We are now at the point in the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s life where it plays to our nostalgia. I have been waiting for this since Assassin’s Creed Origins, but I realize it will not be the direction everyone wants the series to go. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time with Bayek, Kassandra, and Eivor, but Assassin’s Creed Mirage makes me feel like an assassin again, and that’s what I’ve been missing. That is not to say that Mirage is flawless or a perfect throwback to the olden days, but it clearly was made by people who love the franchise, and that carries it through the rougher patches.
Compared to recent entries, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a bit of an enigma. The campaign is on the shorter side — about thirteen or so hours if you mainline the story — and it seems to have foregone most of the live service trappings of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. There is no daily mission vendor, no gear level or experience points to grind, the Ubisoft Connect challenges only reward regular currency, and it only has a small cash shop. It is worth noting that some cash shop items are not strictly cosmetic, and can grant gameplay benefits. While I wouldn’t put it past Ubisoft to incorporate live-service elements in a future patch, the company has stated they have no post-launch plans, including no intention to sell more DLC. There isn’t even a new game+, though I kind of wish there was.
Although Mirage does offer a throwback experience to the days of Ezio and Altaïr, the engine and controls are from the more modern games. This works better than I expected it would, but there are still some hitches in it. The primary change from recent games is that the emphasis shifts from brutal combat to stealthy assassinations. Basim is not a berserker like Eivor, so when you get spotted the fights can actually be tough, especially if an armored foe is involved. Also, a lot more of Mirage takes place in cramped areas or rooms, unlike Valhalla’s open fields, and the camera struggles to adapt. I suffered more than a few deaths to bad camera angles, or to the camera itself freaking out and becoming a stuttering mess. However, this is all counter-balanced by how immensely satisfying it can be to eliminate an entire fortress full of enemies without ever getting noticed. Like the Ezio trilogy, Mirage makes you feel like an assassin.
Graphics-wise Assassin’s Creed Mirage ranges from looking fantastic at times to utterly comical. The engine is showing its age, and this new game pushes it to the limits. There are occasions, mostly scripted ones, where the game looks beautiful and captures the beauty of Baghdad in all its splendor. And, there are situations where you’ll talk to an NPC and wonder if they were raiding the vault of Nintendo 64 assets. For the latter I’m generally willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they just didn’t have the time to get them properly modeled, but it is jarring when you encounter them. This is doubly true when it’s an NPC involved in a cutscene. However, even main characters like Roshan and Basim have oddly stiff hair and soulless eyes, and there’s no getting around that.
In contrast to the graphics the sound is well crafted. The core characters are all wonderfully acted, and the game benefits greatly from Shohreh Aghdashloo, of The Expanse fame, in the role of Roshan, the assassin leader. Lee Majdoub does an excellent job as Basim, and most of the NPCs are solid all around. You can certainly find some NPCs with less than stellar voice acting, but they are the exceptions. The music fits the game well, and effectively draws you into the game without getting intrusive.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review Final Thoughts:
Assassin’s Creed Mirage makes for a refreshing change of pace within the franchise. That’s not to say that the recent titles were bad — between the three I think I have around 200 hours invested — but the series needed a bit of a shake-up to keep it from going stagnant (again). The enigmatic upcoming Codename Red is likely years away, and should be a generational shift for the game. In a sense, Mirage may be the coda to an era of the franchise, and it fills that role well. The one caveat is that if you are looking for more all-out action like in Odyssey or Valhalla then you may be disappointed. If, however, you want to put the “assassin” back in “Assassin’s Creed” this is an excellent game to do it with.