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[Review] Assassins Creed Mirage

I may be known for my love of horror games but I am a huge fan of Assassins Creed and have been since the beginning. As an historian in my spare time these games captured my heart, being able to run through periods of time that I love. Previous games have taken us through Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, the Viking age, the Crusades, Renaissance Italy and more. Mirage takes us to ninth century Baghdad and tells the origin story of Basim, who was in the previous game.

Playing through this game takes you back to earlier entries in the franchise and it gripped me from the word go. You start the game as a young Basim, a street thief, who gets himself in a bit of trouble after breaking into the royal palace and stealing a strange artefact. It brings him to the attention of the Hidden Ones who take him in, and train him to be an assassin. He is haunted by nightmares of a Djinni, a horrid beast who stalks him constantly and he works to get it out of his life.

While training at the Hidden One's fortress of Alamut, news comes to light that the Order of the Ancients are causing problems in Baghdad. Basim is sent to his hometown alongside his colleagues, to find out what they are up to and stop the order of the Ancients. There are various bureaus located throughout the city which Basim will visit throughout the game and there he will receive missions to locate the various members of the order.

Gameplay is classic Assassins Creed. As in every other entry of the franchise, parkour is a massive gameplay mechanic. Incredibly useful in situations when you have to run from guards, you can race across the rooftops and hide in little curtained boxes - when I saw those, I squealed. A true throwback to the original game. Stealth is once again back and again important to the gameplay - you are able to crouch and hide in grass, blend in with groups of people or sit on benches to avoid prying eyes. You are also able to pickpocket thanks to Basim's background as a street thief. Whilst not necessary for the storyline, there are side quests involving pickpocketing which earn you rewards.

Combat can be incredibly overwhelming in Mirage especially if you decide to go in all guns blazing like I do. If you do that you will be surrounded and overwhelmed quickly and death is pretty much inevitable. It's not impossible to do, but you really do get better results if you at least do some stealth. Hiding in bushes or hay carts and whistling to attract guards became a favourite ploy of mine and I have to say, it felt incredibly satisfying managing to clear out an area by stealth alone. You can also use throwing knives to drop hanging rocks and supplies on unwitting groups of soldiers - also incredibly satisfying. Fighting isn't as fast paced as it has been, harkening back to the early combat mechanics of Assassins Creed 1 and 2 where you have to be patient and learn how to parry. It's satisfying and in my opinion the game is all the better for it. Some may find it a little too slow but it was nice to move away from the faster, RPG esque fighting style.

Many have said that Basim isn't the most interesting character, yet I found him to be wonderful. I loved him from the get go and it was interesting to see just how he was before he shows up on Eivor's doorstep in Valhalla. His quest to find out more about himself and the Djinni that stalks him was interesting and I loved the characterisation of him. I also fell madly in love with Roshan, his master - her distinct voice was just wonderful, deep and smoky and just brilliant. Her advice to Basim and her lessons serve him well throughout the game and I just thought she was amazing. I would love to see a game based on her story! The rest of the cast weren't all that memorable save for Basim's best friend, Nehal. Her story was probably the most interesting in the whole game, and it is central to the entire plot of Mirage so I won't go into it. All I'll say is this. Prepare yourselves.

What I adored the most about Mirage though was its setting. Like earlier games you are in one city alone - Baghdad - with a little time spent at the fortress of Alamut. You walk the streets of the city and you can hear the shouts in Arabic from various NPC's. There's constant chatter as you wander, immersing you in a city that takes you from it's slums to it's beautiful central city where the highest echelons live. Honestly there were times that it felt real, something that I've not felt in Assassins Creed for a while. With a smaller map it feels like there is far more focus than there has been in the previous three games which at times felt far too big and often lost sight of the stories they were trying to tell.

Mirage is much shorter than Origins, Odyssey and Valhalla and whilst it felt strange to start with, going back to the 20 or so hours needed for completion, at the same time it actually felt far better. The length of the previous games have often been their downfall with far too much going on, allowing distraction from the main story and even, at times, getting boring. I felt burned out with Valhalla, for instance, as it was just far too big. However this is much shorter and the focus is primarily on the story. Yes there are side quests that you can collect from boards in the bureau but they aren't overwhelming and there aren't too many of them. They're a great little distraction if you want to distance yourself from the story for a little while. can cuddle cats.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Assassins Creed Mirage and found the toned down approach to be refreshing. Yes the game has some problems - perhaps the story can be said to be a little simplistic, but that's because we have become so used to long and complicated plot lines. Some of the characters were somewhat forgettable but the ones that mattered certainly resonated with me. Mirage goes back to basics which I think was needed for this franchise - gone is the levelling up and the hundreds of weapons and pieces of armour. You get a small selection of these and it's honestly nice to not spend hours looking at customisation for it all. This feels like a great step forward for the Assassins Creed franchise and I look forward to seeing where they go with it next. It's one I'll definitely be going back to with the aim of platinating. Next job is to try and 100% it with all the collectibles etc. I can't wait to get back to Baghdad.

Score: 8/10

I would like to extend a massive thank you to the team at Ubisoft for the code

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