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Assassin's Creed: Mirage looks set to deliver on its murder manifesto

Comfortingly familiar

Basim, main character in Assassin's Creed Mirage, leaps at a guard, his arm raised to strike
Image credit: Ubisoft

Award for the Summer Game Fest demo with the quickest pace goes to Assassin's Creed: Mirage, the upcoming 'Creed that promises to take the series back to its stealthier roots. I saw roughly 20 minutes of gameplay in a hands-off presentation, where our boy Basim does some stabbing and some stealthing in what strikes me as a game that'll honour its promises. When they describe combat as the "backup option", you know they're onto something.

The demo begins with Basim taking on a side mission, with the devs quick to emphasise that what we're seeing hasn't got anything to do with the main story. Just from the way Basim scurries across Baghdad's beautiful architecture, the game strikes a familiar note: it's Assassin's Creed, alright. Although, there are changes. For one, the devs say Basim is able to move faster than any other assassin in the series, with new moves like a leaping front roll over large boxes, or re-tuned favourites like the corner swing.

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The equivalent of a wanted meter sits in the bottom right corner, which only builds if you do lots of murders in broad daylight. At one point, we see Basim pay a fella who reduces his wanted level - although it's unclear how exactly your wanted level affects how the world responds to you. Later, we see Basim pay a visit to the Assassin's Bureau, the safehouse where you can view a bounty board filled with rescue, murder, or robbery missions to line your pockets with. A merchant allows Basim to replenish his stockpile of tools, like the blowdart and noisemaker, or upgrade them with the right materials. It's a reminder that Mirage is set in a time and location when the Assassin's Order has stuff going on, while in the recent mainline games the Order has been on the back foot, establishing themselves in a new area, or just didn't exist yet.

A quick look at the menu shows the "Quest" tab ditched in favour of "Investigations", which I'd describe as an extension of the mercenary trees in AC: Odyssey and AC: Valhalla, where you're given clues as to how to gather evidence, with enough gathered to ping their location on your map. While I'm not 100% certain this is how it works, I bet it's quite similar.

As a quick sidenote, I also noted that our boy Basim ranked up, although the devs didn't really touch on what this truly meant. I noticed there were three skill trees: Phantom, Trickster, and Predator, so presumably you bash level up points into the tree which suits your stealthing.

The hand of an unseen assassin deploys a hidden blade, while guards attack a civilian in the street in Assassin's Creed Mirage
Image credit: Ubisoft

Again, while we only got the briefest flash of the map, I did notice it wasn't drowning in a million icons. The objective, it seemed, was to "Kill the captain". Then we were away! Basim bribed some ladies to blend in with them as they waltzed into a palace together; he then ducked away, hiding in some flower beds to sneak up on guards. It's as you'd expect from there, with lots of backstabbing - again, with cool new animations - and one moment where he blow darted a guard, sending him to sleep, then shanked his startled mate with the energy of a Sunday afternoon driveby.

There was a bit where Basim called in his trusty hawk to survey the area, only for the hawk to bail out because of a nearby marksman. So, Basim had to eliminate him first so hawky would come back to do some recon. What ensued felt like even more classic AC, as Basim scuttled up a large tower and stuck a knife into the ribs of the poor bastard. Away we go: hawk deployed, enemies marked with red.

Basim leaps over a gap between buildings in Baghdad in Assassin's Creed Mirage by vaulting with a beam
A wide view of the city of Baghdad in Assassin's Creed Mirage
Image credit: Ubisoft

Basim can scale taller buildings, presenting us with another el classico of the AC series: a bird's eye view of the captain in question and his cronies. Here, we saw Basim perform a new chain assassination the devs dub "Assassin Focus", where he marks the cronies and then flits between them like a murderous apparition. It, like the rest of the preview, feels like a balance between modern game design and the more compact, stealth-focused style of the earliest AC games. As advertised.

Assassin's Creed: Mirage may not have shocked me, but it didn't need to. The game looks to deliver a familiar stealth 'em up for AC fans new and old who want less RPG guff and more of a focus on actual, methodical murdering. So far, I think it's on track to deliver on its promises.

NotE3 and Summer Game Fest 2023 is over for another year. You can find out all the latest news by visiting our E3 2023 hub, or you can catch up with our round-up posts of everything that was announced at Summer Game Fest, the Xbox Games Showcase, the PC Gaming Show, Day Of The Devs, and our top highlights from the Wholesome Direct.

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