Ubisoft Forward September 2022 Assassin's Creed Mirage All Announcements Trailers

Assassin’s Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview – An Excellent Return to Form

Last week, I got to experience a significant 3-hour chunk of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage, covering a few key moments from the opening chapters and a mid-game investigation leading up to the assassination of a key target. Refreshingly, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a return to the classic stealth and assassination-focused gameplay of the original trilogy – A sort of modern take on the classic formula that made the series so popular back in the day.

Watch our Assassin’s Creed Mirage Preview Below

Assassin’s Creed Mirage places you in the boots of the young and ambitious street thief, Basim, living on the streets of Baghdad during the Islamic Golden Age – a period of cultural, scientific, and economic growth centred in the city. Son of a dedicated public servant cast aside by a corrupt government. He’s eventually recruited and trained by “The Hidden Ones”, before returning to Baghdad to strike at a network of agents assisting the “Order of the Ancients” in manipulating the leaders of the Caliphate.

If you recognise that name, that’s because the overarching story follows on from events of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, leaning into the genetic memory Animus-science angle, with the never-ending hunt for ancient artefacts and all the weirdness that brings.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

The Hidden Ones are still intent on preserving humanity’s independence through dispassionate murder, while agents of the Order of the Ancients all reveal tragic backstories and words of wisdom in their final moments.

When combined with Basim’s growth from a brash and arrogant thief to a professional assassin, there are a lot of parallels with the very first Assassin’s Creed – parallels that extend to the gameplay too.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

Now Assassin’s Creed Mirage has traditional narrative- and tutorial-heavy opening chapters designed to introduce you to the world, the cast, and the basic mechanics – but upon Basim’s return to Baghdad, the focus shifts to investigating leads, assassinating key targets, and presumably uncovering an actual member of the Order of the Ancients.

As in the original game (and Unity and Syndicate to a lesser degree) this means working with local contacts to uncover information about the target through several sources – almost all of whom are going to ask something of Basim in return. It’s a formulaic structure, but each investigation and assassination introduce new districts of Baghdad, expand the cast, and slowly unravel more of the overarching story.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

As for what you’ll be doing? Assassin’s Creed Mirage isn’t going to offer many surprises to fans of the series but the reduction in RPG elements, the mission objectives, AI patrol behaviours, and the verticality of Baghdad all shift the focus back to stealth.

Progressively unlocked abilities and tools expand your tactical options; free-running up and across the rooftops remains the safest way to travel; convenient spots like piles of hay and rooftop shelters allow you to break line of site or hide your victims; while stealth returns, allowing you can avoid notice by sitting on benches, walking among groups of citizens, or paying mercenaries to create a distraction.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

If things do go awry – and you don’t want to fall back on the generous autosave system – combat is riskier than before, though Basim is an expert swordsman and successful parries open basic foes for instant kills.

There was no shortage of optional missions and historical sites to distract me, but the core investigation missions felt suitably diverse and fleshed out. You’ll often be studying patrol paths and vision cones to sneak into restricted areas or pick off guards one by one; you’ll collect notes and items for interested parties; solve some simple traversal puzzles; trail suspects to eavesdrop on conversations and identify new leads; and finally assassinate key targets by working your way into their trust or getting the literal drop on them.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

It’s a familiar enough list, but Assassin’s Creed Mirage plays much better than its earlier inspirations and adds modern flourishes, like an upgraded focus ability that lets you chain assassinations to quickly clear a room.

This pre-release build seemed in good shape, but some long-running annoyances persisted and there were potential accessibility issues. I still found myself getting stuck on geometry and NPCs while fleeing; experienced several confused inputs that left Basim jumping in and out of hay carts at the least opportune moments; struggled to see distant object highlights when using eagle vision; and I could have used a hint or more environmental cues during the traversal puzzles. Nothing game breaking but potentially frustrating.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

As Assassin’s Creed Mirage is releasing on last- and current-gen consoles, it looks great but doesn’t push boundaries. Ubisoft has long since mastered the recreation of historical cities and landscapes, with impressive attention to fine details and enough variety to ensure you rarely spot repeated assets. The reactive crowds looked a little stiff, but when they’re combined with great ambient audio, background chatter, and a fantastic soundtrack, it helped to create a dynamic, believable facsimile of historic Baghdad.

Perhaps more importantly, Assassin’s Creed Mirage does its best to immerse you in its world with a quality voice cast that uses heavily accented English and frequent traditional Arabic phrases. If you’re comfortable with subtitles, you can even play the entire game in Arabic. Now I can’t speak as an authority, but it works well to minimise that disconnect you often get between a historical setting and modern writing.

Assassin's Creed Mirage Hands-On Preview - An Excellent Return to Form

As someone who’s drifted away from the IP as they’ve increased in scope and length, I was impressed with its tighter gameplay focus and more coherent narrative – but how you feel about it might depend on your prior experience. If you long for a return to the reduced scope and tighter gameplay of the earlier games, Assassin’s Creed Mirage forces you to actually play like an assassin. If, on the other hand, your experience is limited to the recent trilogy, you might want to treat Assassin’s Creed Mirage as a lower-priced curiosity that’ll give you a taste of where IP came from.

Thanks to Ubisoft for giving us some hands-on time with Assassin’s Creed Mirage. The game is scheduled to launch on 5 October on PS4, PS5, Xbox and PC.

Thanks to Andrew Logue for playing Assassin’s Creed Mirage and giving us his thoughts on the game.

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