Assassin's Creed Mirage 'A Return to the Roots' Dev Diary Breakdown
As part of the marketing campaign leading up to Ubisoft Forward, the first video in a new series dedicated to the development of Assassin's Creed Mirage was released.
Episode one, titled 'A Return to the Roots' focusses on the creative decisions behind the game's production. Mirage promises to be a love-letter to longtime fans of the franchise, placing an emphasis on core pillars and narrative. This will no doubt be refreshing news for many fans, who are longing for a return to stealth which lies at the very heart of the franchise.
After numerous entries without playable Assassins, the video makes it clear that the developers wanted the series to return to its roots, in a way that feels authentic. By listening to fans, and asking themselves what are the key points that people love about the series, Mirage pays homage to all that has come before and pushes the boundaries even further, ultimately creating the stealthiest game to date.
We can't wait to to learn more about Assassin's Creed Mirage! Here is our breakdown of the first Dev Diary!
20 seconds into the first dev diary we get our first glimpse at new Assassin's Creed Mirage gameplay footage!
In the top right hand side we can see that skill points make a return, something which were introduced in Assassin's Creed Origins. This time however, the points are not connected to a sprawling skill tree of abilities. They are simply to enhance skills that Basim learns from The Hidden Ones during his training.
Secondly, from the short gameplay clip you can see that Basim has been spotted by civilians in the area, meaning guards are also aware of his presence. Notice how their behaviour changes as he approaches them. You can see them hesitate to approach, and even back away from him, no doubt viewing him as a threat.
On the right you can see a staircase, which may be one of the ways in which the player can achieve a non-confrontational playthrough, stealthily bringing them to a new area without being detected.
Looking at the right hand side of the screen, you can notice a tiny white dot appear above a seat as Basim approaches. This indicates an interaction opportunity, meaning that Basim will be able to bide his time whilst sitting down, and even strike from a bench / seated area.
Next up we have two new pieces of Assassin's Creed Mirage concept art, as the video expresses the desire from the team to take Assassin's Creed back to the beginning.
Mirage tells the story of Basim, and his journey towards becoming a Master Assassin.
We can see several locations marked on a whiteboard being discussed by a developer during a presentation, which appear to be part of a diagram showing the outer walls of Baghdad.
From the notes we can read:
Round City (Baghdad)
Gate of the Greeks
Shari District (also known as quarter)
Fief (of Zubaydia)
From my research I believe that the diagram on the whiteboard shows the Northern region of Baghdad, as depicted on this map. You can even see the flow of the river Tigris.
That means that the word 'gate' on the diagram is referring to the Khurasan gate.
Map via Wikipedia
Moving on, we have another piece of new concept art, this time showing parkour. Notice the multiple guards also on the rooftops!
The video dives into parkour, and makes it clear that it is a key pillar to the Assassin's Creed experience. Baghdad is your playground, and it has been built to enhance parkour opportunities.
During the two second clip showing parkour, we see Basim jumping from post to post through what the video describes as an 'urban environment'. The surroundings appear to take inspiration from Assassin's Creed I, reintroducing stalls and buildings featuring ledge windows. Parkour in Valhalla was described as sluggish by many, but the quick snippet here makes it look like the player has more control and freedom over aerial movement.
This is confirmed when Marco Maresca (Senior Game Designer) says that the team looked at past games for inspiration, emphasising fluidity and comfort in movement. Parkour is easy to learn, and the approach is closer to the Ezio games, where it's ''all about keeping the flow and momentum going''.
The gameplay demonstrates the return of the corner swing, improved vaulting, rope lifts (evelators) and the introduction of a new mechanic, pole vault, which can be used to help Basim cross larger gaps when navigating rooftops.
Basim is faster and more agile than Eivor, and animations were produced to give players a sense of speed when running, jumping, vaulting and free roaming. You can see a short video of Basim jumping through a test arena, showing his speed and agility.
Next we see two pieces of concept art for Assassin's Creed Mirage demonstrating how the streets of Baghdad have been created with parkour in mind. In both images, we see items positioned to give Basim a lift from which he can begin to climb.
