect who was simply forgotten after the construction of the Great Mosque of Samarra was completed, when another took credit for the project. Ishaq was exhiled, and died in poverty, scarring Basim forever. He also finds himself experiencing nightmares, where a Jinni torments his resting hours. This is the first time seeing recurring dreams in the series, showing their intensity and effect upon his life. Fueled by confidence in himself and his abilities, Basim seeks a better life for himself, setting his sights upon the Assassins, an illusive group who provide work for street thieves. Desperate to prove himself, but lacking discretion, a trait worthy of The Hidden Ones, and something which is noticed by Mentor Roshan, rejecting his initial advances to join. Basim is aware of the existence of The Hidden Ones and aspires to aid them more, but not to help their cause, but to better his own position in life.


The game quickly evolves from tutorial missions to a main mission which gives the player a reason to care about the enemy faction, The Order of Ancients, which Basim stumbles upon. The opening main mission, the Winter Palace infiltration sets this up nicely, introduces the organisation as a powerful faction operating from the shadows, controlling the leaders of the land, and through their influence, the people. The Order operates ina similar way to the version we saw in Assassin's Creed Origins, hiding behind masks and nicknames to keep their identities secret. Upon joining the Assassins, Basim must hunt them down one-by-one to aid the cause of the Assassins.

Additional areas in the game are a nice surprise, as the game was purely advertised as Baghdad. In fact, players can also visit the outskirts and other areas such as Alamut and Anbar for plot purposes. Basim is moved across the map seeking information on his targets and reporting to various Hidden Ones Bureaus.

In this sense, the game feels very much like Assassin's Creed I, where Altair would travel across The Holy Land.


Although short, Mirage features one of the strongest Isu stories we have seen so far, and makes it more personal and important than ever, continuing the reincarnation narrative outlined in Valhalla. Unfortunately the game continues the trend of gradually stripping away Modern Day gameplay that has left players with very little since the Desmond games. The narrative pushes an interesting modern day story through cutscenes, which is certainly better than it's entire removal which would probably be easier for new players to understand. For fans following the ongoing Modern Day narrative, Mirage has a lot to be excited about. I like how the Modern Day seems to be once again moving towards making the threat for humanity, similar to what we saw in Assassin's Creed III, where momentum came to it's conclusion as Juno escaped her prison and unleashed herself upon humanity.


Shorter stories work so well in the Assassin's Creed series when told correctly, and what I like about Assassin's Creed Mirage is that it feels like it found clever ways of connecting the past and future. Hopefully this trend continues one-day with the introduction of 'Assassin's Creed Infinity', a project which is set to introduce a launcher which features all past and future content. Mirage reflects Basim's clever and cynical nature in Assassin's Creed Valhalla, revealing his troubled past and journey towards becoming an Assassin. Basim's actions have consequences, and Mirage takes the time to remind players of what more recent games in the series have been missing.



Conclusion


Assassin's Creed Mirage delivers a strong narrative which serves as a poignant tribute to Russell Lees, a writer who sadly passed away during the development of the game. Immediately after booting up the game, the award-worthy music takes hold and doesn't stop, providing atmospheric and moving tracks and sounds throughout.


Basim becomes the embodiment of the Brotherhood, acting as its blade from the shadows. He is the stealthiest Assassins yet, using his tools to take down targets, masking himself in the crowd and creating opportunities to lure out targets to strike.


The Voice acting was excellent throughout, with highlights from Shohreh Aghdashloo (Roshan), Lee Majdoub (Basim), and notable performances from the voice actors behind Fulash and Rayhan


The stand-out performance from Mirage is Baghdad itself, a city which feels bustling with life and diversity. Each district has it's own personality, and the use of Arabic speaking voice actors abd script writers makes the experience feel more authentic.


Finally, I think fans will be particularly impressed with how the team behind Mirage hits pause on the RPG direction of the franchise, and sets a new course, rediscovering what makes Assassin's Creed special and reintroducing cut features which feel familar and refreshed.


The game feels extremely satisfactory for old fans of the franchise, and is a great place to start for new players looking to kick off their Assassin's Creed journey. I hope that the developers behind Assassin's Creed Mirage go on to work on future AC projects, and that we don't suddenly have a huge surge of rushed content after this huge step in the right direction.


Assassin's Creed Mirage: 9.5/10


'A solid entry that recommits the series to providing a memorable stealth experience''



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About the Author

Col is one of the UK's leading Assassin's Creed Community members, and is best known for establishing both 'The Ones Who Came Before' fan community and 'Isu_Network' content creation program.

As Team Leader for The Ones Who Came Before, Col was officially recognised by Ubisoft, becoming one the UK Assassin's Creed community ambassadors in 2016. He has attended many events after spending a decade in the AC Community, and has worked on countless projects, all of which you can find here on TOWCB website.

He is also a former Ubisoft Star Player and member of The Mentors Guild, two recognisable community programs which opened doors and took his status within the AC Community to the next level.

Colum Blackett (Col_96)

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