The promise of returning the Assassin’s Creed series to its roots may have been fulfilled, but unfortunately, it seems that we should have been careful about what we wished for. Mirage disappoints on many levels – from design to execution – although there are also a couple of upsides.
Missed chance for one of the best installments
Assassin's Creed Mirage, the latest installment of Ubisoft's assassin series – takes us on a journey to the Middle East once again, more specifically to ninth-century Baghdad. The creators remind us about the classic formula of games about hooded assassins, already forgotten by many by now. This is a spin-off title with a world significantly smaller in size compared to the outrageously huge ACs Valhalla and Origins.
- Return to the roots (& emphasis on stealth)
- A smaller world, not saturated with meaningless activities
- Pleasant progression system
- Interesting mechanics
- Well-balanced combination of old and new
- Textures quality, jerky frame rate
- Clumsy combat system
- Strange, random bugs
- Virtually no plot
- Inhabitants of Baghdad can behave like they're insane.
- AI opponents
- Shallow dialogues
Now, I would really love to say this is a production that brings a surge of nostalgic feelings taking us back to roots, but the carelessness that Ubisoft has displayed at this occasion you cannot ignore. This is probably the biggest blunder since Assassin’s Creed Unity and Syndicate, but let's start with the good news, ok?
Mirage indeed returned to the series origins and there are pros and cons to this. Fans of the stealthy installments of the series have something to be excited about because the game is going back to more undercover assassinations, once again focusing on quietly taking out the targets. Basim uses a hidden blade to that end, as well as a dagger and a sword in case of more open confrontations. Direct attacks are not very effective, however, and getting exposed will significantly complicate the gameplay. Fighting more than two guards at once, without using smoke bombs, is a real hustle.
Now, in my book, this is a huge advantage, because it makes the gameplay much more demanding and it's no longer enough to maximize the XP level and equip the most powerful gear to simply rush into a camp full of hostile warriors and mow them all down. Assassin’s Creed Mirage forces players to strategize and focus.
However, the return to the roots affected not only the nature of the gameplay, but also technical matters. I will even dare to say that in this aspect, the new release sometimes surpasses even the earliest installments of the series, but more on that later.
Hello? Is it the year 2015?
Unfortunately, under the desert roads of Iraq's 9th-century capital, the technical foundations of AC Mirage are barely holding together. It doesn't feel like this game was made to match the graphical standards of 2023, which can hit you especially hard once you're reminded that this is the smallest installment in the series in years. Sometimes it feels like Ubisoft treated this title as an unpleasant chore they had to get over with.
I have very mixed feelings about the graphics of Assassin’s Creed Mirage. At times it looks pretty cool, but on the other hand, there's no shortage of blurring textures, poor facial animations or really poor water (check out the waterfalls). This negligence is most noticeable when climbing peaks and synchronization at viewpoints.
The game also comes with its share of various immersion-breaking bugs. For example, somewhere in the middle of the game, a vial of life elixir began to levitate around my character – believe it or not, but it persistently stayed with me until the end of the game, which was quite irritating. Our main character, Basim, loved performing the dramatic gesture of putting a hood on his head so much that he even did it during cutscenes while wearing an outfit without a hood, which looked rather comical. There was also plenty of strange behavior from the NPCs.
See nothing, hear nothing
Eavesdropping is nice for immersion, but happens so often you'll likely get fed up with it.Assassin's Creed Mirage, Ubisoft, 2023
The AI of opponents deserves a separate paragraph, as it also leaves much to be desired. It's really damn hard to get immersed in a game when your enemies act like helpless children. In essence, Basim's outstanding skills seem absolutely unnecessary at times. You sit in the bushes (half exposed, by the way, but still undetected by the enemy), planning a strategy that ultimately becomes useless, because the enemies are just dumb.
It's possible, for example, to kill an enemy within close proximity of another guard, as long as the latter is facing the opposite direction. No one notices. You can be careless with stealth, too – your character could be glaringly visible, and as long as you're crouching withing a vegetation texture, everyone apparently just takes you for a humanoid rock. Someone chasing you? Keep calm, just circle the building twice – the opponent is guaranteed to be baffled.
On the upside, Ubisoft has decided to return to an interesting system of chases. Misbehavior won't always go unpunished. If we mess up too much, our recognizability will increase, along with the risk of being noticed by guards on the streets. We need to take care of our notoriety, which allows us to remain in the shadows if it's kept low. We can reduce it in two ways – by tearing down posters with the image of Basim or by bribing the right NPC.
Gloomy Basim from Baghdad
“Indeed, in my humble opinion, AC Mirage is a good candidate for one of the worst installments of Ubisoft's Assassin's series. The whole thing is rather embarrassing, disappointing, and synthetic in a bad way; forced. However, I must praise the creators for a quite successful combination of old and new gameplay formulas.”
While playing AC Mirage, I focused mainly on completing the main plot, due to limited time. The story background isn't anything new – the whole thing revolves around the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Order of the Ancients. These quests focus on finding and eliminating members of the order, preceded by searching for clues and conducting investigations.
Skill tree isn't impressive, and worse still, many of these skills aren't very useful.Assassin's Creed Mirage, Ubisoft, 2023
This isn't a story masterpiece or a tale full of twists and turns, but truth be told, that has never been Ubisoft's signature. The acting performance seems rather poor and devoid of stronger emotions. Personally, I found the whole thing dragging on for ages, and the only thing that sort of kept me going forward was the character of Roshan and a slight hue of horror. The dark genie tormenting Basim in his dreams had that special something, but I won't say any more, so as not to spoil anything for you.
It may seem that the source of problems in the latest installments of the Assassin's Creed series are increasingly large and not engaging worlds, but Ubisoft proves that this isn't the catch. The return to the "good old days" did not entirely work, and I had very high hopes it would. I was really fascinated by this revival and the opportunity to delve into the history of Basim, the assassin known from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
However, this is a small ray of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel, because the idea itself remains quite robust. Simply, a greater commitment from the creators, more attention to detail, and serious consideration of the player's real expectations is needed. Ubisoft was wise to take a step back, but where's the passion and love for creating games? For Assassin's Creed Mirage, it's unfortunately the end – this title will forever be remembered as a source of untapped potential, although it could have been pretty beautiful...
Indeed, in my humble opinion, AC Mirage is a good candidate for one of the worst installments of Ubisoft's Assassin's series. The whole thing is rather embarrassing, disappointing, and synthetic in a bad way; forced. However, I must praise the creators for a quite successful combination of old and new gameplay formulas. Despite all that, I'm hoping for more and keeping my fingers crossed for the next stealth installment of Assassin’s Creed.
Sandra Kicinska | Gamepressure.com