Assassin’s Creed Mirage started as another DLC for AC Valhalla but grew to become its own standalone game. After playing the entire game, I think this is one of Ubisoft’s best decisions. Ubisoft Bordeaux previously worked on AC Valhalla’s first DLC, Wrath of the Druids, and wanted to take Mirage back to the roots of the first Assassin’s Creed (2007) game.
The plan was to commemorate the franchise’s 15-year history of games. As a standalone release now, AC Mirage successfully brings back the DNA of the original game and builds upon it by adding the best elements from each of the iconic games in the series.
I’ve always been wary of “back to the roots” taglines for Assassin’s Creed games dev videos. But Assassin’s Creed Mirage is different. It’s the closest any game in the series has come to the original Assassin’s Creed, not just in setting but in gameplay. The setting and soundtrack are incredible, and Basim was a fascinating character right from AC Valhalla. But the real star of Mirage is the parkour. It’s like finding a long-lost love. After years of exploring vast, open worlds, I finally can experience the dense urban parkour I’ve missed so much.
Mirage has some flaws, but it’s a refreshing return to the DNA of pre-RPG era Assassin’s Creed games. You won’t want to miss Mirage if you’re a fan of the original games.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage Review
AC Mirage focuses on the stealth gameplay the franchise is known for. And like the early games of Altair and Ezio to days of Unity and Syndicate, Mirage packs the campaign and additional content in just under 20 hours. This is a good relief from the painful bloatware of 100+ hours the series turned into.
Gone are the massive open worlds sprawling across multiple cities and even countries in some cases. And along with that, you don’t need hours of grinding on the previous RPG mechanics to max out your favorite skills anymore.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage focuses its entire plot around Baghdad and Alamut Castle, featured during Altaïr’s story. Mirage has a short plotline, and the new limited scope of the map results in characters you might not care about with a few plot holes, but the intimate gameplay experience and fun it delivers are more than enough to make up for all its flaws.
But Assassin’s Creed Mirage is not for everyone. The main reason is the story. As you may know, games that are under 20 hours runtime usually depend on their compelling story to make them successful to an extent. I won’t apply this to roguelike games like Hades (2020) – that game would still be awesome if you strip away all its dialogues. Tunic (2022) is another example.
But since Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009), Ubisoft shifted its focus heavily on the lore part and wanted to make a deep interlinking connection across all these characters who lived across different centuries in different parts of the world. So, depending on how much you are into this pre-established lore may affect your perception of the AC Mirage. I will try to explain this as much as possible now.
Also, if you don’t care about the story since the story elements, you can directly skip the subheading to the next one below to look into the new features and gameplay mechanisms.
Plot: marhaban bik ‘ayuha al-mustatir
Set in 9th-century Baghdad under the Abbasid caliphate, Mirage follows the story of Basim Ibn Ishaq (voiced by Lee Majdoub), a young street thief under the guidance of his mentor Roshan (voiced by Shohreh Aghdashloo), who joins the Hidden Ones, the early incarnation of the Assassin Brotherhood we know today.
Since the release of AC Valhalla in 2020, we now know human reincarnations of the Asgardian Isu Loki. And since Loki took the “Mead” after Odin and the other six Asgardian Isu left the Yggdrasil Chamber (bad luck to Heimdall), Loki was born in Samarra (Abbasid Caliphate) compared to all others reborn in northern Europe.
So this makes Assassin’s Creed Mirage a coming-of-age story for Basim. But don’t expect to see everything in Basim’s saga from his life as a young thief at age 17 till he meets Viking Sigurd at age 35. So AC Mirage is just part of Basim’s saga and acts as the prequel to the novel “Assassin’s Creed: The Golden City” and the events of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla game.
If I am to give anything more about the story, I will be essentially walking into ‘major spoilers’ territory. But if you have skipped AC Valhalla or if picking up an Assassin’s Creed game for the first time, then Mirage’s story might just lead you to more questions than answers.
Like previous AC games, which focus on major revolutions or wars, the main chuck of AC Mirage’s story takes place Zanj Rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate led by Ali ibn Muhammad. For your reference, here are some of the previous wars and revolutions shown in AC games:
- Assassin’s Creed – Third Crusade
- Assassin’s Creed 3 – American Revolution
- Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation – French and Indian War
- Assassin’s Creed Rogue – Seven Years’ War
- Assassin’s Creed Unity – French Revolution
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India – Anglo-Sikh War
- Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: Russia – October Revolution
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – Peloponnesian War (between Athens and Sparta)
- Assassin’s Creed Rebellion – Spanish Inquisition
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Viking Great Army
As a Hidden One, Basim was to help Zanj to resist Caliphate’s army (controlled by the Order) and keep the rebellion alive. Basims actions will profoundly impact the Order of the Ancients, weakening its authority and leading to a period of political instability in the Caliphate.
- Basim Ibn Ishaq: The protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Basim is a cunning street thief haunted by nightmarish visions of a Jinn. After joining the Hidden Ones, he embarks on a journey to free the city of Baghdad from the Order of the Ancients. In this quest, he stumbles upon the mysteries of his true nature and destiny as a reborn Isu.
