Assassin’s Creed Mirage Hands-On Impressions – Slicing Up Some Comfort Food

For some time now, more, more, more has been Ubisoft’s mantra for each new Assassin’s Creed. More content, bigger worlds, deeper RPG systems. The upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage breaks from this trend, with developers Ubisoft Bordeaux and Ubisoft Montreal aiming to deliver a stripped-down action-adventure experience in line with earlier entries in the series. It’s an approach that’s generated some excitement, particularly from old-school fans, but can you really go back again? Has Ubisoft managed to recapture the feel of those older AC titles, and even if they have, is that a worthwhile accomplishment?

I recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with Assassin’s Creed Mirage, playing through two introductory sections and a full later-game mission, amounting to around four hours of gameplay in total. This hands-on session was conducted on PC remotely via the cloud, but Ubisoft’s streaming tech was up to snuff as I didn’t detect any serious input lag or artifacts. So, does this latest Assassin’s Creed cut the mustard (along with everything else)? Scroll down for my initial impressions.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage casts players as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla supporting character Basim, with the action kicking off in the small town of Anbar near Baghdad. When we first meet Basim, he’s still a young man surviving as a street thief along with female pal Nehal (as you might expect, the two have a bit of a flirty thing going on, and I have a feeling Nehal will pop back up as a key character later in the story). While the opening of the game seems generally lighthearted, Basim is also suffering from dark, portentous visions. Mirage’s narrative gets rolling pretty quickly, as Basim is recruited to do a job for the Hidden Ones and is recruited by the Assassins upon successfully completing the task.

Ah, but Basim doesn’t become a full member of the Brotherhood right away. The next sequence I played through took place in and around Alamut, a secret desert fortress that essentially acts as an Assassin training camp. Here we see Basim train under the veteran Assassin Master Roshan and eventually earn his hidden blade (while the section I played here only lasted around half an hour, a video montage I was shown hinted I didn’t see everything it had to offer). These early sections of Assassin’s Creed Mirage largely act as an introduction to the game’s basic building blocks – parkour, stealth, and combat – with some mixed results.

Parkour flows well enough, with Basim scrambling up and over terrain fluidly, particularly during more linear challenges. That said, once the level design opens up more, issues that have long plagued this series crop up – you’ll find yourself climbing up things you don’t want to climb or, alternatively, not being able to climb things you do want to. These clunky moments aren’t as common as they were in some past games, but they’re present and still frustrating.

Your stealth toolbox hasn’t evolved all that much but remains fairly versatile. You can activate your Eagle Vision anytime to mark enemies and objectives, even through walls. Sneaking up on enemies allows you to pull off an instant kill; you can hide in grass and weeds, whistle to draw in curious baddies, carry and hide bodies, and more. It’s standard stealth stuff, but it all works well. The big addition this time around is Assassin’s Focus, which allows you to mark several enemies (up to three during my play session) and take them out instantly without alerting anybody. This makes taking out groups of baddies less cumbersome than in the past without making stealth feel trivial.

Unfortunately, those expecting any significant combat improvements are in for a disappointment. Battles consist of parrying or dodging enemies and then spamming a single attack button. Combat is passable in a pinch, but that’s about the best you can say about it. Mirage’s devs have outright said this isn’t really an action game, with the stealth option almost always being preferable, and they weren’t lying.

After finishing up the initial two sequences, my Assassin’s Creed Mirage demo jumped ahead to Baghdad proper as I assumed the role of a more seasoned Basim as he tackled a “Blackbox” mission. For those unfamiliar, Blackbox missions present players with a set target, but offer a fair amount of freedom in how you take them out. The mission began on a fairly straightforward note with a merchant friend requesting I take out a mysterious trader known as The Treasurer horning in on their business. Initially, this meant searching for info on my target in an outpost-like camp, but things got more interesting once clues led me to Baghdad’s bustling Bazaar. Once there, I had to complete a series of tasks, including solving a simple crate-pushing puzzle, going on an eavesdropping mission, and stealing a few key items before I could finally get my hands on my quarry.

Given the limited amount of time I had to play, I can’t say for sure how open-ended Assassin’s Creed Mirage’s Blackbox missions really are, but the Bazaar felt lively, and the hoops I had to jump through were nicely varied, even if it wasn’t always immediately clear what I needed to do next. I had a guide from Ubisoft who would chime in with helpful tips if I needed them, so I never got turned around for too long. Whether that holds true when I’m playing on my own remains to be seen.

While I didn’t get a huge amount of time to explore outside of the specific Blackbox mission I was focused on, Baghdad seems like a solid assassination playground. All the typical mechanics from past Assassin’s Creed games return – the ability to blend in with crowds, a wanted level that you can reduce by tearing down posters of yourself, etc. While I didn’t get a full measure of Baghdad’s scope, it doesn’t seem like it’s too large. I scrambled to the top of a couple of high points, and in both cases, I could see the edge of the city. Despite that, I did find myself lost at times, as the map could use more distinct landmarks – one dusty palm-lined street looks about the same as the next.

While Assassin’s Creed Mirage serves up a solid amount of historical detail, don’t expect anything too exciting in terms of tech. The main characters look passable, albeit several years behind the curve, but some NPCs appear to be refugees from the Xbox 360 era. Environments can sometimes be striking, but they’re not very reactive – fabrics and other materials don’t animate, and while lighting looks nice in certain key areas, it isn’t very dynamic.

Oh, and if you were hoping Assassin’s Creed Mirage’s more narrow scope would result in a greater degree of polish, well, keep hoping. The usual clipping and odd NPC behavior that’s long been a staple of Assassin’s Creed are still very much in evidence, and the game crashed at least a half-dozen times during my play session. Of course, the final version of Mirage we get in October may well be more stable, but remember, a well-trained Assassin always plans ahead… and saves often.

Current Thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Mirage

Ubisoft has promised an old-school experience with Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and based on my hands-on play session, they’ve largely delivered… for better and for worse. Parkour and stealth have received some subtle improvements, but their strengths and limitations remain largely the same as before, and combat, as always, is kind of a drag. Baghdad seems like a lively-enough sandbox and the Blackbox mission I tackled was multifaceted enough that I’m definitely interested to see what other challenges the game may serve up. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is killer comfort food that ought to prove satisfying on some level to anybody who’s enjoyed the franchise in the past, but I’ll have to play more before I can definitively say whether this is an order worth pledging your time to.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage launches on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5 on October 5. Expect a review from Wccftech prior to launch.

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