Originally published at: Review | Assassin’s Creed: Mirage - XboxEra
Beginning development as an expansion for AC: Valhalla, Assassin’s Creed: Mirage takes us to Baghdad as it tells the story of Basim. Whether you’ve seen his story arc in Valhalla or not, you can enjoy a roughly 14 hour or so long adventure in this more directed and “old school” style Assassin’s Creed adventure. There is no leveling, and nearly every enemy can be taken down with a stealth kill. Is it the return to the series’ roots that so many loud voices have been clamoring for? No, not really, and I think that’s a good thing.
The Nightmares of our Precursors
The game begins with you living the life of the thief Basim of year 861 in Baghdad, Iraq. As it tends to go in this story, your whole world gets turned upside down and you find yourself brought into The Hidden Ones, later to be named The Assassin’s. Basim has led a terrible life, filled with nightmares of a Djinni haunting him in his sleep. The best medicine for this is of course murdering a large number of wicked people. I beat the campaign in roughly 14 hours, while dipping my toes into the various side content on offer. I wouldn’t be surprised if a 100% run was no more than 25 hours, which is the game’s biggest strength.
The narrative was solid, if predictable. Enemy and Ally alike felt well rounded though most weren’t particularly deep. The game started out as an expansion and it’s clear in the scope and scale of everything. For those who felt overwhelmed by the length of AC: Valhalla this game is what you’ve been after. The majority of it takes place in a single, decently large map. There is no grinding to be found either.
Whereas previous AC titles have become more and more RPG like with their leveling and gameplay styles, AC: Mirage has no experience points or gear power levels. Instead your skill points, which are limited to three small trees, and Assassin Rank are tied to main story progression. There are multiple gear and weapon types to use, each with three ranks. These ranks slightly raise the damage done on weapons and empower the native perk on each piece.
The version of the game we were given had a set I ended up using most of my playthrough, simply because of how cool the weapons looked. They didn’t do more damage, instead having a unique passive effect that I could level up. You have an armor slot, main hand weapon, dagger, and amulet slots for gear. There is also a cosmetic slot for armor that override the look of what you have equipped without changing its passive buff. I don’t believe amulets do anything outside of look cool, and the simplistic nature of it all fit the game and what I wanted out of it perfectly.
Is Being Good Enough?
As a smaller scoped title, AC: Mirage has an MSRP of $50. I enjoyed my time with it, as someone who has seen the entire story of AC: Valhalla it added a bit of depth to one of that game’s most important characters. I do think a lot will be missed for those who don’t know exactly what happened in that title, so either before or after playing through this one I’d suggest finding one of the many great breakdown videos about Basim on YouTube.
From the music to the graphics and gameplay every part of this game is a mix of ok and really good. None of it fell flat for me, and none of it felt great. This is not the call back to Assassin’s Creed (the original) that many hoped for, which I also thing is a good thing. For all the faults of the modern titles with their scope creep, they play really damned well. Mirage keeps up that modern control feeling while dialing back the RPG grind elements that hit hard in the last three entries. You can once again stealth kill all but a few of the toughest enemies (and you can stealth kill every major target).
The city of Baghdad has some light puzzle elements mixed in, with the biggest changes being how you work through quests. Investigations are their name now, and you will be doing a ton of them as you track down The Order (later renamed The Templars). Most of these are linear in nature, with one section where you can choose which of three paths you’d like to take first. There are no choices to make, outside of how you approach a fight, and the ability to easily assassinate all enemies makes the game a hell of a lot easier.
You’ll be able to unlock various toolsets including a throwing knife that can one shot any non-armored foe in the head. Smoke bombs that break line-of-site and let you easily kill anyone caught up in them, and a lot more. It’s a fun system tied again to the quick and easy skill point system. To get the three materials needed for the tool upgrades you’ll have to loot a lot of chests and pickpocket the unwitting citizens around you. Picking pockets is a short timing based mini game, having you press Y at the right time as a diamond closes in slow motion on the screen.
Combat is simplified and a lot easier, too. Basim uses a sword and dagger combination. These attacks are on the right bumper while a dodge is on X. These both use stamina, which is quick to run out and slow to regenerate. The main ability you’ll want to master is the incredibly powerful and generous parry on your left bumper. A parried opponent can often be instantly killed, with tougher variants requiring a bit of HP loss before becoming vulnerable. Enemy AI is pretty dumb, and it is incredibly easy to lose line-of-site and drop all aggro at all times. Like the rest of the game I found the combat and even exploration “really good, but not great”.
Graphically on Xbox Series X the game looks fantastic in Quality Mode and decent in Performance. I’m a sucker for 60FPS and I gave it up because the game just looked so much better while running at 30. In the latter part of my playthrough I was able to get access on PC as well , and thanks the Ubisoft Connect account system my save was ready for me. The game is stunning on PC, running at 4k/60fps on my 5800X/7900XTX setup. Some character models look a bit off, mostly crowd NPC ones, but the main characters look great. Stunning art design is matched by mostly excellent animations.
The music in the game keeps up the series’ high-bar for quality. In a year of awesome soundtracks this was one of my favorites, which tends to happen for AC games with me. The writing and voice acting were stellar, especially the job down by the actor voicing Basim’s Master, Shohreh Aghdashloo. The surround mix using both Atmos and DTS:X was flawless on console and PC, helping me know where enemies were just by sound while I snuck around palaces looking to take out their leader.
Bug wise the only major issues I had were with pathing. Both for Basim and NPC’s the game wasn’t always great about people going where they should. The parkour mostly worked well, with issues coming with some of the interactables. Most of the times I went to use a lift by pressing A, Basim would ignore it and start climbing the wall. NPC pathing found human and animals-alike all over the damned place, with some flying 20 feet if I got too close on my mount. I had one hard crash on PC and no stability issues at all on console.
Wrapping Things Up
Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is a solid entry in the release-filled series. Featuring a far shorter campaign than previous titles it sacrifices “value in hours” for “valuable hours”. Mirage is a tight package that any Assassin’s Creed fan, new or old, will enjoy.