Greetings and salutations, my fellow Assassins and Templars! Yes, Assassin’s Creed is back with a new entry in the series in the form of AC Mirage- what was meant to be dlc for AC Valhalla is now a full-fledge game. So, as a long-time fan of the franchise, its safe to say, I was optimistically cautious of its announcement- given that the franchise has strayed very far from its roots over the years. But after completing the game, it left a decent smile on my face. Here’s my review on AC Mirage.
Like I said, I’ve been a long-time fan of the Assassin’s Creed games since it first came out back in 2007 during the 7th Generation era of gaming consoles, and played the original Assassin’s Creed on the Xbox 360. Ever since then, I’ve played every main-line annual release and a few of the spin-off games, but over the years, that love has waned on me as I got older…
The last main titles in the franchise; Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla in perticular, affectionately dubbed the RPG trilogy by the fans has divided fans for straying far from its stealthy and assassinating roots- While yes, you do get to “assassinate” and “kill” people, and I mean a lot of people, but the newer games lack the same finesse seen in the Altair and Ezio games. Rather Ubisoft double downed on the combat and power fantasy aspect until you closely resembled that to Kratos from the God of War games.
Fortunately, when I heard that AC Mirage would go back to its roots and putting more emphasis on stealth, skills, and patients- I and a lot of old-school fans have been waiting for this. But with this being Ubisoft and all, Mirage is like its namesake; it offers you great stealth action combat and pretty interesting set-up for a story before dissolving into another generic Ubisoft experience riddled with bugs and rather forgettable story for a beloved character previously introduced in Valhalla.
Although, for a game that was meant to be downable content, it does temper gamer expectations and Ubisoft themselves have said that this game will be smaller in scope and size. Yes, its still an open-word game with a relatively big map (think AC Revelations sive) filled with things to do, secrets to uncover, and collectables to find- basically making the game way less overwhelming, not needing the player to invest over 100-hours of gameplay to experience the story.
Speaking of which, in Mirage, you the player, take control of Basim Ibn Ishaq, a cunning street thief who gets involved the centuries old war of the Assassins Brotherhood against the Templar Order, or rather the Hidden Ones and Order the Ancients as they were known back then. Mirage’s story is set during Baghdad’s Islamic Golden Age during the 9th century (and roughly a decade prior to the events of Valhalla) where you as Basim parkour your way through its dense and bustling city to reach your assigned target. Also, this being an Assassin’s Creed game after all, some sort of continuation of the Isu (Ancient Civilization) story elements in this game to uncovered.
Many old-school fans like myself who have beaten the game can safely say that the gameplay has a greater emphasis on stealth and using gadgets to aid you achieve your goal. Also, like it or not, the RPG mechanics has been stripped down, and while not completely gone, newer players might find this frustrating as you can no longer bulldoze with your way through enemies with overpowered abilities as they will kill you in few hits.
Another feature that makes a return is the social stealth mechanic that was reintroduce in AC Vahalla, but further expanded upon with the use of power tokens that you can exchange for aid from npcs during certain mission or contracts. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, you cannot brute force in this game, doing so will either get you killed or increase your notoriety (a mechanic that was last seen in AC 3 a decade ago), and you must rip off wanted posters or bribe heralds to lower your wanted level. Again, for old-school fans this is exactly what we’ve been asking for. They even added a classic filter setting to recreate that first AC look.
So, while I did enjoy my time with AC Mirage with making me feel like an assassin again, the bugs often associated with these open-world games do break the immersion. On one occasion, I fell off the map while trying to climb a prison during a main story mission, forcing me to restart my save and losing some progress. Besides the bugs, the only other thing that annoyed me about the game is how needlessly convoluted some of the forts and dungeons layouts are designed. The developers have made these dungeons and forts bigger for padding (and I understand the need for it), but man, spending more than 10-minutes to find a single gear chest can get frustrating when you’re trying to avoid detection… but these are just minor gripes.
Back to the positives though, the one aspect that the AC games are good at is immersing you in period the game is based on. You know that the devs at Ubisoft have spent a great deal of research in recreating world of that time period, and Baghdad is no exception. With the game being set during the Islamic golden age, we see it’s influences in the architecture, art, contributions to sciences as well. The Immersion doesn’t just stop there, the game also has a full Arabic audio option for its main cast and npcs. I know many players will stick to the English voice cast; I do implore you to at least try this out as the voice cast do an amazing job bringing the characters to life.
Okay, with all that said and done, should you play this game? Yes. Mirage may not be the exact return to form as many were expecting, with Ubisoft trying very hard to cater to two groups of fans, and yet not fully satisfying either one. The game doesn’t really introduce anything that we haven’t seen before or any significant improvements to the formula, but rather a trip of nostalgia. However, getting a chance to experience 9th century Baghdad as an Assassin is what the developers promised and they did deliver, and at the end of the day that’s what I got.