Why Ubisoft Chose Basim For Assassin's Creed Mirage
When Ubisoft revealed Assassin’s Creed Mirage last September, it also announced that Basim Ibn Is’haq, the master assassin who brought Eivor into the Hidden Ones order in 2020’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, was returning. This time, however, he would the playable protagonist. His journey in Mirage takes him from street thief to Hidden Ones order initiate and eventually to the master assassin we see in Valhalla.
Basim getting his own game is the first time in the franchise’s history that a character who already appeared in a different Assassin’s Creed gets their own mainline game as protagonist. After playing Mirage for roughly two hours for Game Informer's latest cover story, I came away excited to learn more about Basim’s journey and experience his progression, both narratively and mechanically, in the full release this October. But I was also curious how developer Ubisoft Bordeaux decided to bring Basim back. It turns out his backstory (or lack thereof when we meet Basim in Valhalla) and how it ties into the series’ first protagonist, Altair Ibn-La’Ahad, whose Assassin's Creed events take place in 1191 roughly 300 years after Mirage, is one of the key factors.
“Basim was a very intriguing character,” creative director Stephane Boudon tells me at Ubisoft Bordeaux’s office. “He was mysterious. And it was, in fact, really perfect to tell [the story of his youth] because it creates a parallel with Altair. It’s not really the same story, but when you play [Assassin’s Creed], you live the life of an Assassin who will have to rank up to prove he is worthy of the Creed, and for Basim, it’s exactly the same.”
Boudon explains that with Mirage serving as a spiritual homage to the first Assassin’s Creed, and Basim for Altair, this parallel in the two Assassins’ journeys was important to the team. He says with Basim coming from Baghdad, the team grew increasingly excited about his journey because of that city, which was the cultural and technological epicenter of the region during its 9th Century Golden Age period.
World and quest director Simon Arseneault says he, in particular, was most excited about the type of Assassin fantasy Basim allowed the team. He notes that Kassandra covered the Greek demigod fantasy, EIvor the Viking fantasy, and Bayek the Magi and Ancient Egypt fantasy. With Basim, it’s a return to the classic Assassin’s Creed fantasy: a guy who learns to kill really well, stealthily.
“[In the open world RPGs], it was less about the Credo,” Arseneault tells me. “It was always there, but it was way less about it. When you’re playing as Assassin of the Hidden Ones – that’s what we do with Basim – you want to bring it way closer to home for every player that plays him because we know how he’s going to end up. We’re playing the story of Basim, and he ends up in Valhalla as a master assassin; we could not have you becoming a rogue gunslinger mercenary, for example – it would not work for him [because] there would be a gap in his narrative.”
Instead, Arseneault says the team focused on giving players control and freedom in how Basim plays instead of how he progresses narratively. You can choose how to approach quests and contracts, which outfits he’s wearing and what perks he gets from them, which tools and loaouts you employ, and more. “Instead of giving you freedom for how he evolves, we bring you more freedom in how you play,” he adds.
Arseneault says familiarity didn’t affect much when designing quests with Basim, a character players are already familiar with. “The only thing it changes is you try to avoid having an objective that’s the opposite of what Basim would do; basically, that’s what you try to remove, but the freedom is always there, in your microactions.”
“[Basim’s] never going to say, ‘I’m going to murder everyone,’ because that’s not Basim,” he says, alluding to players having the ability to do just that in the open world RPG Assassin’s Creed games. “That’s the difference. We try to bring more of the choices in the actions rather than the outcome. The outcome will be that he takes down his target, stealthily or not, with great or bad success. But he’s going to have taken down his target and it’s going to be good for the Hidden Ones and his progress [...] in becoming a master assassin.”
Artistic director Jean-Luc Sala says it’s been tricky but exciting to design Basim in a new light for Mirage.
“We know what’s happening in Valhalla with Basim, so that’s a very different Basim,” he says. “There is a turning point in his life, bringing the Valhalla Basim, but before that, we want to make him a full-fledged assassin – the loveable character you can relate with, [who] you can really understand and fear the moment when he is going to be that Basim no more.”
My hands-on time didn’t include anything in the way of Mirage’s narrative, so I can’t speak much to him as a character, although I did enjoy his twists and turns in Valhalla. With a new voice actor – this time, Lee Madjoub – and a new period of history and city to experience as Basim, I’m excited for the full release in October. I’m sold on Basim mechanically as an Assassin, and I look forward to seeing if Ubisoft Bordeaux gets Basim added to my list of favorite series protagonists.
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