Disclosure: This is an article written and released by Ubisoft, and sent to GameCritics via Ubisoft PR. While we don’t usually run PR releases, given its focus on accessibility and our lifelong dedication to same, we’re happy to share this information. The article can be seen in its original format here.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage launches on October 5, when players will be able to dive into the adventure of Basim Ibn Is’haq, a young street thief who grows into a Master Assassin, and explore the vibrant city of Baghdad circa the ninth century. Assassin’s Creed Mirage is intended to evoke the feel of early games in the series, with an emphasis on stealth and the return of many familiar gameplay and thematic elements – but it’s firmly modern in its approach to accessibility, with a number of features to ensure that as many people can play as possible.
“Our philosophy was to create a game that goes back to its roots while retaining the modern accessibility options and feedback elements found in later Assassin’s Creed titles, like Valhalla,” says Antony Marques, UX designer at Ubisoft Bordeaux. “To achieve this, we collaborated with teams in Montreal, Kyiv, Odesa, and Bordeaux. For the new core gameplay, the focus was to design with accessibility in mind, seamlessly incorporating it into the gameplay itself rather than relying solely on options.”
BUILDING ON VALHALLA’S HIGH BAR
While Assassin’s Creed Valhalla set high standards in terms of accessibility, the teams behind Assassin’s Creed Mirage were able to find ways to build on what it had achieved. One big addition, says Marques, is the ability to navigate menus with the d-pad, which was a major priority for the developers at Ubisoft Kyiv. Where recent games in the series relied on analog sticks or a mouse to navigate their menus , d-pad navigation makes it easier to highlight different options directly – providing a broad benefit to as many players as possible, as well as to players with motor and visual disabilities (especially those using the screen-reader feature).
Another consideration was to build in more ways for players to detect changes in their environment or abilities – when drawing attention from guards, for example. Because Assassin’s Creed Mirage is more focused on stealth gameplay than recent entries in the series, Marques and other developers wanted to give players plenty of notice when they’re provoking an enemy’s awareness.
“We wanted to make sure that all signs and feedback are well communicated and not reliant on color alone,” says Marques. “The detection meter appears in different formats along with other types of feedback – for example, animations to show the transition between the suspicious, detection, and searching phases. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, for example, it would just be a change in color and sound, so it was more subtle. In Mirage, we aimed to help as many players as possible understand the context, especially in stealth situations.”
In addition to the directional awareness meter when players are drawing attention, enemies in Assassin’s Creed Mirage will display question marks above their heads when searching for Basim, and an icon below the compass will keep players informed of their current state of awareness, even if the guards aren’t visible on screen.
“We got a lot of player feedback that helped us create this feature, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud we were able to bring to the game!” says Marques.
TARGETING BY SHAPE
Another point of pride for Marques is the crosshairs when Basim is aiming, which will change color and shape to quickly convey information to players. If Basim aims at a civilian, for example, the crosshairs will become a gray “X” to indicate a non-target and incentivize players not to attack them. Also, some enemies can only be damaged from certain directions or with certain tools; if Basim’s targeting them with something that won’t do damage, players will see large gray crosshairs as a signal to be cautious and weigh whether they want to enter conflict.
The crosshairs also play a huge role when scouting with Basim’s eagle, Enkidu. When enemies are nearby, for example, the crosshairs will be surrounded by a white ring, which will disappear when all hostiles in view have been spotted and tagged. And while searching for a target or location, players will see a yellow ring that not only points them in the right direction, but also – in a new addition to Assassin’s Creed Mirage – now shows distance. When they’re looking in the target’s direction, the ring becomes a dynamic yellow crosshair, changing size and emitting a different sound as it gets closer to the target
Additionally, players can now quick-select certain tools without having to pull up Basim’s tool wheel, which introduces another analog-stick menu and briefly pauses the game. Instead, when players hold the left trigger to aim, tool icons will appear in a corner of the HUD next to corresponding face-button icons, and players can just hit one of these buttons to, say, throw a smoke bomb or lay a trap.
“This impacts game flow in a way that is nice for everyone, because they can use shortcuts to access Basim’s tools and provide more fast-paced gameplay,” says Marques.
Finally, given the game’s emphasis on stealth, players have a lot of options for reading their environment and keeping one step ahead of enemies. In addition to scouting ahead with Enkidu and tagging enemies, Assassin’s Creed Mirage brings back classic Eagle Vision, letting players see enemies and other points of interest with brightly colored auras, even through walls.
“We’ve done a lot of testing, and some players just turn on Eagle Vision and use it to kill enemies,” says Marques. “Some players used the eagle to scout and tag enemies to put dots on top of their heads, and then they go kill them. And some players didn’t use anything, and they trusted their guts. So, I think that’s a pro, that players have everything they need to do stealth in their own way.”
ACCESSIBILITY FEATURES LIST
- Text-to-Speech (Menu and HUD) – Allows presentation of UI text and icons for low-vision players by narrating the most important information in menu and HUD elements.
- Colorblind Filters (UI/HUD); Aiming Reticle Color – Allows color modification, via color presets, of the UI and HUD elements, so they are well-perceived by players with various forms of colorblindness.
- Interface Modifications (Text Size, HUD Background, Icon Size) – Allows players to modify various UI-related options, such as adding a background to HUD widgets and tweaking their opacity, or increasing text and Icon size display.
- Stealth and Detection Meter – Provides clear signs and feedback for each phase of detection, with distinct transitions to ensure players receive more than just color-coded information.
- Crosshairs Improvements – Crosshairs now provide precise feedback about what players can and cannot do, for example changing shape to an “X” over civilians, or changing size depending on the damage players can do.
- Closed Captions – Turns on visual notifications for various in-game sound elements.
- Speaker Name – Displays the names of the characters speaking before their lines, with improved legibility.
- Turn Subtitles Off – Turns subtitles off completely to reduce how much is on the screen at once.
- Master Volume – Enables players to adjust the game’s master volume.
- Audio Dynamic Range – Multiple presets that will enable a reduction in the difference between the quietest and loudest sounds.
- Music Frequency – Reduces the frequency with which music plays throughout the game, or turns it off entirely.
- Dialogue Boost – Boosts the audio levels of dialogue.
- Subtitle Background – Enables a background for subtitles to enhance contrast and legibility, with adjustable opacity percentage.
- Subtitle Size – There are three settings to increase subtitle size.
- Control Remapping – Allows customization of actions by changing their key/button bindings and behaviors.
- Control Options (Sensitivity, Menu Hold Factor, Left-Handed Mouse, etc.) – Allows configuration of various control options, such as adjusting your cursor sensitivity; changing the timing for hold actions in menus or replacing them with alternative methods of input; and enabling left-handed mouse navigation or swapping controller sticks in different scenarios.
- Guaranteed Pickpocket Option – Allows players to disable the pickpocket quick time event.
- Aim Assist – Allows players to choose different levels of aiming assistance for controller input.
- D-Pad Navigation – Players can use d-pad navigation and shortcuts for menus and other tasks that typically use analog sticks or mouse.
- Quick Use of Tools – Enables players to quickly access certain tools by pressing two buttons, instead of navigating the tool wheel with an analog stick.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage will launch on October 5 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC via Ubisoft Store and Epic Games Store, and Amazon Luna, and will also be available on day one with a Ubisoft+ subscription. For more on Assassin’s Creed Mirage, check out the History of Baghdad feature, and find out how it revisits and revitalizes ideas from the first Assassin’s Creed games.
— Mikel Reparaz