by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Back to the Future (or the past)
I'll admit it right off the bat, I loved the original Assassin's Creed. Playing as Desmond Miles and his ancestor Altair, I enjoyed moving through the Holy Land, completing the series of important assassinations. Of course, that is over-simplifying it, as players would need to perform reconnaissance, engage in a little eavesdropping, and complete some pickpocketing to aid in their missions - with stealth being the major focus. Indeed, much of the game could be completed without requiring any combat.
Assassin's Creed Mirage has gone back to those roots, with players using their stealth and parkour-based skills within 9th-century Baghdad and its surrounds. Playing as Basim a local street thief, players will join the Hidden Ones, a group of assassins trying to rid Baghdad of the Order of the Ancients – a mysterious society that has corrupted the city.
Like the original Assassin's Creed, stealth is again key in Mirage, and combined with Basim's skills of climbing and leaping across rooftops enables him to roam the city with a level of anonymity. This anonymity changes however, once players start performing some of the more underhanded skills of an assassin.
Basim's story often feels like it is playing second fiddle to the story of Baghdad. Each location will have Basim investigating the happenings of the city, and at times it can feel like Basim is a member of a Middle Ages version of a CSI team. All this works well with the stealth and spying aspect of Basim’s skillset, as you skulk around each area looking for clues or hunting down members of the Order.
Your Eagle Vision - which returns in Mirage – helps with this. It lets players survey the area with a sixth-sense view that highlights objects of importance and slows down time to enable Basim to focus. To further aid Basim's surveillance of the area, he can call on his eagle companion Enkidu. Enkidu can soar over the top of the city and with a bird’s eye view can pinpoint important locations, quest points, and even enemies. This is a great way of tracking a person for the perfect kill.
Of course, completing the perfect assassination or takedown of an enemy guard can have consequences. Guards in particular will notice their dead comrades lying motionless and will look around for the culprit. As a result, it can pay to hide bodies once you have completed your stealthy assassination. Tall grass, or the numerous haystacks that litter the city are ideal locations, but players can even throw them at other unsuspecting enemies.
Of course, a body flung off a roof will arouse suspicion from nearby guards. Players will slowly gain a notoriety if they perform illegal or underhanded activities in front of someone. Being sprung pickpocketing or assassinating a guard in view of another guard will increase your notoriety. At a low level, the citizens of Baghdad will begin pointing you out to nearby guards, which can become an annoyance. But your reputation will increase to the point that guards will chase you on sight and if your notoriety grows further, then the Elite Shakiriyya guard are unleashed on your trail, guards are very likely to detect Basim and civilians gather around posters and there is a high chance for them to recognize you and call the guards. These posters can be ripped down, which will reduce your notoriety as can paying off a Munadi using a special Power Token as a bribe.
Completing the story-based missions and any of the side investigations that you select provides players with Skill points. These Skill points can be used on a range of skills that will aid Basim as he delves deeper into the Mirage story. Players will also start with access to throwing knives as their tool of choice, but as they progress, they will gain access to other tools such as smoke bombs and poison darts. These will enable different strategies for each scenario that Basim finds himself in.
From a visual standpoint, Assassin's Creed Mirage, does a stunning job of presenting a Middle Ages Baghdad. The city and its surrounds are bustling with citizens, each going about their daily lives. On more than one occasion I just sat atop a building for a good five minutes and watched as random citizens interacted with each other and listened to what they had to say. And the city of Baghdad itself looks gorgeous, particularly as the sun peers over the tops of the buildings in the morning or slowly sets in the evening sky.
The one let down of Assassin's Creed Mirage would be the fully voiced dialogue. Although the dialogue itself is fine for the most part, I found that the acting was somewhat stilted, and the accents poorly delivered - particularly for some of the lesser characters. This is the complete opposite to the wonderful score that plays throughout the game, with the middle eastern tunes reverberating across the city as Basim makes his way from one location to the next.
A welcome return
Assassin's Creed Mirage is a wonderful return to what made the original a fan favourite. The stealth mechanics work remarkably well, and although players can go with a more attacking style if they so choose, Mirage has been developed in a way that encourages the slower methodical approach to each scenario. And then as players acquire the extra tools and increased abilities, this leads to different methods of completing the missions. With a gorgeous setting that rivals Assassin's Creed Origins and a wonderful soundtrack that sets the middle eastern tone, Assassin's Creed Mirage is a must play for fans of the series.
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Great stealth mechanics, wonderful setting
Fully voiced dialogue misses the mark