As I speed through the sand-soaked cities of Baghdad on foot, I wonder what is coming next. Do I need to worry about the guards recognizing my face since I haven’t cleared my notoriety in a fair bit of time? Do I need to worry about missing a jump as I cascade across the rooftops of the buildings before me, plummetting to my death? Or do I need to worry about being unable to talk to an NPC who can upgrade my equipment, even though I’ve left the area about 5 times at this point, and they still won’t give me the speak prompt?
My experience with Assassin’s Creed Mirage was full of wonder, from taking in the gorgeous scenery around me to the general wonder of design decisions that made the game turn out how it did. While not everything is perfect in this particular adventure, I found myself eager to jump back in at any moment of free time that I had, even when things started spiraling out of my control.
Arabian Nights Are Unlike Arabian Days
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a beautiful game from its first moments on my screen. Detailed environments, littered with fine bits of decor that a keen eye can spot, showcase the visual splendor that awaits you. I could have likely finished the game sooner if not for the fact that I kept jumping into photo mode whenever I thought I could snag a neat picture that would showcase the visual prowess of this game. While it still may be a cross-generation title, the Quality mode that I used on my Xbox Series X helped fill the world with extra details, while Performance mode toned down the overall detail in exchange for a 60 FPS cap. While Quality mode still had some stuttering and dropped frames here and there, I found it my preferred way to play the game.
Baghdad has been lovingly recreated here, and everything is a treat to the eyes. Texture work on cloth and fabric looks sharp, and Basim, the assassin of the hour, animates fluidly. As sand tracks his footing before blending into the lush greenery of farmland before me, I find Mirage to look quite spectacular. It’s a shame, however, that the faces didn’t receive the same love and attention as the environments.
Faces have unfortunately taken quite the hit, and their general lack of attention and detail can throw you out of the action rather quickly. While the rest of the world looks like a current-generation game, the faces and lip-sync fall more in line with an Xbox 360/PS3 game. It’s a shame, as the voice acting across the board is quite splendid, but falls flat when it comes out of a mouth that looks like it’s chewing a large wad of bubble gum.
While I did switch back and forth between languages to see how English sounded, I primarily played through Assassin’s Creed Mirage in the character’s native language of Arabic to set the stage for what was to come down the line. Characters are brought to life through expressive voice acting, with both the English VA Lee Majdoub and Arabic VA Eyad Nassar (إياد نصّار) for Basim being the standout here. Both deliver their lines passionately and help the game stand on its own two feet.
Generalized sound design is also excellent as per the usual Ubisoft standard. The environment is alive with the sound of merchants peddling their wares to the detail put into the world by including the Adhan (أَذَان) as you approach the Mosque is something that deserves a nod of admiration for its attention to detail. You can tell the team at Ubisoft Bordeaux cared deeply about the world they were crafting and wanted to make it as realistic as possible.
A Return To Basics, Or Is It?
To be upfront and honest with the reader, it’s been a very long time since I have stepped into the shoes of an Assassin. After overloading myself with the franchise when I was younger, I’ve since stepped out of the Animus and decided I needed a very long break from the franchise. As I watched it twist and turn into an amalgamation of what it once was into the Action-RPG franchise that it has become today, I thought that I had made the right decision.
The problem, for me, at least, is that it’s stuck between a rock and a hard place of wanting to invent a new blend of classic stealth gameplay, while also keeping particular parts of newer games like Valhalla that just feel out of place here.
Then, Assassin’s Creed Mirage was revealed, and I was immediately interested. It was a back-to-basics game where I wouldn’t need to worry about a 200-hour playtime, and it looked and felt like the classic series I broke off of after Revelations. Sign me up, please. And for the most part, it completely succeeds at emulating what made the classic games so appealing to me. A parkour system that feels fluid, if not a little too restrictive at times, stealth-based gameplay that requires you to think before approaching your foes is all here.
The problem, for me, at least, is that it’s stuck between a rock and a hard place of wanting to invent a new blend of classic stealth gameplay, while also keeping particular parts of newer games like Valhalla that just feel out of place here. Combat, in particular, was one of the game’s weaker points, while the general feeling of assassinating someone felt better than I remember it. Combat is rather simplistic, with a few enemy types that all perform the same. You have your standard foot soldier, who takes just a few hits before they’re down. You’ve got the Heavy Soldiers that require you to circle their back and eliminate them by hitting their exposed weak spots. It’s a slog and was quickly one of my least favorite parts of the game.
Since I haven’t played since the game’s Xbox 360/PS3 era, I was unaware of the changes to the combat system and was expecting the almost Arkham Universe style of combat. Gone is the cinematic camera and enemies surrounding you from every side, forcing you to keep your eyes peeled and your sword ready. Instead, you’ll find enemies approaching you from the front in a straight line, waiting to get hit while absorbing every swipe of your sword with little to no feedback.
