Assassin’s Creed Mirage (PC, PS5 [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One)
Developer: Ubisoft Bordeaux
Released: October 5, 2023
ESRB: M – Mature
Mirage may have begun life as an expansion for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but thankfully Ubisoft saw what Ubisoft Bordeaux had here and gave them the time to expand on it and make a proper stand-alone title out of it.
The roots of Valhalla are present but make no mistake Bordeaux absolutely succeeded in their mission to make a classic Assassin’s Creed title… a love letter to the fans of the early games in the series.
Spoiler alert for the final score, Mirage is getting the full five stars from me. It’s not because I think it’s a perfect game or one free of issues, it’s not. It’s because I’m judging it for what it is and how it measured up to my expectations. Those expectations were high but tempered.
In the end, those expectations were met and far surpassed. Mirage has ended up being amongst my top four in the series (exact placement still unsure of). It’s everything I’ve wanted from Assassin’s Creed for years now, and it’s exactly the type of game that I have missed.
My save file clocked in at 26 hours to do everything the game had to offer and get the platinum trophy. A couple of those hours were spent idle, so it was probably a little under 24 hours to 100% everything.
To compare, I’ve spent 144 hours playing Valhalla, and still haven’t 100% finished everything in that game and its DLC’s.
For me, its length is once of Mirage’s biggest charms. While I was loved it, I have grown tired of overly bloated games or ones that want to play nothing but the game. All the GAAS games with their seasons. Hell, even Valhalla had little seasons in the beginning with both free additions and paid DLC.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage was well priced at $49.99 for the base version (which is the version I bought), and within 24 hours I’ve done everything it has to offer and can move on. And yet, I loved every second of it and will probably play through it again soon. Sadly, there is no New Game plus. Would be nice to playthrough it again on the hardest difficulty with all gear and tools fully upgraded, unlocked and all skills acquired.
Mirage strips away all of the bloat that has come to define Assassin Creed games, starting mostly with Black Flag and really ballooning with the RPG trilogy (with Valhalla being the most egregious by far).
Instead of a massive open world with many different lands and cities gated by skill or enemy levels, we get a return to a large city with a little bit of surrounding wilderness to explore.
Mirage’s rendition of 9th-century Baghdad is quite stunning, and the type of setting we haven’t seen since the Ezio trilogy (Unity close but more modern). The city is beautiful, the streets are crowded, and all the buildings are close enough together to make rooftop parkouring a quick and fun away to get around the large city. It’s an absolute joy to play in the Baghdad sandbox. Get the Altair or Ezio Revelations costume from Ubisoft Connect, and the nostalgia is full blast.
The parkour is not on the level of Unity, and Basim isn’t quite as graceful as an Altair or Ezio, but it’s still a return to form that feels like true Assassin’s Creed. This is my favorite gaming franchise, and while I love the RPG trilogy, Mirage is what the series should be; a large city, fun parkour, and great stealth. It’s also more rooted in reality than Origins, Odyssey and especially Valhalla could be. Although it still has a real more store where you can purchase non-realistic outfits and weapons that, in my opinion, do not belong in the series.
Mirage shines with its focus on stealth combat. While the game does have an easy parry to instant kill some enemies that makes open combat pretty easy, it’s not the same mindless kill chaining super easy combat we saw in some of the earlier titles. That said, it’s still best, and a lot more fun, to stick to the shadows and silently take down your enemies.
Of course, there are two kinds of stealth, and they’re both super fun in Mirage. One being the silently take down everyone without being noticed, and the other being sneak in complete an assignment without killing anyone and without being spotted.
One great thing about it is the freedom, not just with how you choose to go about playing, but also because the game doesn’t ever force you into doing it this way. You’re not going to have to redo a mission because you got spotted or killed someone; lose sync because that’s not how it actually happened. Some contracts tell you to avoid taking damage or killing anyone, or being seen, but those are just optional objectives for a few extra coins and materials.
I really enjoyed the entire concept of the contracts. Not just the side quests that you get from the contract board in a Hidden One bureau, but I mean the main quest structure. Missions to uncover clues on a target, and then going into the Assassination contract complete with a hype video showing you your target.
It’s a different feel for the franchise, and one that I like a lot. It certainly helped that all the Assassination targets were quite enjoyable and variable.
Where Mirage falls a little short for me is the story. I liked the way it began with Basim as a common street thief, albeit with the trope of him being a good guy. I quite enjoyed the time spent in Alamut training to become a Hidden One.
It’s everything after that that was fairly meh to me. Basim is a somewhat interesting character, but if you played Valhalla you know his story, and that kind of takes me out of it. I also didn’t care for the ending, but I get it. Bordeaux wasn’t creating a new Altair or Ezio here, they were telling the origin story of a Valhalla character for a game originally meant as Valhalla DLC. It is what it is.
As an aside, speaking of Altair. Doing some free roam after the game wearing the Altair costume and with Iconic Blue filter turned on was highly nostalgic. Come on Ubisoft, give me the remaster/remake of the original game. Hell, let Bordeaux remake it with the systems we see here in Mirage. I’m not one to scream a lot for remasters, but the first Assassin’s Creed title is the only one not playable on PS4/PS5, and it came out on PS3 before trophies were a thing. I need it, and after Mirage, I want it more than ever.
Mirage was a breath of fresh air. After years of bloated Assassin’s Creed games, culminating in the monster that was Valhalla (which I do still love), Mirage brought the series back to its earliest roots.
It’s a shame that the next Assassin’s Creed game, Red, will be yet another RPG style game and we probably aren’t likely to see an Assassin’s Creed game the scope and style of Mirage again anytime soon. I love the RPG games, but for me Mirage is largely what Assassin’s Creed should be.
The core gameplay and heavy focus on stealth is phenomenal. The setting is breathtaking. Combining it all, even with the so-so story, left me a complete experience that clocked in under 30 hours. That means I’m down to play through again (sadly, again, without a New Game+).
Another thing I love about Mirage, there is zero modern day story to it. No other character in the modern times, no getting in and out of an Animus, it’s just the story of Basim. Yes, it’s still experienced via the Animus, explaining the teleporting glitch that Basim can do that would be impossible in real life. But if you weren’t a fan of the franchise and this was your first Creed game, you wouldn’t know about the Animus or that it’s a simulation.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage isn’t a perfect game, but it is exactly what I’ve been wanting from my favorite franchise for many years now. That makes it close to perfect for me.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.