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Assassin’s Creed Mirage feels energized with the hustle & bustle of 9th century Baghdad

With Assassin’s Creed Mirage set to bring the series back to its more urban, character-driven, and narrative-driven roots, it’s probably the most interested I’ve been in an AC game in years, and it just keeps shaping up to be all the more intriguing with each tug of the curtain. I recently had a chance to sit down with Ubisoft and try some sections of Assassin’s Creed Mirage and I think I might be more than ready to see how Basim Ibn Ishaq’s entire adventure through the game plays out, from his humble beginnings as a thief to a member of the notorious Hidden Ones.

Street rat to slayer

My time with Assassin’s Creed Mirage gave me three separate instances to check out at different parts of the game: One when Basim is still a common thief on the streets (albeit a talented one), a section when he is training to become part of the Assassins’ organization, and an assassination mission after he has been accepted into the order. Each section gave me different and interesting areas to explore, as well as learning how Basim’s agility and skills play into his story as a budding assassin.

One of the most interesting things about the game is its return to a central city rather than wandering various open worlds and traveling between settlements. During each of the three scenarios, Baghdad felt as alive and breathing as any of the primary characters. Its beautiful architecture, busy markets, and precarious politics serve as a wondrous and mysterious backdrop to Basim’s journey to survive and become part of something worthy of his talents.

In the first section of the game, I helped guide Basim through both a routine and a special request for some thievery. These sections had me running through the less illustrious corners of the city, picking the pockets of distracted merchants and patrons alike. Then, I went and tracked down a very unique prize for a member of the Assassin’s organization known as the Hidden Ones. This required me to slip into areas where I was not wanted, using whistling, tall grass, and hay bales to draw wandering guards in and dispatch them non-lethally. I also gathered clues from ledgers, papers, and listened in on enemies to get an idea of where my target prize was hidden.

The second section gave me a crash course in all of the parkour, combat, climbing, and traversal that Assassin’s Creed has long been famous for. This took me to the Hidden Ones’ stronghold in the canyons outside Baghdad. Assassin’s Creed Mirage brings players back to a simple main setup when enemies must be engaged in combat. Basim uses a full-sized sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, giving the player access to light attacks, light combos, heavy attacks, blocking, dodging, and parries. There are also gadgets such as smoke bombs, throwing knives, and more that can be used to give you an edge in combat or even turn the odds in your favor before the fight even begins.

Combat felt simplified but still enjoyably smooth and deep with the options available. You’re not a warrior and usually can’t just mash your way through a fight. Clever use of all your tools is how you get out of a tight spot, which makes sense and feels good to me since you usually have enough tools to try all sorts of tricks in any given scenario.

The final section of the game saw Basim fully with the Hidden Ones as a formal Assassin, and we took on a much more involved mission in the game. That included breaking into an enemy outpost to discover clues like we did with our thievery. That also led to hunting down a mark that was keeping his thumb on a friend of ours.

We also went to a special auction in search of a much more important target, but only a vague sense of what they looked like. This section of the game had us wandering through a very busy market talking to people, avoiding annoying guards, and utilizing our stealth and wiles to steal info, listen in on conversations, sneak into restricted areas, and get little clues that told me more and more about who I was hunting. My demo ended with finding out who my mark was and trying to gain access to her for the kill.

It was a fun and interesting process of elimination to discover who my target was, and there were options at certain points where I could have learned more or used resources to open up different choices and possibly make things easier. It reminded me of my favorite parts of Hitman, albeit not quite so freeform sandbox in the approach to a kill. I felt like I had to hide in plain sight, make smart use of my tools and skills, and do my best not to bring undue attention to myself. If these assassinations are going to continue to be this complex, it looks like we’re in for a treat.

This Mirage is the real deal

By the time I was done with the actual gameplay of my Assassin’s Creed Mirage demo, I came away feeling like it’s closer to what I expected than an Assassin’s Creed game has felt in years. The sneaking and parkour were enjoyable, the combat was tough and demanded variety if I wanted to survive, and the collecting of information in order to determine my correct targets led to a variety of interactions where I could have gone in with less or more depending on how aggressive I felt. I was intrigued by Ubisoft telling us it was going back to a more focused game in Mirage. After playing a bit for myself, I feel like it’s far more than an illusion.

This hands-on preview was based on a PC version played via remote play in a session with the publisher. Assassin’s Creed Mirage comes out on October 5, 2023, on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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