Is Assassin’s Creed Mirage really a return to the series’ origins or just a simple filler, an attempt to fill the gap between Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (2020) and Assassin’s Creed: Codename Red, which at best will be released no earlier than fall 2024? Let’s find out.
|Assassin’s Creed Mirage
|Windows, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S, iOS (2024)
Assassin’s Creed Mirage began as a supplement to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which is actually quite logical. Mirage tells the backstory of a minor character in the previous game, who, if you’ve been following the plot of the last three installments of the series, namely Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, is actually key to understanding the entire lore of the trilogy.
But at some point, Ubisoft seems to have realized that players would not understand 4 big DLCs for a game in 2020, DLC sales are always less than sales of individual games, and besides, the next big installment of the series, Assassin’s Creed: Codename Red, which will take place in feudal Japan, still has a lot of time to fill. And Assassin’s Creed Mirage itself grew a little bit and eventually went beyond the usual DLC. I think that’s how we got Mirage.
The story about returning to the sources, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the series, and all that was invented later, purely for marketing reasons. Although some vibes (sorry for the neologism, but it fits here best) of the first games in the series, and even Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which actually gave birth to Assassin’s Creed (which then killed the Prince of Persia series), is indeed present here.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a compact game, especially compared to the previous three installments of the series. There is only one city, its surroundings, and one additional location, so in terms of size and structure, Mirage is closer to Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
If you want, you can complete the story part of Mirage in 15-20 hours, and in 25 hours you can explore the entire world of the game and find all the secrets. Compared to the hundreds of hours you can spend on Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla (I have 150-250 hours on each of the games), this is really a very small game. There are only 5 big story kills and one linear story. This is also quite logical, because we know very well who Bassim ibn Ishaq is, who he will become and what he will do at the end of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Given the heavy and almost endless releases this fall, such as Starfield and Baldur’s Gate 3, this length is more of a blessing than a disadvantage. On the other hand, since the release of Origins, Assassin’s Creed fans have been divided into those who like huge open worlds and those who like smaller games.
Perhaps due to its small size and compactness, the world of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is perceived as more lively and coherent than the giant maps of Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla, filled with monotonous outposts, fortresses, and towers. No, no, no, the towers have not disappeared, they are here too – mostly minarets, just like in the first games of the series.
In fact, the protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is not even Bassim ibn Ishaq. In my opinion, he’s a very weak and not very interesting character. Despite his importance to the series, Bassim is probably the weakest character in the entire Assassin’s Creed series.
The main character of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is Baghdad. It is an incredible city built specifically as the capital of a vast empire that covered half the world. A place of power, trade, science, and the arts. The embodiment of the Golden Age of Islam in stone. An interesting historical period, an interesting location, which Ubisoft developers have made really lively and very picturesque and colorful (it seems that someone has played with filters again, just like in The Crew Motorfest). On the other hand, Ubi is really good at reconstructing different historical eras and real historical monuments, and over the past 15 years they have really made a living doing it.
It’s fun to wander around Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate (the game reflects the events of the so-called Anarchy in Samar, 861-870), stopping to observe the daily life of the inhabitants, see the architectural monuments, take a picture as a souvenir, and read historical information.
Speaking of the latter. This time we don’t seem to be getting a separate Discovery Tour: Abbasid Caliphate – the historical references are integrated into the game’s core, as in the older installments of the series, and they are, as usual, very interesting and encourage you to explore additional historical sources. And yes, there are real historical figures here again, about whom I’m willing to bet you’ve heard almost nothing.
For example, Al-Jahiz, who in the ninth century expressed some of the basic principles of natural selection. 1000 years before Charles Darwin! Or the mathematicians, astronomers, and engineers Banu Musa brothers, one of whom wrote The Book of Ingenious Devices, which describes such devices as a grapple, a gas mask, almost modern hydraulic valves, mechanical memory, feedback devices, and more. And this was 600 years before Leonardo da Vinci!
Unfortunately, it was the historical references that caused my biggest disappointment with Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Frankly speaking, this “little thing” made me want to quit the game at the very beginning and never play any of Ubisoft’s games again. Fortunately, the developers seemed to have seen this “mistake” and promised to fix it in the next patch.
This refers to the mention of “Central Russia” in a reference to Ahmad ibn Fadlan’s journey from Baghdad through Central Asia to the Volga region to the king of the Volga Bulgars in 921-922. In this work, the traveler described the life, religion, and way of life of the Khorezmians, Bashkirs, Bulgars, Oghuzes, Khazars, and… Rus’ people. There are no Russians or Russia in Ibn Fadlan’s description. But Ubisoft does. In addition to being a gross historical error, this is also a very unfortunate ethical mistake that supports Russian narratives and legitimizes the history of Ukraine-Rus’ stolen by the Muscovites.
This is especially unfortunate because Ubisoft has two studios in Ukraine, in Kyiv and Odesa, and both of them worked on Assassin’s Creed Mirage.
At the time of writing this review, the patch has not yet been released. So we are waiting, Ubisoft. It would be nice if you could also apologize.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage uses the Ubisoft Anvil engine. This is the fifth iteration of the Scimitar/Anvil engine, the first version of which was created back in 2007 for the first Assassin’s Creed. Since then, Anvil has been improving, getting new features, but…
Even in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it was very clear that Anvil was outdated. The graphics no longer meet modern requirements, and you can’t hide it behind various color filters and dramatic sunsets. At times, the game does produce a very nice picture, but this seems to be mostly the merit of the environment artists and level designers, not the engine.