However, on the opposite side of the coin, the assassinations in Mirage felt near impeccable. Be it from the variety of tools you can unlock, from throwing knives to smoke bombs (unlock these first, I beg you, they’re incredible tools), the feeling of stealth, and the thrill of sneaking up on a foe to eliminate them felt genuinely fantastic. It’s a shame that the standard combat system feels like such a chore, even if it’s meant to “make you think about how you approach a battle.” A sloppy combat system is a sloppy combat system, even if you can unlock skills to make battles feel better as you progress through the story.
Parkour, the other main draw of the franchise since its inception, feels excellent… mostly. Basim tends to stick to objects like he has the stickiest glue imaginable stuck to the bottom of his sandals, resulting in far too many times watching him do his little dancy-dance at the edge of a building instead of making his way toward an object of interest. It was annoying at worst, but I felt near unstoppable at its best, surging with a rush of enjoyment I hadn’t felt in many years. It’s not the best Parkour system that Ubisoft has brought to the table, but it’s perfectly serviceable, all things considered.
The other main issue I had was the plethora of bugs and glitches I ran into during my time with Mirage. While some may have been humorous visual glitches, like a floating NPC or Camel in the background, others were detrimental to the overall gameplay experience. More than once, I ran into an issue where I could not speak to merchants or characters who could upgrade my weapons and armor. Even if I left the area, fast-traveled back to the spot they were located, or passed time, I could still not speak with them. A complete restart of the game was necessary more than once to fix these issues, and even still, they came back as I continued progressing through the game.
A Tale As Old As Time – The Story
The convoluted web of tales that the Assassin’s Creed series has weaved over the years has taken us all over the world, taking us from the newly formed New York City to the streets of Baghdad. However, Basim ended up being one of my favorite playable characters by the time his story came to a close, even if the story along the way was slightly cookie-cutter.
Ignoring side content, you can breeze through Mirage in about 10 to 12 hours, making it the perfect weekend game to lose yourself in. But, will anything stick, making you think down the line “Yeah, this moment in Mirage was one of my favorites in the series”?
Ignoring side content, you can breeze through Mirage in about 10 to 12 hours, making it the perfect weekend game to lose yourself in. But will anything worm its way into your brain and make you think, “Yeah, this moment in Mirage was one of my favorites in the series?” It’s unlikely, but a few genuine moments make you feel incredible that I can’t stop thinking about. While it’s not the best writing ever seen in an Assassin’s Creed game, it propels the story forward and underscores its excellent stealth gameplay.
As much as I enjoyed playing Basim, I wish they had taken the opportunity to let you learn more about him and give him a bit more backstory rather than the morsels that you are given throughout the story. After I completed the main game, I messed around with the side content and missions to see if there was anything else waiting for me, and I left the game with just as much information as I came in with.
Thankfully, to the relief of those feeling the fatigue of bloat, Mirage is pretty lean. There is still some content fatigue that can be felt overall in this experience, but it’s very to the point. The game is always willing to help push you along in the right direction to keep the action moving, and you won’t need to worry about a plethora of fetch quests putting you over the 200-hour mark.
The story of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a bit hit or miss. If you’ve played the most recent Assassin’s Creed title, you already know of Basim and his fate, with Assassin’s Creed Mirage laying out what led him to become what he is. As someone unfamiliar with this particular character, I found myself scratching my head at the ending until I realized the connection between the two. You can feel that Mirage was meant as DLC, with some extra story beats put on to extend the run time.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve played something like Assassin’s Creed Mirage, a game that provided me with much enjoyment through many bugs, glitches, and general issues that would have made me quit just about any other game. The feel of a classic Assassin’s Creed game is something that speaks to me on a spiritual level, providing excellent stealth-based gameplay with the ability to explore the world on any plane of its existence.
While Assassin’s Creed Mirage may not have hit every mark that I hoped it would, with cumbersome combat and a general feeling of lost identity leading the pack, I can still happily recommend Assassin’s Creed Mirage to anyone hoping to spark the enjoyment of a franchise they once fell in love with. Give me a smaller, more intimate adventure like this any day of the week, and I’ll be there every time, even if it isn’t perfect.
Assassin's Creed Mirage
t's been quite a while since I've played something like Assassin's Creed Mirage, a game that provided me with much enjoyment through a myriad of bugs, glitches, and general issues that would have made me quit just about any other game. The feel of a classic Assassin's Creed game is something that speaks to me on a spiritual level, providing excellent stealth-based gameplay with the ability to explore the world on any plane of its existence.
- Stunning world, packed with details
- Sound design is incredible and rich
- Stealth gameplay feels nearly perfect
- Standard combat feels lacking
- Story is bland
- You can feel this was meant as DLC
- Bugs and Glitches galore
A copy of this game was provided by GAMURS Group for review. Reviewed on Xbox Series X.