Assassin’s Creed Mirage Test – Illusion, or has Ubisoft’s cash cow really tried to return to its roots?

There are few game publishers that have described themselves (besides Activision-Blizzard) in the same way to me in recent years as Ubisoft. From the harassment scandals, to the endlessly scrolling projects (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time remake, Skull and Bones), to the dozens of times used, overweight, repetitive, open-world gameplay, several factors came together at the French giant, thanks to which I roughly stood to it, like the corner hamburger offer. It happened that sometimes I wished for it, but even then I preferred to browse the classics, and I knew that I could easily spend my time with something better, more engaging and fresher than that.

A return to the more focused, story- and stealth-oriented gameplay of the previous parts. Concerns similar to mine were somewhat felt by the fans, because at least in terms of games, it almost seems as if they are trying. Not only did The Crew thoroughly transform its gameplay with Motorfest (although heavily inspired by the Forza Horizon series), but also in relation to the new Assassin’s Creed, it was stated relatively early on that instead of another hundred or two hundred hour long historical epic, it would be a kind of return to the more focused earlier parts, for its more story- and stealth-oriented gameplay.

Historically, Mirage is a prequel to Valhalla, it takes place in the middle of the ninth century, and its hero is Basim, the Eivort-initiated assassin, who at the beginning of the story is just an ambitious, reckless thief from Baghdad, who dreams of one day joining the Order of Hiders fighting on the side of the people. It will come true one day – albeit in far more horrific, bloody and harrowing circumstances than he imagined. After several years of training, he returns to the city to help the insurgents against the Abbasid Caliphate with his companions, because the ruling class is practically controlled like a puppet on a string by the enemy of the Hiding Ones, the Order of the Ancients.

The total playing time is between 20 and 30 hours. The gameplay in many respects goes back to the original parts. For example, the playing area, although still impressive, is significantly smaller than it was in the Valhalla or Odyssey episodes, and the total playing time, depending on the completed side activities, stops at 20-30 hours. There isn’t too much optional content either, instead of city ruins and the like, we can only sometimes help passers-by on the street, and we can take on assignments for thefts and assassinations to be carried out under different conditions.

The story is also significantly more linear than what we have been used to from Ubisoft’s games lately. We can progress through our targets and ranks according to a specified order, with significant detective work before the assassinations. We also need to reach the appropriate points in the story to unlock certain abilities. Basim’s skill tree is also more limited, and our hero is not a battlefield veteran like the heroes of Odyssey or Valhalla.

Stealth has become an important element again. If more than four or five opponents hit him at the same time, our protagonist can easily lose his teeth even after numerous improvements and leveling up – although there is no strict division into zones this time, only recommendations that based on the number and strength of the opponents, the given at what rank, i.e. at which point in the story is it worth trying. Stealth, ambush attacks, and tactical retreats and escapes through rooftops, blending into the crowd, tearing down circling posters, and bribing street speakers become an emphasized element again. Tokens belonging to the different factions of Baghdad also play an important role, which can be collected either by completing side missions or by pickpocketing. For these, we can ask favors from, for example, merchants, musicians or insurgents, through which we can even complete the main missions of the game in different ways.

There are of course innovations, for example Basim can use many tricks that were introduced in the last games of the series. Relatively early on, the focus ability seen in the previews, heavily criticized by fans, opens up for him, thanks to which he can plan and execute a series of lightning-quick executions on opponents close to each other. The parkour toolbox has also been expanded with some new elements, and the system has become noticeably more permissive. It happened more than once that in the middle of a theoretically impossible jump, Basim got an unexpected boost, thanks to which he caught the given ledge or reached the given roof. But despite all that, the fact is that Mirage is more Assassin’s Creed than anything we’ve seen since Origins, or if you like, Unity/Syndicate. And I won’t exaggerate: it suits him very well. It’s been a long time since an Assassin’s Creed game got so attached, and even longer I felt that it was trying so hard to stick to the adventures of Altair, Ezio and Connor in terms of gameplay.

However, this backwardness is not always to the advantage of the game, because the creators kept a few elements from both the new and the old games, for which I don’t think too many players would have shed tears. With the old game elements becoming more prominent, climbing the towers and synchronization will of course be given priority again to open the fast travel points and see the relevant parts of Baghdad on the map. On the other hand, in order to open the developments, we will need raw materials and corresponding blueprints, which are mainly obtained by grinding: completing side missions and looting guard posts in our way, which after a while feels more and more like an irritating waste of time.

The childhood illnesses of parkour are coming back. The childhood illnesses of parkour are also coming back: it happened that Basim completely inexplicably threw himself into the deep instead of continuing to jump in the specified direction. There were also memorable paralyzes, like when I couldn’t reach a ledge that was reachable by all human calculations, so I hung helplessly while the guards gathered below me already started shooting arrows. As for the guards: their artificial intelligence has noticeably decreased, it is much easier to outrun them during chases, but they are sometimes quite forgiving if we kill one of their comrades near them.

Of course, the microtransactions could not be left out either, among which – although they mainly cover cosmetic elements – there are a few elements with which Ubi is again trying to encourage the purchase of more expensive editions or smaller expenses. Such, for example, are Altair’s and Ezio’s outfits for those who want full nostalgia, but only a larger DLC mission is available as a bonus. The Deluxe edition of the game also comes with the Dagger of Time from the Prince of Persia series, which, together with the accompanying sword, can not only slow down time for a few seconds after executions, but also recharges part of the life force, thus providing a significant advantage on the battlefield.

In terms of gameplay, the occasional bugs were a much more serious problem. It happened, for example, that a mission got stuck at such a level that I could only do it by manually reloading a previous save (be sure to save manually from time to time and use several slots). Although the speed of the game is stable, and I was able to maintain 50-60 fps with High settings even on a configuration that is almost three years old, this is more due to the age of the game engine.

The locations are still amazingly beautiful.The locations are still amazingly beautiful, the atmosphere is incredible, but when you look more closely at the character models and some animations, time starts to pass. Performance also includes the fact that the Day One patch that followed the release also added Denuvo copy protection to the game, which, according to the developers, did not cause any performance problems, but I would quietly add that after the update there were a few fps fluctuations that caused the test period that started earlier I did not meet during

In addition to the nostalgia factor, it is difficult to ignore the fact regarding the future of the series, that the creators achieved the greatest progress by taking two steps back. Despite the listed flaws, I had more fun with Mirage than I have with any Assassin’s Creed in the last seven or eight years, and I suspect that it will win over countless die-hard fans. But it doesn’t show much new under the sun – even the story itself, despite its more focused nature and better characters, strongly echoes the motifs we saw ten years ago. A must for Assassin’s Creed fans, especially those who like the classic, early parts, they will not be disappointed – however, the next act would have to be a very considered and convincing move on the part of the creators to trust this series.

The test copy was provided by the game publisher.

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industrial designer with a passion for creativity and innovation. Since 2015, he has dedicated his expertise to shaping the world through his designs. Prior to his current role, Peter served as a teaching assistant at the NY Institute of Information Technology, sharing his knowledge and guiding aspiring minds. Additionally, he holds the esteemed position of Editor-in-Chief at PlayStation Game Station LLC, fueling his love for gaming and the digital world. Beyond his professional pursuits, Peter embraces life as an explorer, immersing himself in new experiences, a social media fanatic, a travel geek, an alcohol enthusiast, and a specialist in music. Through his multifaceted interests, Peter continually seeks to broaden his horizons and make a positive impact on the world around him.