When I first heard about the plans from Ubisoft to take the Assassins Creed franchise back to its roots, I can’t say that I was filled with enthusiasm. I for one had become a huge fan of the new take on the series, with sprawling narratives, large maps and tons of stuff to do. It made the series feel so much bigger and larger. It gave a huge sense of scope to keep me engaged. But I felt I should give Assassins Creed Mirage a chance, even if it goes back to a time where the games in the series were good, but could be very frustrating. I found myself surprised the scope and feel of Mirage, but there is a lot of quirkiness that left me wanting more from the game.
AC Mirage moves us backwards on the timeline from the last game in the series, Valhalla. However, it does bring us a protagonist from that game in Basim. Here, we get to see the humble beginnings of Basim, starting out as a street urchin, but working his way up to a veteran assassin. However, there is something dark inside of Basim. We are unsure of what it might be, but it seems to haunt his dreams, and starts to become part of his background when he assassinates a target.
As stated, AC Mirage is a throwback to a classic style of the Assassins Creed games. While you do have a large open world, there are few extra tasks for you to find on the map. Instead, it is very mission focused, pushing you to track down clues and assassinating targets. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be down going back to this style of game, but it works for what AC Mirage wants to be. It looks to be a shorter, and more focused journey. Gone are the plethora of icons all over the map that task you with missions you can do. Here, you just have your missions along with targets for treasure or towers. Thankfully, with the fallback to the old mission design, they did get rid of some of the more frustrating mission types. No longer to you have to stay in a specific range of a target to ease drop, just find a bench near them and you are set (sorry, but those missions drove me nuts).
I have to admit that I have not played Assassins Creed Valhalla to completion, and apparently there is a lot there you learn about Basim that factors into what you slowly find out about him here. The problem in AC Mirage is that you come to a place in the game where it is assumed that you have that previous information in your memory banks when it comes to the end of the game. I hit the ending of this game, and I was completely confused. I point this out, because I don’t want other to be shocked if they get to the end of the game and super confused about what all of it means. No spoilers per se, but you can get a better synopsis online if you so choose.
I will admit that I enjoyed the character of Baghdad as a whole. The environments are gorgeous, and set up tons of ways to navigate the environment and target your kills. It also looks great as you travel through it. There are claustrophobic pathways, waterways and congested shopping areas that bustle with traffic. Moving to a smaller, more focused title, allowed the devs to really build a wonderful 9th century recreation of Baghdad for AC Mirage.
I think the biggest issue with AC Mirage is that it really feels pointless at the end of the day. It doesn’t really add much to the main line series, except maybe give some more background on Basim as a character. There is no real world interactions as with previous games. You are never actually playing an operator in an animus, or any of that stuff. It kind of feels like Assassins Creed Unity, where Arno just seems to have no place in the mainline Assassins Creed franchise. Sure, Basim means a lot according to people talking about Assassins Creed Valhalla, but if you don’t have that foundation under your belt, he means nothing.
Overall, I did enjoy most of what I played in AC Mirage. It manages to be a throwback game in the series, but it removes a ton of the headaches with the gameplay mechanics of those past games. It just felt a little bland and confusing at the end of the day. I would recommend finishing Valhalla before you come into this one, as you will probably get more out of it. If not, you might want to wait until you can pick it up on the cheap.