''Streets are narrower, denser, and packed with obstacles to navigate.''
''By choosing the right path through the environment, you can move from street level to the rooftops in the blink of an eye.''
In the background you can see Assassin's Creed Mirage gameplay, showing a few of the ways Basim can navigate the city above ground. The first shows a rope which can be used to cross between buildings, something which has appeared in numerous AC games before. The second shows more obstacles, this time piled up so that Basim can quickly climb to reach a higher platform. The third shows him climbing a syncronisation point, which looks to be connected to a Mosque.
As Basim climbs higher towards the platform, a tiny eagle appears, showing that it is indeed a sync point that can be used to unlock more of the map.
The focus of the video shifts to stealth, arguably the core pillar of the franchise in need of the biggest revamp.
''We want players to work in the shadows, plan their next move, strike, and then vanish.''
The video then shows off the numerous ways players can assassinate. The first method is by hiding in a booth,
similar to Arno killing his target in the confessional box in Assassin's Creed Unity.
Second, we see a particularly brutal hidden blade to the neck kill, quickly dispatching an unsuspecting guard.
The next method is the ledge grab, something which dates back to the Ezio games. It seems that Basim will be able to climb up to the very top of a platform and surprise unsuspecting enemies.
For players looking for a more confrontational approach, takedowns return, with more variation than ever before.
In the first gameplay snippets we see, Basim performs a move that sees him flip over an enemies back in what looks to be a finishing move calling back to Assassin's Creed Revelations. The move looks similar to the 'Hook and Run' maneuver performed by Ezio Auditore, taught to him by Yusuf Tazim.
Next we see a different angle showing Basim plunging his curved sword into the left shoulder of a guard, no doubt an extremely painful way to die. The final move we see here is an air assault, knocking the guard to the ground and using the hidden blade to eliminate.
Bench assassinations make a return, calling back to Assassin's Creed II which released back in 2009. It's a wonder that such a useful feature would disappear in the first place, but it faded away after Black Flag, where Edward Kenway used the move to assassinate Woodes Rogers in the garden. For me, this maneuver is the epitome of the tenet 'Hide in plain sight'.
In another throwback to previous games, killing enemies from the rooftop gardens make a return. This was always a great way for players to eliminate guards circling a perimeter, which was particularly effective when paired with the whistle to lure enemies towards their fate.
Narrative Director Sarah Beaulieu narrates the next part of the stealth section, making it clear that the team fully encourages players to be sneaky, as combat for Basim is a last resort. His main approach is to hunt and strike whilst remaining unnoticed.
The team reworked the enemy AI to improve the detection and vanishing loops, making behaviours more responsive and readable. This is something which heavily needed improvement after the stealth issues which appeared in Valhalla. Enemies would notice Eivor immediately, making social stealth a challenge for most players, encouraging a combat approach.
New enemy archetypes will increase the stakes, with the introduction of:
The Marksman: Capable of shooting down your eagle companion, Enkidu, preventing you from using the bird-control mechanic.
The Spearman: A guard bearing a long spear who pokes through haystacks in search of enemies hiding.
The Hornbearer: Equiped with a horn which can be used to call for reinforcements.
Narrative Director Sarah Beaulieu confirms that Basim does indeed train with The Hidden Ones in Alamut, the historic Persian (Iranian) castle and later the real-life home to the Nizari Ismailis, also known as the Assassins (1090AD), a splinter sect of Shiite Muslims. The group was led by Hassan-i Sabbāh, who apparently uttered the phrase ''Nothing is true, everything is permitted” on his deathbed.
The novel 'Alamut' by Vladimir Bartol is said to be one of the key inspirations for Assassin's Creed I, which the series adopted into its own lore by making it a stronghold for the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins. The castle is of huge significance to the series, as it was also built on top of a First Civilisation Vault which housed the Memory Seals which Altair used as keys to access his vault at Masyaf.
