Assassin’s Creed Mirage hands-on — Back to the past
We’re thrilled to announce the return of GamesBeat Next, hosted in San Francisco this October, where we will explore the theme of “Playing the Edge.” Apply to speak here and learn more about sponsorship opportunities here. At the event, we will also announce 25 top game startups as the 2024 Game Changers. Apply or nominate today!
I’m one of those Assassin’s Creed fans that enjoyed the older games in the series, back when it was more about, you know, assassinating. I don’t have the RPG trappings of recent games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but I preferred the more focused, stealthy approach of the original Assassin’s Creed and its first few sequels.
That’s why Assassin’s Creed Mirage has my attention. It comes out on October 5 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. I had a chance to play Mirage in a recent remote preview session, meaning I played on PC via cloud streaming. Although I’m usually skeptical of such technology, my demo ran smoothly.
Gotta get back
Assassin’s Creed Mirage takes place in 9th-century Baghdad. Not only is the game a throwback to the franchise’s original mechanics, but the setting calls to mind the Middle-Eastern locations of the original. Maybe I’m just an easily nostalgic fellow (and, man, I can’t believe that Assassin’s Creed is now old enough for me to feel nostalgia for it), but it’s nice seeing this aesthetic again.
So, what do I mean when I say that Mirage’s mechanics feel more like the older Assassin’s Creed games? Well, instead of focusing on melee combat, cooldown abilities and open world exploration, Mirage centers on city navigation and stealth kills.
That means that if you sneak up on a person, you’re going to kill them. You don’t have to worry about them being too high a level for an instant kill. They just die. Sure, you could just try to take everyone on in “fair” one-on-one fights, but the game incentivized you to use stealth. Aside from its obvious advantages, stealth kills also fill up a bar. Think of it as your super or ultimate meter from something like Street Fighter 6 or Overwatch. When it’s full, you can perform a chain of instant stealth kills. This is great for taking out a small group all at once.
Again, I have nothing against the new Assassin’s Creed games, but I always run out of steam while playing them. Mirage is much more my speed. I enjoy climbing buildings and jumping down (knife first) on people.
After my demo, I had a chance to talk with Assassin’s Creed Mirage world and quests director Simon Arsenault.
“We wanted really to focus on the pillars of stealth, parkour and assassination,” Arsenault told me. “So looking at the older games made more sense to us. For example, last three, there was a great Viking fantasy and a great demigod fantasy, but it was way less about being an assassin. And we wanted to bring back that fantasy.”
Started from the bottom
My demo also gave me a good look at early part of Mirage’s story. You play as Basim, a character who appears during Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This prequel shows how Basim became involved with the Hidden Ones.
Basim seems like an interesting enough character. He starts as a street thief before, you know, the call to adventure and all that. Sometimes, I wish the story was a bit less intrusive. A large portion of my demo focused on planning an assassination against a powerful city official. I was hoping for something more like the Hitman games, where I’d have a target and then find my own way to take them down. Instead, the story guided me to the assassination in a relatively linear fashion.
Now, there were other scenarios that gave me more freedom and less-important-to-the-story targets that were more interesting to take down. And once that city official was dead, I did still have to make my escape through the city. That definitely brought back some original Assassin’s Creed memories.
Unlike those first few Assassin’s Creed games, however, don’t expect too many modern-day shenanigans.
“We wanted to make it really self-contained,” Arsenault told me. “So, there is still a link to the Animus at the beginning of the game. But otherwise, we don’t do a playable part for the modern day. It was also a way to focus on Basim story at the time, rather than having two narratives that could coexist. So, it was a way to make it more condensed about his story,”
Honestly, that’s fine with me. I’ve always cared more about Assassin’s Creed historical settings than its sloppy overarching narrative.
Now we’re here
You do still have some features from the newer games here, including your bird companion. You can use this to get a literal birds-eye view of your surroundings. It also lets you mark enemies and points of interest. I’ve long had mixed feelings on this mechanic. It’s certainly helpful, but I’m not sure if I enjoy it. It’s just not that fun using a bird to play “Where’s Waldo?” with a bunch of NPCs.
But that’s a relatively minor complaint. Overall, I had a good time with my Mirage demo. When it comes to what I want in an Assassin’s Creed game, this is more like it.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.