- Roshan bint-La’Ahad: Basim’s mentor and guide in the Hidden Ones. Roshan is a wise and former slave turned experienced Assassin. She saves Basim during a critical moment in his life and takes him to the fortress of Hidden Ones at Alamut. She teaches Basim the ways of the Creed as his mentor. Players familiar with the first Assassin’s Creed game will recall Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad and the importance of the fortress of Alamut in the game and lore.
- Nehal: She is a close childhood friend of Basim and is one of the few people who truly understands him. She is a skilled fighter, a quick thinker, and a good strategist. She is Basim’s sole source of support and guidance and helps him navigate the complexities of his haunted visions.
- The Jinni: Source of all the nightmare torments that haunted Basim since he can recall. The Jinni never changes its appearance but never fails to make Basim feel helpless at night. Basim still struggles and fears the true meaning behind the Jinni nightmares.
As mentioned by devs, the main highlight of the AC Mirage, “Return to the Roots,” are the classic tools and features from the previous games. A few new game mechanisms are Assassin Focus, Black Box Missions, redesigned combat, Notoriety System, Social Stealth, Tools, and more. Here are a few of the changes you can expect in the game:
- Assassin’s Focus: A new chain assassination feature similar to RDR 2 on selected targets. It is very similar to Eivor and Kassandra’s time dilation abilities.
- Black Box Missions: Build upon the feature introduced in AC Unity and carried forward in newer Valhalla DLCs. You now have multiple opens to kill your target in the main assassination missions.
- Assassin’s Tools: Many items from previous games, like blowdarts, noisemakers, poison traps, smoke bombs, throwing knives, and torches (dedicated torch slot like in older games), return in Mirage.
- Redesigned Combat: Unlike the inhumanly fast-paced action of Valhalla, Mirage focuses much on the parry and dodge system established in the earlier titles. And taking of groups of enemies are not easy like the recent RPG era AC games.
Apart from these, there are many more, like the new Social Stealth, which plays a much bigger role in your playthrough. As hacking and slashing your way is not an option anymore (unless you are in easy difficulty), hiding among the people as the Tenets of the Creed is the main emphasis in Mirage’s social stealth aspect.
The city of Baghdad is a vibrant and bustling place. The world may feel smaller than in recent Assassin’s Creed games, but it is still dense and detailed. It is full of interesting characters and activities to discover. Mirage packs so many details into this area that have never been seen since AC Unity’s release.
Ubisoft Bordeaux’s decision to add full Arabic voice-over and localization breaths a level of authenticity to the game I never knew I needed. Voice by Jordanian actor Eyad Nassar, Basim never felt out of place in his surroundings. If you are a non-Arabic speaker, I suggest you play the game with Arabic voice-over with subtitles in English or any language of your choice for the most genuine recreation of Baghdad ever in mass media.
Even though Mirage’s story unfolds through a mix of linear missions and a bit of open-world exploration, all the main story missions are meticulously crafted. Also, the main assassination missions often bring back unique “Black Box” gameplay mechanics from Unity and Syndicate. These “Black Box” missions allow players to explore the target environment and find creative ways to reach and eliminate their targets. For example, by disguising himself, Basim can infiltrate a Caravanserai in one mission. But his Eagle Vision will open up more ways to infiltrate the same area by force or completely relying on stealth. This takes us to the next main segment below.
The 9th century Baghdad is a vibrant and bustling city, full of life and color. Mirage does a fantastic job of bringing this world to life with its detailed architecture, bustling markets, and diverse characters. The city feels handcrafted for players focusing on parkour, stealth, and assassination. Mirage’s combat system is a refinement of the formula introduced in Assassin’s Creed, and it feels better than ever.
Mirage’s stealth mechanics are also the best in recent games. Players have various tools and abilities to help them take down their targets without being detected. The AI is also intelligent and challenging, making for some tense and rewarding stealth encounters.
Mirage has some technical flaws, like frame rate drops on older-gen consoles. These issues are not game-breaking, but they can be distracting at times. But the devs made the game look its best in the Anvil engine for PC and current-gen consoles.
Unlike previous games, where players complained that the world map can feel a bit empty even though it is filled with activities, Ubisoft Bordeaux listened to the fans and created a city to make this feel like the original AC game.
They even added a blue color filter to make the game look like the first Assassin’s Creed game from 2007.
Even though there are fewer side activities and points of interest than in the recent three main Assassin’s Creed games, Mirage does a wonderful job of keeping them fun, and you never feel like any of the activities are repeating. Everything in this game feels unique, from geometrical designs on the buildings to more open areas around the City. Each area has its unique properties to set it apart from each other.
Mirage’s story is engaging and well-written, but it could have been longer and more developed. The game’s main campaign can be completed in around 12-20 hours, which is evident that this game started as a DLC for AC Valhalla.
Nevertheless, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a great game, and Basim truly strives to take the second position below Ezio’s grandeur in our hearts. But only the future can tell what will become of Basim.
I highly recommend Assassin’s Creed Mirage to fans of the series and newcomers to the genre. It’s a focused and polished experience that captures the essence of what made the early Assassin’s Creed games so great. While it’s not perfect, it’s a must-play for any fan of stealth-based action-adventure games. Immersive and atmospheric open world with fluid and satisfying combat added to robust stealth mechanics that are both fun and challenging, something I was dying to say about a new Assassin’s Creed game due to my love for the older ones.