When Assassin's Creed Mirage launches on October 12, it will continue the series' tradition of bringing players closer to history with History of Baghdad, a feature that adds historical context to the game's simulation of the past. Part of an in-game Codex that also includes tutorials and a Database with lore, History of Baghdad will deliver expertly curated information on the history, art, and culture of Baghdad and the Abbasid Caliphate circa the ninth century, accompanied by images provided by museum partners.
In keeping with Assassin's Creed Mirage being a tribute to early Assassin's Creed games, History of Baghdad will be integrated into the main game, similarly to the Database of earlier games, and is tied to player progression, with an in-game reward for Basim once completed. As Basim visits 66 historical sites throughout Baghdad, players will unlock research-driven articles that dig into information across five topics: Economy; Belief & Daily Life; Government; Art & Science; and Court Life.
"From the start we had an ambitious premise: to help the players better understand the world of ninth-century Baghdad, a world that is seldom represented in popular culture," says Dr. Raphaël Weyland, a historian working at Ubisoft Montreal. "In the pursuit of this lofty goal, we were given the freedom to choose what topics we wanted to tackle. We just had to make sure that what we wanted to describe existed in the world of Assassin's Creed Mirage."
Above: Blown Glass Jar with Trailed Zigzag Decoration, courtesy of Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design (Honolulu, Hawaii)
An expert in Middle Eastern history, Weyland joined Ubisoft to work on Assassin's Creed Mirage, and his work includes finding culturally and historically authentic elements for inclusion in the game, as well as reviewing aspects of it for coherence with the setting. He has also led the selection and writing of History of Baghdad entries, as well as selection of its images.
"We might not always know it, but there is a little of Baghdad in the animal tales we read to our children and the perfumes our lovers wear," Weyland says. "This comes from the role of the city as a global hub attracting artists, scholars and traders from all over the world. By weaving together various traditions, they created research methods and artistic styles that are still important today. This cosmopolitan aspect, as well as the influence that Baghdad has on us, are at the heart of the story and the world-building of Assassin's Creed Mirage."
"I'm fascinated by the creativity, dynamism, and intellectual curiosity of this period of history," says Dr. Glaire D. Anderson, founder of the University of Edinburgh's Digital Lab for Islamic Visual Culture & Collections. "People across the caliphal lands were experimenting, debating, discussing, creating new works in every area of human activity, [which] built on the great traditions of the ancient past, but were at the same time new and distinct from what came before."
Above: Beaker in Colorless Glass with Engraved Decoration, courtesy of The David Collection (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Anderson, an expert on Islamic art, architecture, and history, was among the external historians and institutions who helped create and contribute to the History of Baghdad feature. Images for History of Baghdad were provided by partner museums, including The David Collection, a museum in Copenhagen with one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the Western world; the Institut du monde arabe in Paris, which hosts a museum and a library entirely devoted to the arts and cultures of the Arab world; The Khalili Collections, assembled by Professor Sir Nasser D. Khalili and containing some 35,000 works of art; and the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, a center of the Doris Duke Foundation in Honolulu for exploring Islamic art and cultures. The museums provided illustrations and photos of a diverse selection of artifacts from the caliphal period - during which Assassin's Creed Mirage is set - ranging from drinking vessels and sculptures to scientific equipment, such as astrolabes.
Above: Planispheric Astrolabe, courtesy of the Khalili Collections (London, United Kingdom)
"I am proud that we did not shy away from any subject, discussing sensitive and misrepresented topics such as the harem, the role of eunuchs, and slavery in a nuanced way," says Weyland. "I am also happy that we managed to incorporate some humor in the entries on Table Manners or Market Inspectors. After all, history can also be funny and lighthearted!"
History of Baghdad's development was led by a dedicated team at Ubisoft Montreal, and its creation began with a series of weekly workshops on the caliphal period, during which Anderson and her team fielded questions from Ubisoft's dedicated team of in-house historians at Ubisoft Montreal, and supplied detailed historical information that might have been difficult or time-consuming to acquire without the help of experts. From these sessions, Ubisoft’s historians – Weyland and World-Design Director Maxime Durand – chose the topics and entries that History of Baghdad should cover.
"I'm proud of the wide range of entries that appear in the History of Baghdad, and the fact that these were created collaboratively between my team and the Ubisoft historians," says Anderson. "I'm particularly happy with the entries on Abbasid Style and the Other Palaces, where players can find out more about the art and architecture of the period. I'm also happy that the History of Baghdad features several entries that illuminate the roles of women, on the one hand, and that discuss science - especially astronomy and engineering - on the other. These are topics that are important in my own work as a historian, and I hope players will discover something new or surprising there.
Above, left to right: Twelve-Sided Bronze Mortar with Bird and Vegetal Motif Panels, courtesy of Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design (Honolulu, Hawaii); and Spheroconical Vessel (Chemistry Vessel), courtesy of the Institut du monde arabe (Paris, France)
"Finally, I can't forget to mention the entry for the Dome of the Ass, which reveals something that surprised all of us: the unexpected significance in this period of the humble donkey!" Anderson says.
Assassin's Creed Mirage will launch on October 12 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Amazon Luna, and PC through the Epic Games Store and the Ubisoft Store, and will be included with a Ubisoft+ subscription. For more on Assassin's Creed, check out our look at Assassin's Creed Mirage's stealth assassinations tools and abilities, or learn more about how Assassin's Creed Nexus VR lets players become master Assassins.