I'm playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla right now, and it's too bloody big. This is my second stint, jumping back in after playing for 14 hours when it came out in 2020 then abandoning it - and I'm beginning to remember why. It's a pretty but largely empty-feeling time, with woefully repetitive mission design and characters I only have a passive interest in. It's good, therefore, to see Assassin's Creed Mirage creative director Stéphane Boudon make more noises about how the next Creed game will be smaller and "more intimate".
Boudon's comments come from an interview with Games Radar, where she said the studio has heeded people's "desire for a character driven story, focused on the core pillars of the first ACs in a more intimate scale". Those core pillars are stabbing, sneaking and running. I like those pillars.
She also talks about how new tech and greater experience allows them to do a better, more thorough job of simulating a smaller city, with "a richer and denser map compared to the first ACs". They're treating Baghdad "as one of the main characters of Mirage", she says.
That's a nice marketing line, but she does back it up a bit by pointing to their new take on crowd blending. Rather than merging with "artifical" patterns of NPC groups like you did in AC2, there's a "more organic" system where you "blend automatically as soon you have three people in your vicinity", in a way that's less predictible and better suited to "the chaos and the vibrancy" of the Baghdad they wanted.
We did already know this is what Ubisoft were going for, thanks to Alice Bee's Assassin's Creed Mirage preview from last September.
"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."
Shohreh Aghdashloo! Her brief, recently added appearance in Valhalla as Roshan was fun. She sends you on a mission where you have to sneak into a fortress, as if she's forgotten she's come from a game that's better built for it.
If you're after more details before Mirage releases on an as yet unannounced date this year, here's Ollie's round up of everything we know about the new Assassin's Creed.