Geek Preview Assassin's Creed Mirage Gameplay

“A condensed scope gives us the freedom to spend more time on bits and pieces, so there’s more attention to details,” shared Simon Arseneault, World & Quest Director at Ubisoft Bordeaux, who is currently working on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and it really showed during our preview of the latest entry in the long-running battle between good and evil.

After all, when a game is pushed as not just the newest, shiny thing, but also as a homage to the roots of a 16-year-old franchise, there is plenty of room to get things wrong. However, after spending an extended amount of time traipsing throughout ancient Baghdad, it is clear that the team has put in much effort to keep evolving the good and polish off the rough edges of yesteryear for the adventures of Basim Ibn Ishaq.

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“There has always been kind of a love-hate relationship with some of the gameplay, like the tailing especially or the eavesdropping. And right from the get-go, we said it is what an assassin should do, so how can we make it not too frustrating and still give the right narrative to it,” said Arseneault.

“There were a lot of playtests for this so that it becomes more natural. And if there is no frustration, it’s natural; players will normally progress with the story. And they’ve done the assassin part, and the collecting information part is essential for the old AC and nostalgia feeling we wanted to achieve.”

Assassin's Creed Mirage geek preview

That was certainly a worry going into Assassin’s Creed Mirage, but after seeing how organic and intuitive social blending has become, and the more involved storytelling that goes into the whole process of hearing things you aren’t supposed to, it does feel much more natural and part of the process when seeking a target stealthily. There are no more of those stop-and-hide moments as targets turn back with furtive looks, replaced by increased immersion in the world as Basim goes about his business.

The increased verticality when it comes to parkouring to get where you need to be also contributes to the fun. While it may not necessarily be a reinvention, parkour feels much more smooth and seamless in Mirage, helped by the city of Baghdad as well as the blank canvas that was the fortress of Alamut. Arseneault explained that the team looked at making sure everything “fits within the areas of the world” and “striking the right balance” all the time, reworking mechanics and ideas to suit the game’s needs.

“We want you to be parkouring the whole way if you want to,” he added with a smile.

Indeed, it felt great using the agile skills of Basim to navigate the play space, and there were certainly fewer instances of making pointless climbs on surfaces that led to nowhere. Making our way to an objective became a creative process of making the right choices, and while the direction might deviate every once in a while, there are always fun ways to get somewhere.

Assassin's Creed Mirage geek preview

After an early taste of his origins and training, it was finally time to try out a black-box mission in Assassin’s Creed Mirage, and the emphasis placed on stealth becomes even more apparent. Tasked with finding the target known as the Treasurer, players will have to use all their assassin wits to achieve this end.

Depending on the target, there are going to be a variety of situations and experiences awaiting, according to Arseneault. Some will be more scripted, while others offer more of a challenge in terms of stealth and information gathering. The key is that not everything is always going to be mandatory, so players have the freedom to choose.

Do you bribe guards for information, cause a ruckus with mercenaries as a distraction, or use parkour or stealth to get somewhere restricted? These are only some of the options, and based on your preference, the order in which information is obtained can be different, leading to all sorts of scenarios that will embody the life of an assassin.

“It’s part of the assassination pillar; we want to make you feel like you’re an assassin. And yes, you can do it all the time with your blade in the crowd. but how can we make it even more visceral when it’s an important target? So we’re trying to bring you to the best scenario possible or the most visceral one. Sometimes it’s role-playing, sometimes, it’s more about the quicktime event, and sometimes, it’s just about killing at the right moment from the right spot,” Arseneault added.

Assassin's Creed Mirage geek preview

What doesn’t really change is the need to respect stealth as a core component of Assassin’s Creed Mirage. As competent as Basim is, the numbers game will always be in the favour of the enemy, and our protagonist is not as hardy as the likes of Kassandra or Eivor.

Drawing unwanted attention is never the recommended option, with calculated and precise movements usually more rewarding. The deftness of Basim also ensures that it’s much easier to navigate spaces undetected, and allows for the picking off of unsuspecting guards in a coordinated manner. Nothing quite gets the blood pumping than methodical murder and clearing an entire enemy outpost without alerting the authorities.

At this stage, it feels like Mirage has all the ingredients of a modern Assassin’s Creed game but leaner. Rather than lean into the RPG elements and an overwhelming amount of things to do, it focuses more on being an assassin like the older games, and it does so with much improvements that should sit well with both newcomers and veterans alike. With 5 October rolling around shortly, it’s about time to get back into that assassinating groove, and we can’t wait.

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