Assassin's Creed Mirage may really win back the Valhalla RPG haters

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,

Assassin's Creed Mirage is releasing for PS5 in 2023, but questions over how it is going to win over fans who dislike Assassin's Creed Valhalla and its RPG elements remain. We think it is the most promising the series has been.

Assassin's Creed Mirage is nearly at the end of development and should release on PS5 in 2023. We have had trailers and interviews about the upcoming game but no gameplay, making this the perfect time to think about how and why Mirage might win back the players who became alienated by the RPG trilogy, including Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Oddysey, and Origins. You can find all of our opinions on the prior games in our best Assassin's Creed games ranked list.

Assassin's Creed Mirage might actually manage to weather the Valhalla hatersAssassin's Creed Mirage might actually manage to weather the Valhalla haters

What went wrong with RPGs like Assassin's Creed Vallhalla for some fans?

The emphasis on what went wrong in the so-called 'RPG trilogy' of Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Odyssey, and Origins should be on the "to some" part. Everybody has a different opinion here, from within the dedicated core fanbase, to people that dip in and out, to the players that first joined the series with Valhalla. If you love these games — don't worry — this isn't a searing rejoinder of your love for them. In fact, we would argue that even a bad Assassin's Creed game would be a solid title in most other series.

While the two Assassin's Creed fans here on TrueTrophies, Lee and myself, aren't massive Valhalla and Odyssey fans, we do love Origins and have played every other Assassin's Creed game. We think it gives us a good balance for working out where the series took a misstep with some of the vocal RPG haters. So, we are going to dig into why some players didn't like the RPGs in three key ways: size, story, and the assassin fantasy.

Valhalla's size caused chaos that Mirage can rectify

Odyssey pushed the boat out on the scale of the world by bringing us all of Greece. For those who disliked it, there were issues with repeated places and empty cities, but a lot of the landscape was at least beautiful and colourful for all its runtime. Then Valhalla came and absolutely smashed that size in terms of the map size and game time. Even for those who liked Odyssey, Valhalla was for many the straw that broke the back of several gameplay mechanism-carrying camels.

Playing Valhalla for 40 hours with a densely packed story about uniting a Viking army in a neater and more engaging map world would work. But pouring 100+ hours across three massive, largely empty maps with RPG-lite systems that aren't deep enough to support the time sync fails to create an engaging experience and quickly becomes infuriating.

This aspect is important. When you are 40 hours in and tired of everything Assassin's Creed is offering you, but you've already invested a substantial amount of time and you are a fan of most of the other games, it's really hard to step away. It begins to feel like the things that you want to enjoy in a beloved series are becoming engulfed by an enormous black hole that is the nigh-on endless Valhalla content. The size and scope almost feel like a videogame honeytrap for some: it seems appealing and gorgeous, so you want to be loyal, but the beauty withers quickly and the loyalty soon becomes punishing.

Assassin's Creed ValhallaAssassin's Creed Valhalla feature a field... so many fields

However, Mirage seems to be dispensing with this aspect of the series. We are going to Baghdad during its heyday when trade was bustling and it was the centre of commerce. With city limits and only four boroughs, I actually believe that this Assassin's Creed might live up to the more "intimate" scale described by the creative director during an interview about Vallhalla's problems with size. It should be "a richer and denser map," which is exactly the right thing to say. Dense is a keyword here, as getting back to that feeling in Unity or AC2 where all you have to do is worry about the streets and alcoves around you feels like the antidote to Valhalla's size problem.

Assassin's Creed's RPG stories never landed the basics

We need to emphasise again, that this is a matter of taste. Assassin's Creed Origins showed us that putting a human struggle at the forefront with fantastic dialogue could help pull the new RPG style together even in an otherwise lacking overarching narrative. However, for many (including myself), Odyssey's story was laughably poor at times — particularly in the DLC or when dealing with the mystical elements — often bearing zero stakes on a human level and sweeping the interesting historical facets to the side. A shallow choice system only emphasised some of that further, especially when your version of Kassandra or Alexios has an obligatory baby with an underdeveloped side character. The familial elements and occasionally humourous writing did slowly come together at points, but only if we blurred the lines and let the tropes do the heavy lifting.

Assassin's Creed MirageAssassin's Creed Mirage is giving us Baghdad

Valhalla's more muted tone occasionally struck gold, arguably more so than Odyssey, but personal preference — or for the sake of this article, personal aversion — probably plays a part. There is so much stuff of middling quality that it becomes repetitive and boring. Add in high-potential plotlines about the Isu in the guise of Norse mythology, weird stuff with your brother, Mirage's protagonist Basim, King Alfred, your homestead, and a plotline for every kingdom... it juggles so many tasty plot pies but splatters them all over the floor. The endless mystical stuff, too — sometimes it feels like Ubisoft wanted to make a completely different game but failed to realise actual history and the Assassins were the myth a lot of players wanted to see.

Mirage seems to be getting back to the history and human characters that worked so well. As of yet, the mystical stuff hasn't even been mentioned — thank the Isu. Instead, we will be following petty street thief Basim on his rise through the Creed — learning its values under the tuteledge of Roshan. The centrepiece outside of Baghdad appears to be the Assassin's fortress, Alamut. This, to us, feels refreshing and simple, with just enough human and historical intrigue to immediately make us feel like the weight of a thousand half-assed plotlines has been lifted. If it maintains this more direct narrative-driven approach in-game and not just as a marketing spiel, we are in for a much more engaging narrative journey.

Assassin's Creed MirageAssassin's Creed Mirage has a good and proper Assassin

Finally, no more role-playing as a Valhalla Viking, Odyssey Mysthios, or Origin's proto-Assassin

Perhaps the biggest potential of Mirage is the return of an actual Brotherhood. Odyssey and Valhalla properly strayed away from the Creed formally — nary a useful hood in sight despite nods to them — and informally in gameplay by moving away from stealth and into heavy action. Even Origins did more telling than showing with its Hidden Ones proto-Brotherhood story — it tells you things are relevant but forgets to give anything but the eagle symbol meaning. Assassin's Creed's success was built on using history as the tasty mechanism with which a mysterious lore-rich pair of secret societies could duke out a battle of freedom and control. It was smart because the Brotherhood became an aspiration: you were filled with excitement about how the tenants could twist with the period and protagonist before the game was released. You wanted to be a part of it.

Mirage has promised that this will be rectified. The whole game appears to be about Basim's journey to Master Assassin — one assumes he reaches that position by taking out the contracts on Templar figures. The whole of the ruined Almut fortress in the Mirage trailer gave us the excitement of Ezio's Montergonni basement — like you are discovering a deeply held secret. Add in constant talk of the stealth mechanics from the developers and we are incredibly hopeful that the Creed is going to make a quiet, sneaky, stab in the throat comeback. Using the Creed as a core pillar should help bring the game focus and continuity with all that has come before, giving us plenty to say about the actual story and how it ties into the greater whole. We hope we will once again want to don a hood and feel like we know what it means.

You made it to the end! Well, you know what comes next. We have a fantastic comments section down below, so take a leap of faith and tell us what you are excited about in Mirage. Any big dreams? Anything else you want to be rectified? Let us know, down below!
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Editor Kes is our resident expert in PlayStation and other gaming news. He writes about exclusives like The Last of Us and God of War, PS Plus news, and his favourite games — The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, and explosive racers — before an evening swim.
Hide ads
View discussion...
Hide ads