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Assassin's Creed: Mirage – The Old Meets the New, and It's a Welcome Reunion

By Xueyang
Sep. 13, 2023 updated 09:21

In the 16 years spanning from 2007 to 2023, Assassin's Creed has time-traveled through settings as diverse as the Third Crusade and the Viking era, from the Levant to Norway. The RPG elements have grown more complex, especially since "Origins," evolving into a sprawling open world filled with character development systems.

When Assassin's Creed: Mirage announced it would be a "return to roots," fulfilling the series' promise of being stealth-based games, the excitement was real. After your 82nd Sparta kick off a cliff as Kassandra, you might just feel like something's missing.

On August 31, we got the chance to delve into the gameplay for four hours at Ubisoft Shanghai's Mirage hands-on event. We experienced three phases of the main character, Basim, who hails from 9th-century Baghdad slums. His complex personality and skills as a thief add depth to both the main and side missions (There’s a whole set of Robinhood-like side quests).

Basim assassinating the Harbor MasterBasim assassinating the Harbor Master

Ubisoft's “return to roots” slogan isn't mere rhetoric, as stealth and assassinations are actually back at the core of the gameplay. In the right conditions, a single hidden blade attack can eliminate anyone from grunts to bosses. However, setting up these "right conditions" requires strategy.

Basim's eagle can't be summoned when there're sharpshooters aroundBasim's eagle can't be summoned when there are sharpshooters around

To start with, scouting eagles, once essential for sneaking through levels, can now be interfered with by enemy sharpshooters, which means more effort is required if you don’t want to trigger all the guards in a castle. In addition, Basim, being born a thief, must be cautious during daylight actions. Any suspicious activities elevate his notoriety, affecting NPC behavior from alerting the guards to attacking you on-sight, making the game harder.

Basim tearing off his wanted posterBasim tearing off his wanted poster

The game revives the concept of mission choices, allowing players to go around problems or solve them in different ways, i.e., with money. For instance, if Basim has tokens from previous quests, he can use one to call in a favor from a merchant, skipping some tedious tasks.

These changes make the gameplay feel less like a grind, turning enemy strongholds into dynamic stealth puzzles. Long and repetitive side quests have been criticized for literal decades, and this dynamic task line may just be the remedy.

Basim calling in a favor from a merchantBasim calling in a favor from a merchant

Still, some concerns remain. While the game's graphics aren't cutting-edge, this compromise results in smoother gameplay. Despite four hours of play, I didn't encounter any significant lag or bugs. However, the trade-off between graphics and performance remains a consideration for all players.

As for the plot, I'm intrigued by Basim's role in bridging the legacy of assassins. His complex relationships with Isu Loki and Eivor, the protagonist from Valhalla, are another layer of intrigue. How Ubisoft manages to tie these intriguing aspects together remains to be seen until the game's official release.

Assassin's Creed: Mirage - Concept ArtAssassin's Creed: Mirage - Concept Art

Three years have passed since the last Assassin’s Creed title, and Ubisoft's 3A capability combined with this long development time could result in a fresh yet nostalgic experience. Maybe, this is the better direction for the Assassin's Creed series after all.