It'll be interesting to see if the construction of Masyaf is completed during the course of the game, as in the CGI trailer and screenshots, it is still being erected. During his time at the castle, Basim is introduced to the tenets of the creed, by his Mentor Roshan and the other Hidden Ones.
Next we get a look at the new and improved social stealth, which brings back systemic blending to mask Basim's movements in a large crowd, allowing him to move undetected. Hide in plain sight.
In the gameplay demonstrating social stealth, we can see a rope lift on the left, showing a quick and convenient way for Basim to access the rooftops from ground level.
We also get our first look at the navigation bar which has an icon showing a bag, which could represent a vendor of some kind such as a tradesman. We also see the return of the skills icon in the top right hand corner, indicating that the player can level up some abilities.
Basim can bribe factions with specific tokens in order to control AI groups, allowing him to move undected through guarded areas. This is very similar to how Ezio would pay a group of courtesans to mask his movements in a crowd.
The navigation bar at the top of the screen turns yellow as the group approaches, showing that the guards are becoming suspicious in a guarded area, but Basim himself is hidden by the blend mechanic.
The final section of the video focusses on assassinations, and the ways in which players can take down The Order of the Ancients to free Baghdad from their influence.
The enemy we see here in the concept art image is also the one who appeared in the Cinematic World Premiere Trailer (CGI).
In Assassin's Creed Mirage, The Hidden Ones have established a network of bureaus across the city of Baghdad to monitor The Order of the Ancients. They act as gameplay hubs from which the player can take on side contracts and various objectives, from rescue missions to assassinations, to help The Hidden Ones in their fight for freedom.
Here is a 3D model of the mask featured in the Cinematic World Premiere Trailer, once again belonging to the target who tries to run from Basim.
One of the most impressive gameplay shots of the whole video features next.
I can sense the building anticipation amongst the Virtual Photography community, who are itching to know if the game contains a Photo Mode feature at launch.
Everything about this piece of concept art screams Assassin's Creed I. Several of Altair's targets would take part in public speaking, manipulating the masses. In this piece of art, we see Basim watching his target from the rooftops, looking for an opportunity to strike.
Narration from Sarah Beaulieu makes it clear that the dev team wants players to immerse themselves in the life of a Hidden One, investigating target's identities, tracking their movements, and sharing information.
This is also a callback to direct Assassin's Creed I, when Altair was stripped of his rank and demoted to a novice, needing to collect information before reporting back to the bureau leader, who would eventually give him permission to strike. I wonder if Basim will also report back in a similar fashion before eliminating his target. No word on this as of yet.
In Assassin's Creed Mirage, a new Investigation Board replacing the Quest Log, possibly a move which shows the intent to move away from RPG elements in the new game.
Stephane Boudon returns to the narration and informs the audience that Black Box missions (first introduced in Assassin's Creed Unity) give players the freedom on how to approach an assassination mission.
The piece of concept art above shows Roshan and Basim, wearing a green and brown outfit, possibly a disguise planning their approach.
This piece of art heavily reminds me of the player's introduction to Black Box missions in Assassin's Creed Unity, where Bellec and Arno stand on a rooftop overlooking Notre-Dame looking at the ways in which to proceed.
The winner in this piece is Roshan's hair. So striking!
Finally, the dev team reveal that in a surprise addition to the game for long-time players, a nostalgic visual filter setting has been added which can be applied at any point to give the game a desaturated blue-color palette, similar to the very first Assassin's Creed game (2007).
This is a nice piece of fan service, as it adds a level of nostalgia reminding many of us of the fondness we all have for the original game and also how the washed out colours made Altair's robes stand out.
That's all for the first Dev Diary, and things are looking promising.
Although Mirage isn't doing anything too innovative, the team behind it seem to be rediscovering what mechanics worked well in previous titles and are determined in their efforts to restore them to the franchise.
Look out for our coverage of Assassin's Creed Mirage here on The Ones Who Came Before, as we can't wait to explore the new title even further as we get closer to launch. Stay tuned for all things Assassin's Creed with our social media channels, listed below.
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