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Assassin's Creed Mirage Review: The Breathtaking Beauty of Baghdad

Find out how the breathtaking beauty of Baghdad and a return to form make Assassin's Creed Mirage the best release in years.
Assassin's Creed Mirage Review: The Breathtaking Beauty of Baghdad

With each installment the Assassin's Creed franchise continues to expand with roots in so many different eras of history, but Assassin's Creed Mirage also goes back to the roots of the series itself. Many of the hallmarks players got used to in recent years remain, but this latest release won't hesitate to punish those who stray from the path.

While breaking down what players can expect, our Assassin's Creed Mirage review hones in on exactly what makes this game special. From the breathtaking beauty of Baghdad to the allure of anachronistic espionage, it's time to embrace The Hidden Ones once more.

The Beauty of Baghdad

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One thing that becomes abundantly clear right out of the gate is that the beauty of the franchise is only continuing to improve, as Assassin's Creed Mirage may be the most gorgeous game they've ever made. For as stunning as the restored Greece of Odyssey and the untamed wilderness of Valhalla could be, there's something enchanting about being immersed in 9th century Baghdad.

Even moreso than the last few installments, it was difficult not to get completely sidetracked early on just soaking in the beauty and detail around you. From spotting the most fabulously bejeweled camel to realizing you can't just pet cats but you can pick up and cuddle with them, simply existing in the world of Assassin's Creed Mirage is stunning.

There's also an inescapable wonder to seeing Iraq in this light and hearing Arabic interwoven so beautifully in the setting. Assassin's Creed Mirage is the first in the series to get a full Arabic dub featuring Jordanian actor Eyad Nassar as Basim, but even players who choose the English dub will be enchanted by the love and care with which traditional Arabic phrases remain to keep players grounded in this time capsule.

Stealth vs. Combat (Stealth Wins)

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Once you finally get the action underway, it'll become clear quite quickly that this game isn't going to tolerate most of the strategies seen in Assassin's Creed Valhalla or Assassin's Creed Odyssey but is instead pushing further back into the stealth roots of the franchise. On the surface, it's easy to feel like the pure combat in Assassin's Creed Mirage is lacking or poorly designed.

However, if anything it feels like it's intentionally simplified and challenging. When you're playing Valhalla or Odyssey, any capable player on low difficulties can pretty much brute force their way through situations as needed. With a plethora of combat options in those games, you don't really have to stick to the stealthy assassination style that became a hallmark of the series.

That's not true in Assassin's Creed Mirage. If you hope to brute force your way through a situation, even on lower difficulties, you're going to need near-perfect dodge and parry timing to stay alive. That's going to be incredibly frustrating for some players, but it's a necessary evil that will force everyone to play this stealth game as intended. 

Less is more in AC Mirage

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Assassin's Creed Mirage isn't quite as big as their most recent mainline releases Valhalla and Odyssey, but that's actually because this title started its life as an expansion for Valhalla. While the shift towards being a standalone title may have been due to Ubisoft's desire to get a release on the calendar during a down period, it was a change that has absolutely paid off.

While trying to do a completionist run of Odyssey or Valhalla is going to take you 140+ hours, you can probably pull one off in Mirage in 27 to 30 hours. However, completionist has different connotations for different players as that could just mean you're knocking out all the quests, getting items, and fully upgrading your character.

The size of the story actually allows players to care more about the game moment to moment, as there's less pressure to just become a treasure collector ticking boxes as you try to round out every region. If you found a nice location with a treasure in Odyssey or Valhalla, you could just blast through the enemies and grab your stuff.

If you find the same in Mirage, you have to stop and think. The fact that the game pushes you towards stealth actually slows the game down and ramps up the tension, because sometimes getting spotted can quite literally be a guaranteed death sentence. Strategy is everything, and it makes every successful assassination that much sweeter.

Anachronistic Espionage

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As we've already established, Assassin's Creed Mirage is a stealth game through and through. Like the franchise has always done, Mirage also walks a fine line between historical accuracy and just letting you have fun in this world. The Hidden Ones have always found their way towards unique (sometimes otherworldly) skills.

For Mirage, that manifests itself in the unique array of tools at your disposal. There's nothing too complex about the humble throwing knife, but later on you'll unlock additional options which take concepts from traditional spy games and adapt them to the time period in the most unique ways.

One prime example of this is the Trap, a tool you'll be able to unlock that's fundamentally just a proximinity mine. Of course, what does a proximinity mine look like in 9th century Baghdad? The result is this magnificently crafted wooden box that can be upgraded to be remotely detonated with a Whistle Trigger, taking the high-tech spy gear of the future all the way back to an ancient time.

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Ultimately, Assassin's Creed Mirage is a game where players need to be aware of what they're diving into. While it's fully true to the roots of the franchise and the methodology seen in earlier titles, Mirage quite purposefully feels like a departure from Valhalla and Odyssey.

If you want to spend a hundred hours exploring locations and getting into complex combat, those are still the games for you. If you'd rather get fully immersed in ancient Baghdad while carefully embracing your skills as a member of The Hidden Ones, then this is an absolute must.

Assassin's Creed Mirage - The Verdict:
During a time when depictions that honor the history and majesty of the Middle East are more important than ever, this window into that ancient world provides enlightenment to some players and critical representation to others. By forcing players to have patience and rewarding their creativity, Assassin's Creed Mirage in turn is making sure that every aspect of this masterpiece is seen and savored.
Review code was provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X