Assassin’s Creed Mirage Hands-on Preview
It feels a bit weird to say, but it’s been a long time since the last Assassin’s Creed game. Valhalla was the last release, which was back in 2020, and fans have been clamoring for a new entry that would go back to its roots and put a focus back on stealth and assassinations.
Enter Assassin’s Creed Mirage.
Ahead of its October 5 release date, I got the chance to play a good chunk of the game that spanned a tutorial sequence, a brief story sequence, and a meaty mission that showcased many elements that old-school Assassin’s Creed fans would wax nostalgic for.
Based on about 3 hours of gameplay, it’s clear to see the inspirations Ubisoft took when developing Assassin’s Creed Mirage, as the action RPG elements have been toned down by a considerable amount in favor of a slower but stealthier affair.
Will this direction win back the fans of the franchise?
Disclaimer: I played the game through an online streaming solution using a wireless controller.
Basim Ibn Ishaq, who first appeared in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, takes center stage in Mirage. Set in 9th-century Baghdad, the game is shaping up to be one that the fans have been longing for. If you’ve played Valhalla, then you will be fully familiar with this guy. Narratively, it’s great to see Basim’s journey throughout the years as Assassin’s Creed Mirage chronicles his rise from a young upstart to a master assassin.
The tutorial sequence doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary except introduce players to the basic movements and techniques that Basim will be able to employ in his adventure. Fans will be familiar with the basic movements and parkour elements that Assassin’s Creed games are known for, and they’re mostly back here. What I want to do in this preview is point out some systems that make Assassin’s Creed Mirage honor its stealthy roots.
If you missed pickpocketing, it’s back in Assassin’s Creed Mirage. Pickpocketing in previous titles was usually a simple press or hold of a button, with some titles not having the option at all. Assassin’s Creed Mirage changes the system a bit by making the whole process a bit more engaging for players.
Using Basim’s Eagle Vision (aka Odin Sight in Valhalla), players will look around for unsuspecting pickpocket victims but will soon find that not all NPCs moving around have rewards on them. Players will need to look around for NPCs with pouches that signify that they can be pickpocketed, and then proceed to undergo a mini-game of sorts where a timed button press will either pass or fail the attempt.
Failing the attempt will, of course, prompt suspicion and may cause Basim to take more caution in his future endeavors. In fact, any “illegal” action in the game that catches the eyes of the public will fill a three-tiered meter that will make Basim’s abilities to explore harder due to more troops actively looking out for our hooded hero. Tearing down wanted posters will drop Basim’s notoriety level and make exploring safer.
While risky, pickpocketing has its perks. During one quest, I had to bribe a merchant to cough up information about how to gain entrance to a secret meeting with a top official, but I didn’t have enough money to exchange for it. After pickpocketing several individuals and selling the treasures I got, the information was mine to use.
Apart from items that can be exchanged for currency, players can also loot items called Khidmah Tokens. These tokens are valuable because they allow Basim to exchange them for various favors, ranging from getting a group of mercenaries to use as a distraction to even getting the aforementioned information from the merchant. They’re uncommon items, so completing various activities in the world of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is highly recommended to take advantage of these tokens that can help you with various activities.
It’s too early to say if this loop gets tedious over time, but I can imagine that you can naturally obtain these tokens as you play the game without the need to actively look for them. Because of my limited time in the game, I didn’t have enough in my back pocket to use and test out other benefits.
Further reinforcing the stealthier direction of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the act of intel gathering, something that I tried out during the mission I was on. It involved doing several acts, like eavesdropping on conversations and finishing up a mini-quest in exchange for more information about my target. This is one of the slower-paced activities in the game, but it is part of the whole investigative process that uncovers who your target is.
Speaking of targets, fans of the Order of the Ancients target list in Valhalla will see this feature return in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, albeit in a slightly different form called the Investigation Board. Players will stumble upon clues and information as they progress, peeling back the layers of an unknown target that Basim will need to eliminate to progress further. It is a welcome feature that puts the acts of investigation and assassination at center stage.
After fully uncovering the identity of my target, it was time for the kill. If anything, the buildup to the assassination was thoroughly engaging, but the actual taking down of the target felt a bit anti-climactic since it happened through a cutscene instead of an actual fight. I expected a much more elaborate sequence but felt let down after all was said and done.
This is just one of the many assassination sequences Basim will have to deal with in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, so the actual attempts for the others may be different. It would be great to give the players control over how the attempt will happen and see it through to completion, so I guess we’ll have to check out the other missions for that.
Should players fail to approach their targets stealthily, combat can serve as their final option. Combat in Assassin’s Creed titles shifted more to an action-oriented approach with the Origins-Odyssey-Valhalla trio, but Assassin’s Creed Mirage changed it up a bit. Some of the few things I noticed while playing were that I could insta-kill foes by parrying their attacks, and finding openings to unleash an attack of my own is highly advisable because simply spamming R1 can easily be blocked or punished.
Basim can perform light and heavy attacks, along with parrying and dodging. Successfully parrying attacks can break the opponent’s guard, and while some of the normal enemies can be killed outright, I have yet to see if the tougher ones will need to be parried more times to assassinate them. Basim will also be limited by a stamina bar, which he uses up when dodging or attacking. When out of stamina, Basim cannot dodge, and parrying will restore this resource.
Aiding Basim in his combat and assassination escapades are skills, which are spread across 3 skill trees – Phantom, Trickster, and Predator. Some of the skills that players can unlock are increasing the number of elixirs that Basim can carry, chain assassination, recovering thrown knives, and more. Basim does not level up with experience points but will gain skill points to use as he progresses through the game.
Based on what I saw during my limited time with Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the skills don’t seem to drastically change Basim’s playstyle but instead enhance or improve what he already has. One skill will allow Enkidu (his eagle) to reveal the patrol path of marked enemies, while another will allow time to slow down while aiming by throwing knives in mid-air.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is shaping up nicely as a return to form for the series. While some remnants of the more action-focused entries remain, the game leans on its slower pace to wrap players in its stealthy and investigation-based loop, which feels a lot like the older entries in the series but with the conveniences and polish of years past.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage feels like a fine mix of the old and new, and we can’t wait to see more of this entry as it launches next month.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is scheduled to launch on October 5, 2023 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PC.