Ubisoft’s latest addition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Assassin’s Creed Mirage, brings the series back to its roots by prioritising stealth gameplay. In the world of Mirage, set in ancient Baghdad, the player is tasked with overthrowing a tyrannical order ruling the city. Though the smaller game world marks a departure from the franchise’s recent open-world RPG trend, the result is a sharper focus on stealth and strategy over blatant combat. However, the game does suffer from a few noticeable problems and glitches that mar the overall experience.
The stealth gameplay, which forms the bedrock of Mirage, is a mixed bag. It has its moments, but it is also hampered by several issues that, at worst, can make things exasperating during the more intense scenes where you need to stay in the shadows. For instance, silent takedowns, a key mechanic of stealth gameplay, feel slow and clumsy. Your character will walk out in the open, grab the enemy and very slowly drag them into cover. It feels very unnecessary to expose your entire body and spend so much time clumsily pulling enemies around in the open when you should be able to drag them from cover. You will often find you get noticed by the enemy when triggering a silent takedown due to how slow the animation is.
Moreover, graphical glitches are abundant during assassinations. You might find your character’s blade not even connecting with the enemy during a takedown, ruining the flow and immersion of gameplay. It’s also frustrating when the assassination prompt doesn’t appear, leading you to mess up your silent takedown and alert the enemy. In the case below, the enemy just straight up freaks out with the assassination prompt never appearing despite the character being hidden in the hay and the enemy unaware.
However, it’s not all bad. Mirage diversifies gameplay via an arsenal of gadgets like throwing knives, blow darts and traps. A new “Assassin’s Focus” feature allows you to tag up to 5 enemies and dispatch them in a continuous, automated sequence without breaking stealth, a feature that’s both visually satisfying and tactically useful. When the stealth works, it is really a lot of fun and it is possible to take down an entire fortress of enemies without breaking stealth.
When stealth inevitably fails, you’re left with two options: fight or flee. Kill or be killed. Combat in Mirage isn’t easy, and it’s clear that the game wants you to realise that you’re an assassin, not a warrior. The notices for parrying or dodging incoming attacks appear with such brief windows that it discourages open, head-to-head combat against multiple foes. This difficulty fosters a sense of realism and portrays the character as a true assassin who prioritises stealth over brute strength. We aren’t in the land of Vikings anymore!
Mirage simplifies the character management system significantly. Gone are the extensive weapons and upgrades of past games, replaced by a smaller selection of three distinct swords. This reduced spectrum of choice results in less micromanagement and keeps the focus squarely on stealth gameplay. The pruned skill tree is also less overwhelming, allowing players to unlock interesting perks without worrying about making “wrong” decisions in a complex upgrade path. The focus continues to be on being an assassin with minimal distractions with character management.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed Mirage falls short in the graphics department, especially when compared to recently released titles like Spider-Man 2. Character animations, lip-syncing, and textures leave much to be desired, giving the game a dated look more reminiscent of the last generation of games. The arid terrain, while attempting to showcase the beauty of the region, often feels bland due to the graphical limitations.
Mirage is not exactly an ugly game but it is clear that very little effort was made to give this game a next-gen treatment. The dreaded console parity is shining true again where the next-gen consoles are being limited by the hardware capabilities of the previous generation consoles. It will not ruin the experience but it is also a shame to see a flagship franchise have such poor visuals.
For fans of the earlier Assassin’s Creed games, Mirage is going to deliver a lot of what you originally loved. You can even enable the original color filter! There are quite a few gameplay glitches that surface at some very inconvenient times. The visuals are also quite poor but these negatives do not mask the fact that the core gameplay is a lot of fun and a welcome change of direction for the franchise.