I played Assassin’s Creed: Mirage. A perfect return to the roots of the series

I played Assassin's Creed: Mirage.  A perfect return to the roots of the series

I played Assassin’s Creed: Mirage – the long-awaited return of the series to its origins and to the Middle East. Ubisoft’s latest game has something to be proud of, because it offers a great atmosphere of Baghdad and distills what is best in the series.

Assassin’s Creed is a legendary Ubisoft series that has had both ups and downs since its debut 16 years ago. The massive baggage that the series carried on its shoulders was stripped away for the first time in Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The fresh formula of the game with completely different combat and strong RPG mechanics first delighted players, but gradually became tiring.

For me, the previous Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was a sharp turning point. Theoretically, it was a game about my favorite assassins, but at the same time they seemed to be pushed into the background, because the main focus was the adventures of the Vikings and their gods. With the third title in the RPG system, the constant comparison of the statistics of ax A to sword B and the map extremely swollen with side activities made something inside me break.

However, when announcing Assassin’s Creed: Mirage, Ubisoft promised another cut. Simplifying the extensive mechanics, returning to the atmosphere of the Middle East from the iconic first part, the game is smaller, but more focused and refined. I haven’t been this interested in a long time. After a dozen or so hours spent in production, I can confirm – AC: Mirage is the comeback I’ve been hoping for for years.

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is addictive from the very first minutes

From the very first moments we are drawn into the quite interesting life of Basim Ibn Ishaq. This is not a completely new character, because in Valhalla we already learned about some key fragments and the ending of this assassin’s story. This does not mean that a new player will not find his way here – this knowledge is not crucial in the long run, but the authors also wink at fans who know certain facts in advance.

In Mirage, we start with the miserable beginnings of Basim, a thief brought up on the streets, who from the very beginning has a touch of Robin Hood in him and a bit of humor that Nathan Drake would be ashamed of. Our hero initially didn’t convince me with his voice (in the English version), but then I quickly liked him.

Basim has a clearly defined character, his own problems, and his realistic friends. He is also plagued by strange, unexplained nightmares. He also has ambitions to break out of his life, counted from one stolen apartment to another. He is also looking for a deeper purpose and, in a way, justice. Assassin’s Creed’s story has always worked best when it tells the story of the main character’s gradual transformation. Basim’s entry into the order of the Hidden Ones is expertly handled and incredibly engaging. In my opinion, it can easily compete with the beginnings of Altair or Ezio.

Without revealing too much, the further plot draws somewhat from the solutions of the previous parts. The supernatural element also returns quite quickly, but in the current context of the series and in Basim’s story, it simply could not be missing. At the same time, AC: Mirage perfectly highlights the elements that I remember well from the first Assassin’s Creed. An important aspect are, for example, assassins’ offices – we collect further clues about the main targets to be eliminated and only with the consent of our superiors can we eliminate a given person.

The assassinations themselves are separate missions in which we have to react to changes in the environment, lure the target out of hiding, and so on. A perfect plan, its expert execution and terror in the eyes of a target who never expected it – this is what every AC should look like and Mirage delivers such impressions almost perfectly.

AC: Mirage Gameplay – Stealth and escape are back

I don’t know about you, but I like it when my assassin… kills secretly. I never accepted the fact that a hidden blade doesn’t take out an enemy with a single hidden blow, then an awkward fight ensues, and so on. So what happened in the last games was like sacrilege.

Assassin’s Creed: Mirage is a hit for me, also in terms of gameplay. This one has been distilled in many ways. I see some sort of cutting out of the slightly outsized options from previous games as a huge plus. We start the game with a sword + dagger pair, a hidden blade and throwing knives – that’s it. It’s surprising how interesting infiltrating bases becomes when we have quite few tools. It forces creative thinking, a certain amount of improvisation and gives great satisfaction. For me, precise elimination of subsequent guards with a hidden blade is always fun, especially if we have to do it under time pressure (and yes, it is always one stab).

We gradually unlock new gadgets according to our own choice. However, this happens quite slowly, in moderation. I really appreciate that the authors don’t throw a bag full of arsenal at us, which quickly trivializes any challenge. The number of equipment has also been limited – we have a suit, a sword and a dagger. Each of them has a pair of versions that provide unique bonuses. Although the arsenal is not huge, everyone should find something for themselves.

When we are finally detected, the sword and dagger come into play and we use them in tandem in open combat. This one is simple yet fresh at the same time. We deal light and heavy blows, counter, avoid, and maybe even a kick. This alone is enough to make the fight an interesting challenge. Each enemy blow is very painful, so we have to be careful and react quickly. Mistakes are costly, and without focus, even a small group of guards can be a challenge.

When the fight is too difficult, we can always run away. There are plenty of options here, from places to hide and the inevitable haystack, to bribery of certain groups that can help us disappear or fight. The classic publicity system, which has always been a gem for me, is also back. When we kill a few enemies with impunity in broad daylight, it will become increasingly difficult for us to move around the city, civilians will turn against us, and the streets and rooftops will gain additional patrols. In the system of balancing open combat, escape and stealth killing, I felt like a fish out of water.

Is Assassin’s Creed: Mirage worth playing? Yes, at least for Baghdad

I also have to write about the location – Baghdad and its surroundings. AC has already jumped around the world many times, with better or worse results. For me, the basis of a good game in the series is setting it in a perfect location, because cities play quite a large role in the overall reception of the game. The mismatch is immediately visible – for me it was the case with Assassin’s Creed III or the returning Valhalla.

Baghdad, and more broadly the Middle East, is the perfect place for me to set the newest Assassin. The city has a lot of taller buildings, which makes the parkour system shine and allows you to move through the districts very skillfully. There is also something to admire from above, because the key buildings are simply beautiful. Every corner of the city is teeming with life, you can feel the important characteristics of this culture, strong Islamic roots and connection with the desert, merchant tradition, loud bazaars, and a hint of palace intrigues.

Even though I haven’t finished the game yet, I already know that Assassin’s Creed: Mirage will be high on my list this year. However, the initial hours allow me to say clearly – there was something to wait for.

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