Year:  2023

Director:  Stéphane Boudon

Rated:  MA

Release:  Out Now

Distributor: Ubisoft

Running time: 11-15 hours

Worth: $13.50
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Shohreh Aghdashloo

… plays very much like an old school Assassin’s Creed game with an emphasis on stealth, parkour, distraction, guile and – eventually – merciless bloodletting.

In recent times, the Assassin’s Creed series has been going through a bit of an identity crisis. What was once a relatively stripped back franchise about assassins killing templars in locations of historical interest, has become a much more bloated affair, with 2020’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla delivering a fantastic 30-hour game in a cumbersome 100-hour fat suit. Further to that, the “assassination” aspect of the games has been all but forgotten, replaced with rather generic combat, typical Ubisoft RPG mechanics and open world box ticking.

That’s not to say that these games are bad, mind you, but they’ve certainly strayed from the original vision. Assassin’s Creed Mirage seeks to revisit that founding philosophy with entertaining, albeit mixed, results.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage tells the story of Basim Ibn Ishaq (years before we meet him in Valhalla), a young street urchin who dreams of being more than just a thief and wants to live a life that means something. He finds that meaning by becoming a Hidden One, under the honeyed-gravel voice of Roshan (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and from there, his world expands, becoming an open realm that can be improved, one corpse at a time.

Mirage’s opening couple of hours sets up a grand old school AC game that harkens back to the heyday of Assassin’s Creed 2 and the various Ezio entries. However, once the characters are established and the game opens up, the story is sidelined in favour of bite-sized missions that lead to larger goals and eventual boss encounters. The problem is, because of the open world design, these mini missions are necessarily self-contained and have little relevance to the broader story, essentially feeling like busy work. This really saps any sense of narrative momentum and leaves Basim, one of the more interesting characters in Valhalla, feeling a little bland and uninteresting.

On the plus side: the gameplay. Mirage feels and plays very much like an old school Assassin’s Creed game with an emphasis on stealth, parkour, distraction, guile and – eventually – merciless bloodletting. It does include combat, sure, but if you’re facing three or more enemies, you’re better off running than fighting because ol’ mate Basim is not equipped to deal with a group blue. Certainly, those who delighted in Valhalla’s epic brawls may feel shortchanged here, but for gamers seeking a classic AC experience, this is the closest you’ll get, short of playing the various remasters of older titles. In fact, Mirage is a quite spare package, coming in at around 12-15 hours, which is a relief after recent series bloat, but still doesn’t quite contain enough story to justify even this slender runtime. It also lacks the innovations of other stealth based games like Dishonored, Hitman or Metal Gear Solid, feeling a bit stuck in the past.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the latest iteration of the 16-year-old franchise is an attempt to recapture the former glory of these games, and while its heart is in the right place, it doesn’t quite stick the landing. The story is too threadbare and the mechanics too devoid of genuine inspiration. Still, it’s a worthy attempt and maybe the wrist blade will stick closer to the heart (of the matter) in the next deadly attempt.