As was leaked, and then hurriedly confirmed by Ubisoft about a week ago, the next Assassin's Creed game to come out will be Mirage, in 2023. It's not going to be quite the massive open world adventure 'em up that the last few entries have been (don't worry; one of those is on the way as well), but a more classic AssCreed experience to mark the series' 15th anniversary. This milestone has made me realise that the Creedsperience has taken up almost half of my current lifespan. Or, to put it another way, I fear that playing Assassin's Creed Mirage may induce a pathetic but very real existential crisis in me.
It seems that when a franchise is reintroduced to a new generation, or at least re-upped so the first generation of franchise-enjoyers can buy the merch for their kids, you just sort of do the old thing again but with new faces and fancier SFX. My evidence for this is primarily Star Wars and that new Lord Of The Rings TV show, but now I can add Mirage to that list as well. At least, that's what it sounds like Ubi are going for. And now I can say that when franchises I'm not particularly attached to do it it's hokey and the worst kind of creative cowardice, but when a thing I like does it, it's cool and nostalgic and a great nod to both the past and future.
I say this despite having only seen a hands-off presentation about Mirage featuring exactly zero gameplay, ahead of tonight's Ubisoft Forward stream. But "it's like the old ones you enjoyed before!" seems to be Ubisoft's explicit mission statement for this game. Jean-Luc Sala, artistic director on Mirage, said: "The studio wanted to pay homage to the entire series, and especially the very first Assassin's Creed," and that Mirage has a bit of every previous AC game (fingers crossed for the stupid top hat from Syndicate; Ubi love an iconic hat) where "players can look forward to going back to the roots, while experiencing a modern take on gameplay." Like I said, the old thing with new faces and fancier SFX.
In fairness, at least one of the faces in Mirage isn't that new. The protagonist is a younger Basim Ibn Ishaq, who turns up as an older man in Assassin's Creed Valhalla in a suprisingly important role (no spoilers!). Here, though, we're meeting him about 20 years earlier than in Eivor's Viking-themed ramble around England, as a young thief in 9th century Baghdad. This setting was also chosen carefully. The first game was set in and around Syria during the Third Crusade; Baghdad in 861 is the same global region as the original Assassin's Creed, but still a different place. Old, and yet also new.
It seems like you'll be spending most of your time in Baghdad in Mirage, which is comprised of four different districts, including a more industrial area called Karkh, and the original centre the Round City. Sala describes Mirage's Baghdad as a "dense, vibrant city" where inhabitants will react to your actions. It's not the only location in the game, however; narrative director Sarah Beaulieu mentioned Alamut Castle, a clifftop fortress in Iran that this game casts as "the foundations of the Creed".
In general, though, you shouldn't go into Mirage expecting a huge open world that'll take you 120 hours to explore a la Valhalla. Mirage's structure is more linear, and according to Beaulieu, closer to the early games. It's condensed, with a clear start and end, following the progress of Valhalla's Basim from thief to apprentice to master assassin, under the mentorship of Roshan. She's a 50-year-old former Persian slave, and is voiced by Emmy award-winner Shohreh Aghdashloo (who has, in fairness, an instantly recognisable voice). A young, brash young man becoming a more measured veteran, you say? Sure does sound like Assassin's Creed.
Elsewhere there's yet more of what's old being new again. Mirage aims to focus in on the key AC pillars: you stalk your target, you kill them, you disappear into the wind. You can do stealth kills, but now you can do multiple stealth kills. You have an eagle best friend, but now there are archers to shoot down your eagle best friend. Maybe you'll want to spend time taking those archers out before you embark on your mission, or maybe you'll risk not having that aerial visual support. There's parkour, but it's faster, and Basim can pole vault over wider gaps. There are more places to run, jump and hide in around the city.
Again, I must emphasise that I have seen nothing of this game except some static shots and key art, but it certainly sounds like a good idea. A more compact game in a more compact city is exactly what I've been wanting Ubisoft to do for years, and the Assassin's Creed series hasn't been the Assassin's Creed of my youth for a long time now. I can't help but wonder what it'll feel like to play a game like that again.
Maybe it'll transport me back to being a teenager, playing the first game in my then-boyfriend's bedroom, one hand getting very hot because the curtain's weren't all the way closed but I couldn't be bothered to move. Maybe it will shatter my memories of the early Assassin's Creed games being brilliant (I mean, if we're honest, the series didn't really find its feet 'til AC2 anyway). Maybe playing a 2022 version of original Assassin's Creed is actually the best way to preserve that fragile ice sculpture of nostalgia from the flamethrower of reality. If Mirage is good, with all the mod cons and updated design sensibilities of now, we can pretend the game of 15 years ago was just as good.
Maybe I will just look at my hands as I hold the controller and wonder how I suddenly became an adult. What am I doing? How is this series nearly old enough to leave school, get a job, have sex, and join the army? Jesus, what have any of us achieved in the time that this Assassin's Creed has been going? Sorry, I think I need to... can someone open the window? It's very hot in here. I just need to go outside for a mome-
Assassin's Creed Mirage is coming out some time in 2023.