Assassin’s Creed Mirage preview: Finally, a return to stealth roots
Assassin's Creed Mirage is finally stealth-first again: We're no longer that Viking wild sow throwing axes around, but a leopard stalking its prey. We can experiment much more, experience a maximally open level design and a city in which every neighbourhood feels different.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is a dream for stealth kings. People who loved Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell or simply the old Assassin’s Creeds will have a tremendous fun in beautiful 9th century Baghdad, our recent hands-on with the game revealed.
We throw coins, briefly distract a guard, dart around corners. We duck into dark corners, because in the evening even our shadow in a candle could betray us. It’s a completely different feeling from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. In that game, we are a bear of a man, with arms like tree trunks as we swing the axe and make the English army tremble.
In Assassin’s Creed Mirage we have to be quite careful, because our character Basim doesn’t last much, especially at the beginning with his thief gear, i.e. a simple shirt. And interestingly enough he doesn’t have any weapons at all in the first missions.
Ubisoft really wants to prepare us to proceed slowly, deliberately and quietly, to use haystacks, to hide in the crowd, to perfect pickpocketing as a small event. We are supposed to steal the key of a captain of the Baghdad Guard and the commander is pretty well protected – three or four men right next to him, but also on towers and at the gate three grim-looking soldiers are patrolling.
If you just stumble in there like Eivor the Viking would have done, you’ll quickly lose out. Ubisoft Bordeaux celebrates the return of stealth, parkour, and the devising of smart escape routes. We can scramble up ladders, for example, and then knock them over to slow down the city guards. Or knock over a spice stall – not the finest way, but what’s a poor rascal to do when he doesn’t yet have a Scimitar sword with him, but only the bare fist of a rather weak youth.
After all, we are at the very beginning here. We are the Padawan student who has yet to be molded into a callous avenger by the Assassin League.
Basim, the young Padawan who has yet to mature into an Assassin Jedi
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has a bit of Star Wars to it. We are the Padawan who has lots and lots to learn. It feels good though, because we just have to observe a bit, a bit more than in Splinter Cell.
That commander of the city guard disappears into his chambers after a while and oops – if we do a bit of scrambling, balancing on clotheslines and working our way from rooftop to rooftop, we can just slip through his open window, steal the key as he’s rummaging around in his money box and disappear again. Or we can take a higher risk, knock the good man out and rob him of the gold he’s extorted from other traders – but then he’ll be looking for us all the more vehemently.
After the first thefts in the district of Anbar, we travel to Alamut, where a novice of the order teaches us how the Leap of Faith works properly – that iconic jump from the towers of the city into a haystack needs to be skillfully, of course.
Remember the first trailer: The city guards want to execute our timid thief. Roshan (played magnificently by The Expanse icon Shoreh Aghdashloo, who has that haunting, smoky voice that gives every scene a certain epicness) saves us and finds that young Basim has potential but still has a long way to go.
Admittedly, the pace in these first 40 minutes is a little slowed down. That makes sense because those who only know Valhalla and maybe haven’t played earlier Assassin’s Creed games won’t be familiar with all the possibilities of the course, but it’s ultimately the one that’s the most fun. There’s also a nice component to it, simply because Basim can’t do everything straight away, but is still a bit wobbly on the wooden beam at the beginning. If you had to balance on a clothesline, you’d also plop down the first time.
The first Scimitar, the first battles, sandstorms high, and Basim as a spy
Assassin’s Creed Mirage has many, many ideas to give its combat more dynamism and intelligence than Valhalla. We are no longer the wild boar in Odin’s armor throwing double axes around, but have to really think about how to crack bases.
Because Basim can’t set a counter-kill at the beginning and also only has one cowl, we have to try to drive soldiers with chain armor apart; if two units are standing on a balcony, you distract one, lure him away from his position, slip through the window, clamber onto the roof and take out the other via death from above.
The other one discovers his assassinated colleague and is about to sound the alarm. Crap, no knife left, so we throw a vase on the helmet of the caliph’s second soldier and he goes to sleep. Once they’ve both been taken out, we scramble down, collect our knives again and can now use them to cut the rope of a crane that is transporting heavy wall blocks, causing havoc that we can use to find our mission objective.
10 minutes of 4K gameplay from Assassin’s Creed Mirage:
And this runs throughout the mission design – in the next operation, archers are constantly firing at our bird Enkidu, who is acting as a drone to mark soldiers on the map. We dive through the water at the harbor, find a safe position, take out the first and second archers with a knife throw. For the third and fourth we have to get more creative – lure them to another area with firecrackers, for example – and use the commotion to sneak up on the actual target, the harbor master. But we could also plant a few smoke bombs and reign death from above.
Or, or, or. We can even use Kidhmah tokens to hire mercenaries who dare to attack, drawing military units away from our target building. Or a merchant named Kong opens up secret routes for us after we help him with his problem with the harbor master, who always confiscates his goods. Kong eventually even realizes that we are actually old, lost friends and opens up his network.
Many paths lead to the goal in this new Assassin’s Creed, which is not as gigantic as Valhalla, but much more lovingly crafted – Valhalla had what felt like many military bases that were always very similar.
Baghdad is built with much more care and feels more varied – there’s this port district, for instance, but also one for intellectuals with libraries in that charming Abbasid architecture. There’s a merchants’ quarter, one with villas, and everything is connected by the Tigris River, which means we can always take a quick dip in the cool water. If you’re in the mood for a smaller, but much more hand-built Assassin’s Creed, you shouldn’t go far wrong here.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage launches as early as October 5, depending on the version you purchase, on PC, Xbox Series X/S, as well as Playstation 5 and the last-gen consoles.
This article was translated from German to English and originally appeared on pcwelt.de.