After three entries in the open-world RPG genre, Assassin’s Creed is looking to return to the franchise's roots with Mirage. Set in 9th-century Baghdad and telling the origin story of Valhalla’s Basim, Mirage brings back a focus on stealth and parkour.
But Narrative Director Sarah Beaulieu says one of the franchise’s most controversial story elements won’t be making a comeback in Mirage — the adventures of the modern-day Assassins.
While Assassin’s Creed is best known for its historical settings it can be easy to forget the franchise takes place in the modern day and that each new story is mostly experienced within a device called the animus that lets people witness past events. The modern-day story is filled with its own cast of characters and conflicts but has never been as beloved as the game’s historical settings, and Mirage is taking note of that.
“We chose early on not to put any of the modern-day story in Mirage,” says Beaulieu. Although Ubisoft isn’t throwing out the science-fiction aspect of Assassin’s Creed altogether. The first thing players encounter when starting Mirage is a short-narrated intro from William Miles, father of original Assassin’s Creed protagonist Desmond.
“You are in the animus. That’s something we haven’t changed” explains Beaulieu. This is also clear in gameplay when Basim can take advantage of more sci-fi skills due to the story being within a simulation. However, the larger framing narrative of the modern-day battle between the Assassins and the Templars will take a back seat this time around. Beaulieu shares that the goal of this decision is to encourage the player to “focus on Basim and Baghdad”.
In the early entries of the franchise there were large sections of games where players had to play as Desmond and progress the more convoluted story in the modern day, but as the franchise continued these sections grew smaller and smaller. While some fans like the modern-day segments, by and large, they have always been the poorest received elements of the franchise.
While the decision to focus on the story of Basim will likely lead to a cleaner story from start to finish, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the immediate predecessor to Mirage, had only a handful of modern-day segments they included plenty of major revelations to the larger lore of the world and left things on a fairly major cliffhanger.
Mirage’s core design mentality is clearly to cut out the fat that the franchise has accumulated in the last several entries, though that mostly pertains to the large maps, repetitive missions, and action-forward combat that has been the status quo since 2017’s Assassin’s Creed Origins. While the modern-day story would feel apt for a game inspired by the franchise’s roots, it may be one more element that needs to be cut to create a better overall experience.
For the fans that do enjoy the modern-day, it may come as a disappointment that they will have to wait for the next game after Mirage to learn what comes next for that part of the franchise if the modern-day story returns at all. That ultimately may depend on how Assassin’s Creed Mirage is received when fans get their hands on it in October.