Assassin's Creed Mirage feels like a bit of a means to an end
Ubisoft has lifted the curtain on the next Assassin's Creed game and told us some extra bits of information about it.
While it may seem a bit negative to start off a preview in this way, it's something that must be said. The Assassin's Creed Showcase at the September 2022 Ubisoft Forward was a bit drab. Yes, we got plenty of new announcements and information about what the future holds for Assassin's Creed, but at the same time, ten-second cinematic announcement teasers about games that are years away is hardly something we can get hugely excited about, especially in this era of gaming where delays are all the more common. You could call me a pessimist for thinking about things in this way, but in reality it's a revelation that all stems from the fact that over the duration of the lengthy, highly-produced show, the biggest chunk of gameplay relating to new and future projects was a little bit of in-engine footage of a mobile game, Assassin's Creed Codename Jade. And this is despite the fact that it seemed like Assassin's Creed Mirage would be the real star of the show, since the Forward's other highlighted titles (Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope and Skull and Bones) both had dedicated Forwards a few weeks back. But alas, that wasn't the case.
Don't get me wrong, Mirage had a mighty big presence, and that's what I will eventually get to when this rant is over. The cinematic trailer looks great and gives a good idea of what Ubisoft Bordeaux is aiming to serve up, but since so-called insiders and leakers and so on have all been saying this title will be releasing in the earlier stages of 2023, the fact that Ubisoft decided not to show off any gameplay, or even actually attach an exact release date leaves me curious as to how development of this title is actually progressing. Fortunately, a press briefing that I attended earlier this week allows me to add a bit of colour to what Mirage will actually offer.
First and foremost, as was already apparent, Mirage will revolve around Basim, the master assassin that became an ally and then a foe of Eivor's in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. This game will tell Basim's story 20 years before the events of that Viking saga, and will see the iconic character growing from a lowly street thief into an apprentice assassin, and then into a master assassin, all under the watchful eye of Roshan, his mentor brought to life by actress Shohreh Aghdashloo. With this being the case, we can expect a story spanning multiple years, and set in the beautiful city of Baghdad starting in 861 AD, a time regarded as the city's golden age.
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As has also been reported prior to the showcase, Mirage is taking a step back from the broader RPGs that have become the norm for Assassin's Creed as of late. The game doesn't feature a chunky part of the Arabian Peninsula for you to explore as you see fit. Instead everything takes place in the city of Baghdad (and occasionally the fortress of Alamut, the headquarters of the Hidden Ones), and with this being the case Ubi Bordeaux has focussed on creating a cityscape that is more packed and detailed, and has more opportunities for you to complete your assassination contracts. It was mentioned that the city has four distinct regions, including the industrial Karkh and the verdant gardens of the Round City.
In terms of the story, this is also taking the series back to its roots. Mirage will be a more linear narrative tale, one that will still boast options for the player to tackle missions and explore, but will also feature a very clear start and end. The gameplay will be following suit here as well, as stealth, parkour, and assassinations are the three pillars that the game has been built on, meaning you can expect to get back to business in a way like Altair, by finding your target, strategizing your moves, and then executing with efficiency and skill.
Ubi Bordeaux has put emphasis on elevating these three areas by looking to introduce a reworked stealth and detection system for the game, alongside extra stealth tools (mines and blow darts), as well as faster parkour animations and even the return of some fan favourite animations, such as corner swings. There will be familiar beats as well, including an eagle that can help scout targets and so on, but even this has been iterated on, as enemies will not hesitate to shoot the bird out the sky and take that mechanic away from you.
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Generally speaking, Assassin's Creed Mirage sounds like a bit of a means to an end. Sure, a lot of the proposed features and changes that harken from and are inspired by Assassin's Creed of old could make for an interesting experience that is different to the monstrously large RPGs the series has cooked up as of late. But at the same time, it's hard to see this game (in a theoretical sense since we're lacking gameplay) as much other than a placeholder while Ubisoft gets ready for the next era of the series with Codename Red and Codename Hexe. Mirage in action could flip this perspective on its head, but until Ubisoft feels ready to give us some actual gameplay and is ready to talk about launch periods, I think I'll remain cautiously interested in this one.