Assassin’s Creed Returns with Slight but Fun Mirage | Video Games

Some of the best installments took place on the high seas (“Black Flag”), Ancient Egypt (“Origins”), and the time of the Vikings (“Valhalla”). It’s been a long stretch since the last game—especially given there used to be an “AC” every year—and the new “Mirage” started life as an expansion for “Valhalla,” telling more of the story of Basim Ibn Ishaq, who was introduced in the back half of that game. Much smaller than recent “AC” experiences and a conscious throwback to the simple structures of the original games, it’s hard to shake the feeling that “Mirage” is a bit of an afterthought. The stakes are often too low, the story too inconsequential, and the gameplay too repetitious. However, when it’s working on its own simple terms, it’s undeniably fun. There’s something almost refreshing about the lack of bells and whistles, returning a franchise that arguably got bloated back to its basics. And I hope that finding the beating heart of this franchise again will push the developers to find the perfect balance for the next game.

You play as Basim years before his appearance in “Valhalla.” He’s just a street thief in Baghdad when he gets sucked into the world of the Assassins, known here as the Hidden Ones. He becomes a key player in the fight against the Order of the Ancients, exploring the city to find allies, supplies, and information that will lead to the destruction of their enemies. “Assassin’s Creed” has become known for massive open worlds, but “Mirage” actually takes place in a relatively small (but still pretty large for a game) Baghdad that’s been divided into four districts. It’s comparable to the Paris of “Unity,” a place with many nooks and crannies but not the overwhelming world of recent games.

As for gameplay, “Mirage” has a traditional balance of stealth, exploration, and combat. You have a sword and a dagger—both of which can be swapped out for a few variations with different perks and upgraded slightly—and melee combat consists of parrying certain moves and dodging other ones. Of course, it’s often advisable to keep Basim out of combat altogether, and “Mirage” does have a great deal of customization in terms of approach. Sneak past guards, assassinate them with your dagger, or even drop something on their heads. You also have two informational tools that come in handy—Eagle Vision can point out key elements in the environment, like doors and guards, while Enkidu is an owl who can scope the scene from above (if there isn’t an annoying marksman to take them down).