Assassin's Creed Mirage (Xbox Series X/S) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 04.10.2023

Review for Assassin

With the franchise recently celebrating its 15th anniversary, Assassin's Creed Mirage follows up 2020's Assassin's Creed Valhalla as the 13th mainline entry in the series. The scope of the AC universe has been built to staggering heights in that relatively short timeframe, with the gameplay generally evolving from entry to entry. Mirage, however, takes a few deliberate steps back in an attempt to recapture the original vision of the series: a social stealth experience in a densely packed historical setting. Gone are the RPG elements of the previous three titles. In their place is something both nostalgic and, at times, refreshing.

Despite the love-it-or-hate-it nature of the Assassin's Creed titles, it's undeniable that the historical recreations of iconic locales is always impressive. Assassin's Creed Mirage is no different, transporting the player to 9th century Baghdad where a young Basim Ibn Ishaq is taking his first fledgling steps as an assassin (or Hidden One, as they're now known). Having first encountered Basim in Valhalla, it's nice to have a little more substance added to one of that title's standout characters. He's more reminiscent of one of the series' first protagonists by virtue of his relentless dedication to the brotherhood, unlike the recent protagonists with only a loose association to the creed.

The story of Mirage is straightforward and rather unspectacular, with predictable twists and a plot that serves only to usher the player through the stunningly crafted city of Baghdad and its sandy surrounds. The inhabited areas are densely packed, offering a more purpose-built sandbox than the entries from Assassin's Creed Origins and onwards. This was a good call on Ubisoft's part; Mirage is all the better for that diminished scale, especially with the return to social stealth that originally put Assassin's Creed on the map.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Mirage on Xbox Series X/S

While the experience as a whole retains some of the mechanics and quirks introduced in 2017's Origins, it mostly takes a step back and embraces its roots as a stealth and parkour-oriented sandbox experience. Mirage's parkour and freerunning are more akin to traversal in earlier entries, with no magic handholds that made climbing somewhat mindless in the last three mainline titles. Basim must now find an actual path when scaling buildings, and the boxes, lifts and swings placed throughout the city allow for a more intentional flow to platforming. Baghdad and surrounds are flush with traversal opportunities, with nary a sparse cityscape to be found. It feels a lot like traversal in Assassin's Creed II did once upon a time.

Unfortunately, Mirage inherits the caveats of this system, too. While the return to legacy parkour is refreshing, it reintroduces pretty much all of its issues. Basim often shoots off in an undesired direction, which leads to finicky and unresponsive traversal when scaling buildings (and leaping to and from them) in the open world. It happens often enough to be frustrating, but doesn't mar the experience too badly; after all, players who loved the glory days of Assassin's Creed will be well aware of this problem going in. The same can't be said of the various bugs present in Mirage at launch, though. This reviewer didn't encounter anything game breaking, but the odd glitch and crash certainly breaks the immersion. The character model animations also look very dated; perhaps it's because players have recently been spoilt with some incredible life-like AAA titles, but it really is jarring when held up alongside them.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Mirage on Xbox Series X/S

Elsewhere, Mirage reminds the player at every opportunity that Basim is not a seasoned warrior. The RPG elements have been almost entirely done away with. Weapons and gear are finite and while they still carry stats, they aren't disposable. The lack of inventory management suits the scaled back experience well, as does the diminished skill tree, with points being acquired by completing missions rather than through a character levelling system. Basim's sword and dagger are his only weapons for dispatching alerted guards, while his greater arsenal of stealth instruments is more versatile when taking down enemies on the sly. Stealth is his first recourse and almost always the best way forward when encountering enemies, with limited options during full-blown melee combat.

That being said, the AI is seasonably subpar and can easily be overcome with the right strategy, while fleeing from combat and hiding until guards give up feels like less of a challenge than it did even in the very first Assassin's Creed, which came out in 2007. Sadly, dumb AI is something of a trend in Ubisoft titles. It shouldn't take a single smoke bomb to completely decimate a hoard of pursuing enemies but Mirage makes this a viable strategy.

Regardless, stealth is still the most prudent option when infiltrating Baghdad's guarded areas. To that end, many of the series' pioneering social stealth elements are back. Basim can blend with crowds, use hiding spots scattered across the streets and rooftops and bribe Baghdad's prominent factions to distract enemies, allowing him to slip by undetected. The notoriety system returns as well, with the world responding to any observed illegal actions by becoming increasingly vigilant. At first, non-hostile NPCs will alert nearby guards if they spot Basim in the streets, before archers take to the rooftops and finally elite guards are dispatched to hunt him down. This can be reset by tearing down wanted posters and bribing town criers — a true throwback to the series' glory days.

Enkidu, Basim's eagle companion, is more useful for stealth than exploration this time. The drone-like eagle is now a mainstay mechanic for the series, but given the lesser focus on exploration and the greater focus on stealth in Mirage, it's better suited to tagging enemies ahead of infiltration missions to gain a tactical edge. New marksmen enemies in fortified areas will target Enkidu with arrows and force the eagle to retreat, requiring Basim to take them out first before the full area can be scouted. It's a nice new layer to that particular mechanic.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Mirage on Xbox Series X/S

Most of the main infiltration mission provide multiple points of access and a variety of ways to complete the objective (which is almost always an assassination of some prominent figure or other). While not as diverse as, say, the Hitman series, there's nevertheless a few ways forward to ensure that stealth doesn't feel overly on-rails. Those clamouring for the 'good old days' of the series will likely be pleased, but it's worth noting that Mirage is more a return to this formula than an evolution of it. It doesn't say anything new beyond giving players a chance to explore historical Baghdad which, admittedly, is the true hero of the story.

To serve this, Mirage is accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack — another major highlight of the experience. Despite operating on a comparatively diminished scale, there are also plentiful side activities and collectathons to engage in: discovering and reading about historic locations, synchronising viewpoints and collecting treasures, which is mercifully not broken up by the ludicrous present day shenanigans the series is known for dispersing into these titles.

All in all, Assassin's Creed Mirage is a faithful return to the classic Assassin's Creed titles. Admittedly, it's little more than a return; it doesn't contribute anything new to the series, instead playing off of the nostalgia factor to bring players something that had until recently been phased out. Compared to Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla, it's miniscule in scale, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just don't go in expecting a groundbreaking new direction for social stealth sims.

Screenshot for Assassin's Creed Mirage on Xbox Series X/S

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Assassin's Creed Mirage offers a return to the roots the series is known for, shedding the RPG elements and massive open world for a more intimate experience. Social stealth and traditional parkour are back, and while they don't offer anything the franchise hasn't seen before, they're complemented by a gorgeous recreation of historical Baghdad. The setting is the true protagonist and offers players something new to experience where the gameplay fails to do so. Fans of the series are sure to be refreshed by this calculated step backwards for the franchise, before it inevitably returns to its massive RPG identity.

Developer

Ubisoft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 05.10.2023   North America release date 05.10.2023   Japan release date 05.10.2023   Australian release date 05.10.2023   

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