Assassin’s Creed Mirage is something of an amalgamation of everything in the blockbuster stealth series that came before it. Not quite classic Assassin’s Creed, not quite the bloated open-world RPGs of recent times, instead it’s a greatest-hits collection that pulls from the best parts of the long-running stealth-action series.
This magpie-esque curation extends to its protagonist, Basim Ibn Is’haq, first introduced to us in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. In Mirage, he’s an intriguing, slightly strange, but carefully crafted blend of past assassins, embodying the tenets and values that have served as the core focus of Assassin’s Creed ever since Desmond first sat down in the Animus in the first game back in 2007.
To be frank, I wasn’t expecting all that much from Basim as a character when I loaded up Assassin’s Creed Mirage. His story arc in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was as convoluted as it was inconsequential. Sparing you the specifics, it broadly involved the reincarnation of Norse Gods, among other ropey high sci-fi ideas relating to the Isu (the civilization that inhabited the earth millennia before humans in the series’ lore).
While I was certainly optimistic about Mirage’s leaner, more traditional experience offered by earlier Assassin’s Creed games, I had pretty much accepted that Basim was never going to reach the very high bar established by iconic characters like Assassin’s Creed II’s Ezio Auditore da Firenze and the first game’s Altaïr Ibn-LaʼAhad. However, after only Mirage’s opening section, I had been completely won over.
Adventure is out there
Rather smartly, Assassin’s Creed Mirage keeps the Isu narrative to a minimum, saving it for brief dream sequences and a section towards the end of the game. Because of this, Mirage’s protagonist is indeed Basim, not some watered-down blend hampered by reborn Gods and giant leaps of logic found in his previous outing. From the beginning, Mirage establishes Basim as a young man living through hard times as a street thief, before sending him on an investigation for the Hidden Ones (the early name for the Assassin’s brotherhood) and ultimately a quest to search for his true identity.
As you slip from the streets of Anbar to the now in-construction castle Alamut, you start to see Basim for who he truly is. What jumps out first is his willingness to serve and help those around him. In many ways, he harkens back to Bayek, perhaps the series’ most underrated Assassin’s Creed protagonist. This is particularly evident in Basim’s interaction with street children, as he takes time out of his day to assist a little girl through her everyday troubles.
Bayek was kind in this way as well, primarily given that he was a Medjay, a protector of the people, devoted to serving and helping those in need. Basim has no such title, not officially, but his empathetic side shines through nonetheless. He’ll even stop his training to give footwear advice to a man suffering from joint pains, of all things.
In what will surprise those who experienced Basim in Valhalla’s main story, Mirage also gives the character a real sense of adventure, wit, and most importantly, humor. Off-the-cuff remarks might clue you into Basim’s desire to use make-up to bolster his disguises or offer moments of levity in between all of the stabbing and stalking. Ezio’s penchant for fun shines through in such moments, and there are even glimpses of the fan favorite's cockiness and arrogance in the way Basim holds himself in conversation. Because of the way Assassin’s Creed Mirage prioritizes stealth mechanics, Basim is also easily the most competent assassin we’ve ever controlled in an Assassin’s Creed game. His quiet cunning may even grow to match that of Ezio’s, given more time (and hopefully a sequel, please).
Ships in the night
The main story in Assassin’s Creed Mirage plays out in the form of a grand, sweeping investigation. There’s even a menu with targets linked by threads, and other points of interest and clues. Because of this, Basim is presented to be constantly working away at his craft, slowly chipping away at a target’s protective layers until the right opportunity to strike presents itself. This is, of course, how things worked in the very first Assassin’s Creed, albeit on a much simpler scale. Altaïr is clearly the inspiration for this particular facet of Basim’s identity and technique, in what is perhaps the most thoughtful throwback to the original Assassin’s Creed in the entire game.
While Basim can indeed be seen to be an amalgamation of the series’ best assassins, he certainly does have his own identity as well. This shines through primarily from his background as a street thief and as the son of an astronomer. Basim has a deep interest in science and snuck into the House of Wisdom to study from a young age. He’ll recite poetry in certain moments, and comment on sermons that describe the circumference of the Earth in others.
There’s an inquisitiveness to Basim and even a romance about the things he holds dear. Poetry in particular, actually ends up playing a large part in the final main assassination in Mirage, during which I really got the impression that ultimately, no other assassin could have pulled off the job that Basim ends up completing. The only downside to this is that due to Mirage’s deliberately smaller scope and scale, I’m left wanting more from Basim, to develop and build on what is a true and infinitely superior introduction to the character.
However, I think it’s unlikely that we will see Basim as the main protagonist in Assassin’s Creed moving forward, at least in the next games - the next mainline game, perhaps either Assassin’s Creed Hexe or Assassin’s Creed Red, will almost certainly continue the open-world RPG formula established by Origins, and last seen in Valhalla. While I believe that this is a shame, I’m delighted that the relatively small team at Ubisoft Bordeaux got to give Basim the outing he really deserved. In evoking Ezio, Altaïr, and Bayek, while also successfully giving him his own purpose and identity, the team has crafted one of the most memorable and complex protagonists that the series has seen so far. Who knows, perhaps another story could be on the cards for Basim, but if not, I’m glad to have been proven wrong by my time with him.
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Jake is a freelance writer who currently works regularly with TRG. Hailing from the overcast shores of Brighton in the United Kingdom, Jake can be found covering everything from features to guides content around the latest game releases. As seen on NME.com, Eurogamer.net, and VG247.com, Jake specializes in breaking games down into approachable pieces for guides, and providing SEO advice to websites looking to expand their audiences.