What to know
- Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the latest instalment in the long-running series, which promises to go back to its stealth-focused roots.
- AC Mirage was initially planned as a DLC project for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but Ubisoft decided to make this a standalone game.
- In this article, we explore the various facets of the game, from visuals to mechanics to innovation, and see if this is the next big step forward, or just another reskinned project.
Where it All Began
Back in 2007, Assassin’s Creed came out and started a franchise that would remain relevant even a decade later. The first game was actually intended to be a sequel to the old Prince of Persia games, but the mechanics and overall feel turned out to be so different, that Ubisoft decided to launch it as a new IP altogether. The following games, known as the Ezio Trilogy, are embedded in history as some of the greatest action video games ever made. Then came Assassin’s Creed III, set during the Civil War. It got a mixed reception, but there was certainly a lot of effort put into giving players a new experience.
And the one after that, Black Flag, absolutely blew it out of the park with amazing characters, story, and the sheer joy of being a charming yet deadly pirate. So, for a series with so many amazing titles under its belt, the future should have been full of fandom and success, right? Well, things started going downhill very soon.
Assassin’s Creed Unity was their first game for the next generation of gaming consoles, namely the Xbox One and PlayStation 5. But at launch, it was an absolute disaster. It was chock-full of bugs and glitches, making it nearly unplayable on every platform. Soon, it became more popular as a meme than a next-gen game. Yes, after many patches and updates, they did fix it quite a bit, and I would say it’s quite a nice game to play today. It definitely has the best parkour mechanics in the entire series, and the visuals were ahead of their time.
But the true downfall of the franchise began with the RPG era. Ubisoft released Assassin’s Creed: Origins in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, this game was amazing. The recreation of ancient Egypt was absolutely stunning, and it was a joy to follow Bayek on his journey of revenge and respite. But the problem lay in the death of immersion.
Oh avarice, why art thou so cruel? It was all great till the series remained a historical adventure where one could meet people like Socrates, Charles Darwin, George Washington, and more. Yes, you can still meet some famous personalities in the recent games, but this time, you’d be dressed in a fiery samurai armor with a katana that shoots lightning (this is in Viking Norway, by the way). So I think you understand what I’m getting at. Ever since the in-game gear purchases have entered, the historical authenticity has gone for a toss.
Even in Mirage, which has but a handful of gear sets, Ubisoft as added these absurd, out-of-place gear sets in the Ubisoft store, for players to spend their money on looking like the Cirque du Soleil came to Baghdad.
Let’s Talk About Mirage
When Ubisoft announced that their upcoming title would take us back to the series’ roots, I was ecstatic. Like many other long-term fans, I’ve been starved for a decent Assassin’s Creed game for almost a decade. Now that I’ve been playing it for a few days, I see that they’ve pretty much taken one step forward, and three steps back. Let’s go through the different elements of Assassin’s Creed Mirage and see what they’ve done well, and what they have absolutely botched.
- The stealth focused missions are a nice change of pace. We got so used to diving off of cliffs into a group of enemies with godlike powers, that we forgot the art and finesse of stealth.
- The city of Baghdad during the Abbasid Dynasty is brimming with life and there is never a moment that you feel like it’s just another empty sandbox.
- The soundtrack is absolutely mesmerising. It enhances the immersion factor tenfold, and you actually feel like you’re in a new, exotic location.
- The assassin tools at your disposal work very well with the new stealth-based approach. Every upgrade of these tools change them quite drastically, and you build a custom loadout to cater to your playstyle.
- We have to give special props to the post-assassination cutscenes. [SPOILER AHEAD] When you take down a main order target, there is this dark, ominous cutscene where a nightmarish creature haunts you. That was quite a nice touch to show the internal conflict Basim goes through every time he kills.
- The combat finisher moves are fun and varied enough to not get old across its 15-30 hour playtime.
- You can approach primary target assassinations differently, with each being a mini-questline of its own. This is a call-back to AC Unity, where your approach played a vital role in how the mission plays out.
- The side contracts are actually pretty fun, especially with the bonus objectives. They make you use all the tools at your disposal to finish the contract as smoothly as possible.
- Remember those adrenaline-fuelled missions back in the Ezio Trilogy, where you soared across Rome with a contraption made by Leonardo Da Vinci himself? Or how about the thrill of running across a battlefield, dodging fire from both sides during the Civil War? Well, you can forget all that. Despite being such a linear, story-driven game, Mirage fails to have any such exciting moments or set pieces. It’s more like a narrative drama that progresses with the intermittent stealth and combat.
- The visuals, for a game that came out in the 2nd half of 2023, is pretty drab. The characters’ facial details are abysmal, and the world itself has no ‘stop and stare’ moments where you could just marvel what’s in front of you. We have all appreciated gazing upon the great Pyramids of Giza in AC Origins, or the Notre Dam in Unity. Well, there isn’t any such moment here in Mirage.
- There is just a handful or armor sets and weapons in the game. That would have been fine if they changed the gameplay drastically. But alas, that isn’t the case. The perks that come with said armors or weapons are negligible, like lowering your notoriety percentage or reducing your assassination noise. You could go the entire game using any gear piece, and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
- The game, overall, fails to distinguish itself from anything we’ve seen before. Ubisoft seems to have confused ‘going back to the roots’ with ‘reusing various mechanics’. The stealth kill animations, puzzles, the destructible rubble walls, you’ve seen it all before. Look at the image above and tell me you haven’t seen all of these exact objects in Valhalla.
- Assassin’s Creed Mirage, as we have said before, was supposed to be a DLC for AC Valhalla. And it definitely should have remained that way.
- The game blatantly throws things we have seen in Valhalla in your face, from the barred door puzzles, to fire pots, to the crate-pushing puzzles. Even the UI of the game is the same as Valhalla! In many places, they haven’t even bothered to reskin the assets; just picked it up from Valhalla and put them in here directly.
- The supernatural, ‘head on fire sword on ice’ premium gear sets are back in the Ubisoft store. Just when we thought they had listened to the fans that they want a historical, fairly realistic game, Ubisoft tries to sell you another completely out-of-place gear set. Mirage is a very short game, with no DLCs planned. Yet, they try to sell you premium outfits blatantly.
- Going back to the character animations again, you can tell that it’s straight up picked up from Valhalla, and the facial details, even on the main characters, are absolutely terrible. They would have been decent if we were in the PlayStation 3 era, but with games like God of War and Horizon Forbidden West that came out earlier than Mirage, there is just no excuse to sell such a sub-par product and expect the franchise to do well.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage feels like a last-minute group project that you and your buddies threw together, just to scrape by on the day of submission. The amount of reused resources and assets is glaringly obvious, the mission designs aren’t exciting, and there is a complete lack of innovation in the entire product. The series needed a major overhaul, and Ubisoft completely missed the mark with this one. Unity doesn’t seem that bad at this point, does it?
That’s all for our two cents on the latest entry on the Assassin’s Creed franchise. How are you liking Mirage so far? Do you think the series can be salvaged in the future? Let us know in the comments! Until then, stay tuned to NerdsChalk for more from the world of gaming. See you next time!