Mirage – the best Assassin’s Creed game yet?

Unlike the confusing array of maps in AC Valhalla, AC Mirage confines players to the labyrinthine alleys and majestic structures of Baghdad.
A still from the game.
A still from the game.

KOCHI: It’s no secret that Assassin’s Creed is my favourite game series of all time. I stood firmly loyal through its highs (AC 2), and lows (AC Valhalla). I installed every game and each of their significant updates. Year after year, I clocked in hundreds of hours – climbing tall buildings, hiding in haystacks, and performing countless leaps of faith from spectacular towers. And that’s why, as a dedicated fan, I declare that Assassin’s Creed Mirage is the best in the series yet.

The developers have really workshopped their ideas on this one and repackaged the original games with the selected few things that we liked from the more recent editions. Unlike the confusing array of maps in AC Valhalla, AC Mirage confines players to the labyrinthine alleys and majestic structures of Baghdad.

The sprawling city is the setting for Mirage, where Basim’s tale unfolds. It goes without saying that any game in the AC series represents the historical and cultural essences of the places we play in. It does this with more than just the visual elements in Mirage, as the characters often interject in Arabic, and even provides an Arabic voice track option.

A newly recruited member of the ‘Hidden Ones’, as the Assassins are called, Basim’s goal is to help his brotherhood infiltrate the evil members of the Order of the Ancients and liberate the city. The missions are a series of varied events that involve investigating the web of clues surrounding the members of this mysterious Order. They take place in dangerous docksides, security-heavy palace buildings and libraries, and large quarries.

Sitting on a park bench contemplatively with Basim, hiding from enemy soldiers, I realize why I love this game. I’ve missed the commotion that unnecessarily over-detailed urban landscapes provided in Assassin’s Creed.

Navigating narrow lanes while shoving people out of the way, running across ropes, and effortlessly leaping from rooftops is a joy unmatched by any other game. It also helps that the number of main missions in totality is reasonable, with fewer Order members to cut through in comparison to the roster in AC Odyssey and Valhalla. I could allow myself to take the time and absorb the juicy stories in the cutscenes, without having to keep an eye on an extremely large to-do list.

This scaled-down game in Mirage is refreshingly streamlined, with three specific skill trees named ‘Phantom’, ‘Trickster’ and ‘Predator’. The skill points aren’t handed out easily. It requires missions to be completed, giving a sense of accomplishment to progress, rather than a monotonous grind. Ubisoft also seems to remind us that even the recent games have their role to play in this “back to the basics” Mirage.

For example, the small story-based side-missions from Valhalla with puzzles to solve feature in some way in Baghdad as well. But they aren’t marked out on the map, you may just come across them by surprise through interacting with random characters. For example, you may come across a random letter that directs you to a nearby treasure, or simply happen across an interaction. These subtle nods to the recent games add depth to the gameplay.

The little bit of Basim that I remember from the previous game, is almost negligible here, leaving me somewhat disappointed. I was expecting him to be a little snarkier and unreliable. Surprisingly, it is Roshan who steals the show in the cutscenes. She emerges as a remarkable Assassin guru, shaping Basim into the character he has become and dictating our missions.

The game is available across consoles – including the PC, PlayStation, and the Xbox. I would suggest Mirage for newcomers to the series. It’s a perfect starting point, keeping the fundamentals of the franchise while leveraging the advancements over the last 13 years of its existence.

Anusha Ganapathi

@quofles

(This economics graduate spends her leisure time preparing for the zombie apocalypse)

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