Previews for Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the thirteenth game in the Assassin’s Creed series and first since 2020’s Valhalla, released early on September 12, and they suggest a long-awaited return to the historical fiction series’ roots. That could come as good news—in the 16 years since the first Assassin’s Creed came out, the series has expanded well beyond the bounds of its original premise.
The initial game offered a pinpoint-focus on modern-day protagonist Desmond Miles and his stealthy quest to take down the blast-from-the-past Templars through assassinations and slow-burn stand-offs, but later installments were overcrowded with complicated plots, busy maps full of confusing icons, massive run-times, tons of side quests, and new gameplay features that included tower defense.
But from the stealth-heavy, streamlined gameplay the latest Mirage previews describe, it seems like players should prepare to flip up their cloth hood and wander back to the series’ beginning. Though you won’t be traveling too far back—Mirage also acts as a prequel to Valhalla. It centers that open-world game’s 9th century thief and mythological superhuman reincarnate, Basim Ibn Ishaq, as he and his knives traverse Baghdad.
But, like developer Ubisoft said it would earlier this year, Mirage keeps that story more “intimate” by being both shorter (you could finish it in about 20 hours) and more linear than Valhalla.
Early reactions, for the most part, seem to think that’s a good thing. After completing a training segment in which Basim becomes a Hidden One assassin, and then entering Mirage’s open-world, “I was told that there were new points of interest to check out,” Kris Holt writes for Engadget. “I immediately opened the map and was pleased to see there weren’t a million icons that threatened to pull me away from the main objectives. There were 15 or so, which feels far more palatable than the overwhelmingly busy maps I’ve seen in previous games.”
For IGN, Nick Maillet says Mirage “brings the social stealth history simulator back to its roots in the best way possible.” Though, it offers some leeway. The game “ensures that the ‘it’s stealth if no one is alive to tell about it’ method works, [...] but that pure stealth is rewarded too,” says Joshua Duckworth for GameRant. Classic series mechanic Eagle Vision helped Duckworth “determine what we needed,” while side characters helped introduce “key concepts like throwing knives and the iconic Assassin’s Creed Leap of Faith.”
Together, these elements form Mirage’s “extremely simple” combat system, Mike Mahardy writes for Polygon. “It looks flashy, don’t get me wrong,” he continued. “Basim dual-wields a sword and a dagger, giving him some bespoke choreography that we haven’t seen elsewhere in the series. But by and large, melee interactions came down to the same old attack, dodge, parry, counterattack, repeat routine that marked a litany of third-person games in the 2010s.”
And “what skills I did see in my preview session didn’t exactly get the blood pumping with excitement,” agreed Rock Paper Shotgun editor-in-chief Katharine Castle. “The Predator tree focuses on your eagle Enkidu, enhancing their ability to mark up guards and chests and the like, while the Trickster tree lets you carry extra tools and increases the number of potions you can carry. Inventory-based stuff, in other words.”
Still, it overall seems like Mirage’s “story and gameplay feel more like what made AC so popular in the first place,” IGN said. “Its new setting and social stealth-heavy gameplay mechanics feel like the series has finally realized what was promised back in 2007.”
Mirage might be a hard reset for Assassin’s Creed, a welcome change for a particularly distended franchise. It’s out on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows on October 5.