In addition, Anvil carries the weight of previous generations of Assassin’s Creed. Some animations seem to have not changed for decades. The clothes behave like stiff, thickly starched sheets, although the fabric texture and patterns are really cool. The protagonist, just like ten years ago, tries to run around on tables, boxes, baskets and vases. Thank goodness he no longer sleeps with a shield on his back like in Valhalla.
But the worst part is the optimization. On a PC, the engine naturally goes into overdrive, delivering from 1 to 200 frames per second for 30 seconds. And no, it’s not a joke, we’re talking about 1 frame per second. The game stutters every 5-15 seconds, freezing for a split second. At this point, my very smart video card even thinks that there is no load at all and turns off the coolers. And so on every 5-15 seconds. And that’s on a system on which Starfield, Cyberpunk 2077, and Forza Motorsport run without any problems at a nice 60-90 frames per second in Ultra High quality.
The situation is somewhat improved by giving the ACMirage.exe process the highest priority in the Task Manager, but this must be done after each game launch and still won’t remove all the stutters, except to make them more rare (about once every 20-30 seconds) and less severe (5-7 fps instead of 1-2 fps). Not a great solution.
To be honest, in its current state, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is simply unplayable on PC, we have to wait for a patch, but it’s still a question whether it will help. Only my love for the series allowed me to endure this abuse and spend more than 25 hours on Mirage. Mirage’s optimization looks especially cynical against the logos of Intel, which is the game’s official technical partner.
Heck, Ubisoft has very cool Dunia Engine (a fork of the CryEngine for the Far Cry series) and Snowdrop (The Division 1/2, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Star Wars Outlaws). Maybe it’s time to port the Assassin’s Creed series to them and to hell with the old animations!
Deception of vision
One of the main features of Assassin’s Creed Mirage, which was emphasized during the advertising campaign, is the emphasis on stealth and more complex kills.
That’s right, Mirage has more stealth than the previous installments in the series, where it was openly optional. So, in order to get to the target, Bassim has to study the environment, look for secret passages, bribe NPCs, change clothes, and of course, sneak around in the bushes. Ubisoft’s marketers have repeatedly emphasized that Bassim is still a young assassin, that he doesn’t know much and won’t stand up to four opponents in a direct confrontation. To put it mildly, this is not true.
Yes, it is indeed more interesting to complete the story missions in stealth, especially since sometimes in secondary tasks you are asked, for example, not to kill anyone or not to be caught by the guards, but this is not necessary. After pumping out the tools, the same smoke bombs and traps, Bassim can cut out entire units of enemies, including heavily armored “knights”, flamethrowers (yes) and very dangerous hunters. So much for stealth.
By the way, they also deceived us with investigations, which replaced almost all tasks in Mirage. They were nothing compared to the investigations in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, where you really had to look for evidence, interrogate witnesses, draw your own conclusions, and accuse the criminals. You could even make a mistake. In Mirage, everything is much simpler, it’s just exploring the area with eagle vision turned on.
I’m deliberately not saying anything about the plot of Assassin’s Creed Mirage because I think it’s a very simple, straightforward, and not very interesting story. Moreover, we know the ending very well. There are literally a few interesting characters in the whole game (and these are not the main characters) and zero interesting dialogues. After what we’ve seen in Cyberpunk 2077 and Phantom Liberty, it all looks sad.
And while Mirage does have an “unexpected plot twist” that explains some of the inconsistencies in the beginning and middle of the game, if you haven’t seen the trailers for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
It is worth mentioning the sound and music in the game. The soundtrack, which was created by Brendan Angelides, Jesper Kyd, and Akram Haddad, successfully combines traditional oriental melodies with electronic and symphonic instruments. This music fits the game and Baghdad.
Special thanks for the single and video Mirage by OneRepublic. It turned out not bad.
As for the voice acting, it is the first time in the history of the series that Arabic is heard in a game dedicated to the Middle East. Moreover, passers-by on the streets speak several languages and dialects at once, which creates a believable soundscape.
As for the voice actors, I would like to mention not the Jordanian Eyad Nassar, who voiced Basim, but the Iranian-American Shohreh Aghdashloo, who gave her deep, rough voice to Master Roshan. If you’ve suddenly forgotten who Shohreh Aghdashloo is and what her truly unique voice sounds like, she played UN Secretary General Christiane Avasaral in The Expanse (and of course in the game The Expanse: A Telltale Series). This is not the actress’s first experience in video games. Previously, she voiced the Quarian Admiral Shala’Raan you Tonbay in Mass Effect 2/3 and exo Lakshmi 2 in Destiny and Destiny 2.
Fata Morgana is a complex optical phenomenon created by several forms of mirages. The Assassin’s Creed Mirage is just like that Fata Morgana.
It is not a full-fledged return to the origins of the Assassin’s Creed series, but thanks to its oriental flavor and short distance in time, it successfully recreates the atmosphere of the classic games of the series, namely Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. The locations are similar in style and architecture, sand, and color scheme. There are even references to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which took place several centuries earlier.
On the other hand, most of Mirage’s mechanics are similar to those used in the latest Origins, Odyssey, and Valhalla games. Stealth is here, but it is actually just as rudimentary and optional.
On the other hand, Baghdad in Mirage is really cool, and it’s a lot of fun to run around its streets and rooftops. But… it does it better on PlayStation 4/5 or Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S. It’s better to leave the PC version of the game alone for now. By the way, in 2024, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is due to be released on iOS for iPhone 15 Pro. You can wait for this version.
In general, we can only recommend Assassin’s Creed Mirage to the most devoted fans of the series. Everyone else is better off waiting for Assassin’s Creed: Codename Red. We hope it won’t be postponed to 2025.