With its promise of a more small-scale and compact experience, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a game that’s caught the eye of many. With the series having attracted increasing criticisms with its recent instalments for its bloat, there’s been plenty of excitement about the fact that Mirage is once again promising a stealth and parkour-focused game that falls in line with classic Assassin’s Creed games and eschews the role playing systems of the series’ more recent instalments.
The game is now less than a month away from launch, and ahead of its release, we recently had some hands-off time with it. After having watched over an hour of gameplay footage showcasing Mirage’s open world, combat, stealth, parkour, and more, there’s plenty that we’ve learned about the game that’s got us even more excited to get our hands on it. Here, we’re going to talk about those details.
Baghdad serves as Assassin’s Creed Mirage’s setting, and it’s emblematic of the game’s return-to-the-roots philosophy, bringing the franchise back to a Middle Eastern setting that focuses entirely on a single city. And the way in which the game is going about it looks very familiar as well- which, of course, is a good thing, because like older Assassin’s Creed games, the sense of place and atmosphere seeping through every inch of this game is one of its strongest elements, from what we’ve seen of it so far.
Crowds chatter around you in their native language, the streets are densely packed with people milling about and going about their business, vendors and shopkeepers ply their trade in busy areas, and all of it lends real authenticity to the game’s recreation of 9th century Baghdad. Being able to completely transport players to meticulously crafted recreations of historical settings was always where older Assassin’s Creed titles were strongest, and Mirage seems to be following suit on that front. Ubisoft is also promising plenty of variety across Baghdad’s several districts, and though the gameplay footage we saw took place entirely in the district of Karkh, the environments and areas we saw impressed up greatly with their level of detail and their atmosphere.
Main missions in Assassin’s Creed Mirage take the form of investigation, and structurally, they borrow a lot of elements from several instalments in the series, both new and old. Each investigation has a main assassination target at its center, and getting to that target first requires completing other related missions that will help you gather clues. For instance, in the gameplay footage that we saw, Basim, the protagonist, met up with an old friend named Kong, a merchant, and through helping him with issues related to his business, Basim was able to uncover clues that helped him uncover the identity of the central target of that investigation.
OPEN WORLD ACTIVITIES
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is, of course, going to be a much smaller and more compact experience than the likes of Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, which means its open world setting is going to be smaller in size as well. Even so, there’s plenty of side activities available in the open world of Baghdad. For starters, in the gameplay footage that we saw, we were also able to spot other activities that were available, with each district of Baghdad having gear chests to track down, artifacts and shards to collect, historical sites to visit, and more. Meanwhile, you can, of course, also pick up a variety of contracts at Hidden Ones Bureaus found throughout the city, with objectives ranging from stealing objects to assassinating targets to escorting NPCs to safety. Each contract also gives various rewards, including Tokens- speaking of which…
In exchange for completing Contracts, Basim is rewarded with Tokens, which can be used to your advantage in a variety of ways to help you accomplish your mission objectives. For instance, tou can also use Tokens to get mercenaries to attack enemies, musicians to play tunes that will distract guards, speakers to speak to agitated crowds and calm them down, and more. Each faction will also be tied to specific Token types, so if, for instance, you don’t have mercenary Tokens, you won’t be able to hire any mercenary groups.
Eagle vision was once a staple of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, but in recent games, has been replaced by an actual eagle that you can take control of to scout out enemies and points of interest. Mirage, interestingly enough, is having its cake and eating it too. Like Bayek, Kassandra, and Eivor, Basim has an eagle that you can take control of while it’s in flight to scout ahead, but at the same time, like old school Assassin’s Creed protagonists, he can also activate Eagle Vision to highlight enemies, hiding places, key objects, and other things of note.
Combat in Assassin’s Creed changed radically with Origins, before which it was very much focused on countering and parrying enemies. And once again, this is an area where Mirage is borrowing elements from both styles. Like Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, combat is still hitbox-based, which means you can, if you want, play it that way. However, with enemies hitting much harder and Basim being much vulnerable to damage, that’s not the ideal approach.
Instead, parrying and countering are returning in Mirage as well. An enemy will start glowing before unleashing an attack, which is your cue to hit the parry button. Time it right, and the enemy will be left completely vulnerable for a short window, during which you can land a killing blow. It’s a cross between the series’ two very different eras of combat styles, and seems to be geared around encouraging stealth rather than out-and-out combat. Which, incidentally, brings us to our next point.
After what feels like ages, stealth is once again central to the experience in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and again, it’s borrowing plenty of elements from the series’ older instalments in this area. Basim has a number of tools at his disposal to aid in stealth. He can use smoke bombs to make is escape, firecrackers to distract guards, whistle to lure them to specific spots, and quietly pick them out from a distance with throwing knives.
Where hiding places are concerned, there’s plenty of options that series fans will find familiar, including rooftop gardens, veiled stalls, patches of bushes and tall grass, and of course, bales of hay. Meanwhile, social stealth is returning as well, with Basim now being able to blend in with crowds by slowly moving through them or sitting on benches occupied by other NPCs. And, of course, as mentioned previously, Basim is able to hire certain groups to help him in various ways as well, from calming agitated crowds to fighting or distracting guards. Oh, and you can also pickpocket people, which is done through a QTE-style minigame.
Though parkour was once a crucial component of Assassin’s Creed games, recent instalments have seen it become heavily de-emphasized. With Mirage, however, the pendulum is swinging back, which, of course, aligns with the return to an urban cityscape setting. And not only is parkour back in full flow, it’s also looking quite impressive. Basim’s animations look smooth and precise, as he grabs on to crevices and handholds and what have you while clambering up and down structures of all shapes and sizes.
With the renewed importance of parkour, several familiar moves and animations are also returning. In addition to all the typical clambering and leaping you’d expect from an Assassin, the agile and nimble Basim can use lifts to instantly hoist himself up to rooftops, vault over objects, leap through windows and doorways, swing around corners, and more. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for alternative means of traversal, there’s some of that sprinkled in here as well, from stealing camels and other mounts to commandeering barges.
Unlike Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, Mirage is not an RPG, which means progression is much more simplified and streamlined, similar to older Assassin’s Creed titles. Not only do you have a much smaller pool of equippable gear, the skill tree has been significantly contracted as well, now encompassing three categories in total- Phantom, tied to your assassination skills, Trickster, tied to your inventory, and Predator, tied to Enkidu, your bird. Unlockable skills range from being able to unlock extra tool slots to increasing Enkidu’s range for tagging enemies to being able to perform chain assassinations.
Wantonly breaking the law will have strict consequences in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, in line with older titles in the series, thanks to the reintroduction of a Notoriety system. Committing criminal acts and causing disturbances will see your Notoriety level rising, and the higher it goes, the more difficult it will become for you to move through Baghdad undetected. At the highest Notoriety level, even civilians and random NPCs will be able to recognize you and alert the guards. Of course, there will be several ways to lower your Notoriety level- like tearing down Wanted posters of yourself, something veteran series fans will be very familiar with.