It’s fitting that a series all about diving into history would eventually have to look to its own past for inspiration. With Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Ubisoft is attempting to capture the magic of the earliest games in the series with a brand new adventure. Rather than a sprawling, loot-filled RPG like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Odyssey, or Origins, Mirage is a more streamlined experience, one with a denser urban setting and a throwback emphasis on stealth and parkour. In essence, rather than remaking the original Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft has instead looked to it as a template for a brand new game while throwing in plenty of modern upgrades to boot.
Mirage follows Basim Ibn Ishaq, a character first introduced in Valhalla, through a much earlier chapter of his story. Basim begins the game as an orphaned thief on the streets of 9th century Baghdad, and we’ll witness him discover, join, and climb the ranks of the proto-Assassin group known as the Hidden Ones.
The historical backdrop of the game is a period known as the Anarchy at Samarra, when—to give you the extremely abridged version—the leaders of the ruling Abbasid Caliphate kept getting assassinated, and the Turks then laid siege to Baghdad, eventually conquering the city and installing their own leader. Obviously, that’s pretty fertile ground for Assassin’s Creed’s brand of stab-happy historical fiction.
Gameplay in Mirage offers a blend of the old and new, bringing back a handful of features that have been absent from the series while keeping some more recent additions intact. One returning feature is “social stealth,” which allows you to blend into a crowd to sneak past or hide from guards. The notoriety system is back as well, meaning if you take too many high profile actions, guards will more quickly become suspicious of you, even if you’re out in a public area.
In another throwback, Mirage ditches experience points and an endless stream of loot in favor of more straightforward progression. As you complete missions and climb the ranks of the Hidden Ones, you’ll unlock new tools, provided to you by the inventor (and real-life historical figure) Abu Jafar Muhammad. Basim’s arsenal will grow to include smoke bombs, blow darts, throwing knives, and, of course, the iconic hidden blade.
As for those newer elements, Mirage gives Basim access to a bird companion—the eagle Enkidu—which he can use to scout his surroundings, continuing a feature first introduced in Origins. Basim also has an entirely new ability in the form Assassin’s Focus, a power that lets you queue up multiple assassinations before stringing them together seamlessly, with Basim moving so quickly it seems like he’s actually teleporting. Lest you think you’ll be chain-stabbing your way through the whole game, you’ll need to charge up Assassin’s Focus by performing successful stealth kills first.
With its mix of classic and modern gameplay elements and a story that will take players to the birthplace of the modern Order of Assassins, Assassin’s Creed Mirage looks poised to be a fitting tribute for the series’ 15th anniversary—and in a way that’s especially fitting for the saga. After all, it’s an entirely new game that’s tapping into the genetic memory of its distant ancestors. So meta.