Assassin’s Creed Mirage Might Be Reaching Too Far in the Past – Hands-on Impressions

Assassin’s Creed Mirage is taking inspiration from the earlier games in the series.


Image via Ubisoft

Ubisoft found themselves in a good rhythm with the Assassin’s Creed series following the release of Origins in 2017, Odyssey in 2018, and Valhalla in 2020. This trio of titles seemed like a different direction for the franchise moving forward, with a greater focus on the larger open world while overhauling major systems such as combat. It paid off in a big way for Ubisoft, as the most recent Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla sold more copies in its first week of release than any other in the franchise, and went on to be one of the top-selling games for both 2020 and 2021.

Despite this success, Assassin’s Creed has found itself going in another direction with Mirage. Labeled as ‘a return to roots’ this homage to the original Assassin’s Creed will scale back the open world and have a bigger focus on stealth. Recently, I had the chance to play about 3 hours of hands-on time with Assasin’s Creed Mirage to dive into how this latest game is shaping up.

A Whole New World

Image via Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Mirage will put players in the shoes of Basim, a street thief who is trying to survive the city of Baghdad in 861 CE. After getting the attention of the Assasin’s Brotherhood, Basim is taken in and mentored by a master assassin, Roshan, who is played by the veteran Emmy Award-winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse, 24, House of Saddam).

Players will find that from a gameplay standpoint, one of the biggest changes to Mirage is combat being a last resort, with stealth having a much larger emphasis. While previous games have been leaning more into a Dark Souls-inspired combat system, Mirage wants Basim to quietly take out his foes from the shadows. You’ll be given a selection of tools to help with these engagements, such as throwing knives, blowdarts, smoke bombs, and traps. Trying to use these in the right circumstances will be your key to remaining undetected and avoiding the challenging sword fights presented to you. A few times I found myself quite overwhelmed with the enemy encounters, and running away and hiding while things settled down was a good rule when things got hairy. 

Because the world size of Mirage has been toned right back, the story is a more focused experience, with the developers stating the playtime is around 20 hours long. However, in saying that, some of my favorite memories from Valhalla were the random quests you would stumble upon while exploring. I recall burning down the arguing neighbor’s houses in Valhalla, which ended in such a dark yet humorous way. Or stumbling across ‘Axehead’, a confused warrior post battle with an axe lodged in his skull, whilst having a hazy recollection of how it got there.

Those moments in open-world games feel like stories you can tell your friends about when sharing your experience, because they can come across as unique and personal to your playthrough. That’s a lot harder to pull off in an environment that has been greatly reduced compared to the recent entries. During my hands-on, I didn’t come across any side quests out in the city, which could have been just structured this way for this specific preview and the limited time available. The only side missions that I did find were related to a contract board, which gave me tasks to complete to improve my faction’s reputation and earn rewards. 

The experience system in Assassins Creed Mirage was a little confusing. You’re not earning XP for completing missions and building up a bar – at least from what I could gather – instead unlocks are tried to certain story beats where you’ll be rewarded with a skill point. But I wasn’t sure when this would happen. These points can be placed into one of the three categories that Basim can be trained in — this includes Phantom, Trickster, and Predator. In a running theme for Mirage, this feels very stripped back compared to the skill tree seen in Valhalla, but also the things on offer from the get-go didn’t really seem enticing to me. 


I’m very worried about Assasin’s Creed Mirage, and all sorts of warning bells are ringing in my head. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last few games, and this seems like a huge departure from them. That’s where maybe the battlelines could be drawn. The people who found the recent games too intimidating and time-consuming, while those who could get lost in the world of Assasin’s Creed might find Mirage to be toned down too much. But for me, with these changes, there wasn’t really anything that stood out that made me think, “Wow, that was cool, I haven’t seen them do that before.” 

I’m incredibly curious about how Assassin’s Creed Mirage will end up playing out. As a fan of the series, I’m hoping Ubisoft can continue to keep us captivated in this wonderful world. But from what I’ve seen so far, their “tribute to an original” for this one might be stuck too far in the past.