Oct 20, 2023 6 min read

Assassin's Creed Mirage - Performance Review and Best Settings for Steam Deck

These are the best settings for playing Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Mirage on the Steam Deck.

Playing Assassin's Creed Mirage on Steam Deck

These are the best settings for playing Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Mirage on the Steam Deck.

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed is undoubtedly one of the biggest franchises in gaming and can proudly reflect on thirteen main releases, as well as various spin-offs and adaptations. The series' obvious success has not only led to many different iterations of the core gameplay itself, but also a shift to an RPG-approach with recent titles.

Since massive open worlds packed with hundreds of hours of content aren't everyone's cup of tea, Assassin’s Creed Mirage aims to return to its more modest action-adventure roots: telling the somewhat coming-of-age story of Basim Ibn Ishaq in 9th-century Baghdad in a more streamlined and much more digestible package.

Assassin's Creed Mirage on Valve's Steam Deck

With a smaller game world and less extensive features comes not only a smaller game size (around 40GB compared to Valhalla’s 110+GB), but also much more manageable rendering requirements - something the Steam Deck will surely benefit from, right? Let's see.

Welcome to Bordeaux *Baghdad!

First, we need to address the elephant in the room: Assassin’s Creed Mirage is not available on Steam. As of now, you need to purchase the game via the Epic Games Store or Ubisoft’s own in-house platform, Ubisoft Connect. This might be disappointing, but not surprising, as it took Mirage’s predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, two years after its initial launch to finally become available on Steam. There is no official word from the publisher and game developer in Bordeaux regarding a potential Steam release for Mirage...

For this review, I played through Basim's story on Ubisoft Connect. The easiest way to install this launcher on your Steam Deck would be through moraroy’s ‘NonSteamLauncher’, available through GitHub. This tool will install Ubisoft Connect (and optionally other third-party launchers) on your Steam Deck, and automatically ensure compatibility through ProtonGE.

With this out of the way, you can log into your account and download the game after starting the launcher as a non-Steam app in your Deck's library. Sure, you will be missing out on Steam’s pre-compiled shader caches, but aside from that, there shouldn't be any major downside; at least apart from the anti-tamper solution, Denuvo. But that's a story I'll shed some light on later.

Surprisingly, the game defaults to the ‘High’ preset upon first start, and my doubts about this were proven right: Not only do the default settings not suit Valve's handheld well at all, but the game's own benchmark is anything but a useful metric. While Ubisoft's Anvil Engine has shaped up as the perfect platform for AC games over the years, its in-engine benchmark unfortunately often ends up as a gimmick with results you can't trust.

Thankfully, Mirage's starting location already boasts marketplaces full of NPCs and surrounding areas with enough vegetation to put the Deck's APU through its paces. The default settings try to emulate a framerate target of 60FPS, with the adaptive quality option set accordingly. Obviously, that's wishful thinking and nothing you would realistically aim for on your Steam Deck.

The results speak for themselves: Without any tweaks and utilising maximum wattage, you'll end up around 28 FPS — with random peaks at 35, but with regular dips into the lower 20s.

Best Settings for Assassin’s Creed Mirage on Steam Deck

Going back and forth between various settings and confirming my findings at different locations, I found that Mirage's visual quality scales pretty well - especially on the Deck's 800p screen.

The first thing on the assassin's knife's edge was the wild framerate target: 60 FPS is obviously way off the charts, but even a 'Golden 40' didn't feel quite right. Being able to reach 40 frames per second wasn't the issue, but solid frame pacing would've required a massive loss of visual quality. The moment you'd run into a busy crowd of folks reacting to your actions, the dream of a stable experience would be gone.

I had the best experience with Basim on Steam Deck by completely resorting to a solid 30 FPS lock and also bidding farewell to FSR2. The latter caused too much ghosting and fizzy geometry for my taste - so we'll go with Temporal Anti-Aliasing instead, with adaptive quality set to 30FPS this time around. I was also able to raise a fair amount of settings, resulting in a great looking and - most importantly - stable game.

Leveraging the settings below will give you around 1.5 hours of playtime on battery:

Screen Settings (in-game)
Field of View 90%
FPS Limit 30 FPS
Window Mode Fullscreen
Aspect Ratio 16:10 (Native)
VSync Off
Resolution Scale 100%
Graphics Settings (in-game)
World Details Low
Clutter Density Medium
Shadows Low
Volumetric Clouds Medium
Water Medium
Screen Space Reflections On
Environment Textures Medium
Character Textures High
Depth of Field Low
Motion Blur On
Adaptive Quality 30 FPS
Upsample Type TAA
Sharpen Strength 50%
Quick Action Menu (SteamOS)
Use per-game profile Enabled
Framerate Limit OFF
Refresh Rate 60
Allow Tearing Disabled

Be sure to disable VSync, to let SteamOS's own solution do the trick. Using Motion Blur helps also a lot in any scenario with a 30 FPS target.

Important Afterthought

I'm really surprised at how well Assassin’s Creed Mirage looks and runs on Valve’s handheld PC. Tweaking the settings until you hit decent frame pacing often results in subpar visuals, but apparently not in the series’ latest instalment. Exploring 9th-century Baghdad is great, and the more digestible length of roughly 16 - 25 hours of playtime is a welcomed change compared to today's standards.

One thing, however, managed to dampen my enthusiasm for the game, and I need to address this quickly: Ubisoft chose to add/enable the anti-tamper solution Denuvo with a day-zero patch - right after all major reviews went online. This is essentially review manipulation, as press and content creators were only able to examine an unaltered game prior to release.

In fact, Denuvo is known to undermine performance across the board and also blocks the entire game for up to 48 hours after attempting to start on different devices. Please note, I'm not referring to playing AC Mirage on different platforms simultaneously. This means that this mechanism, in particular, could and will cause headaches for handheld users who also regularly play on PC — such as switching between your Steam Deck and desktop. Their handling of this situation almost led me to decide not to cover the game at all, as I cannot promote a game plagued by such anti-consumer tactics. Whether this will create significant backlash, or why publishers are allowed to do this in the first place, remains to be seen. Denuvo only punishes the paying customer, as these games still always end up being cracked by pirates after all.

However, Mirage itself is a great game, which might feel like a homecoming for many. It's far from perfect - with poor facial animations in even poorer directed in-engine cutscenes and dialogues. But it is a welcome step in the classical direction, which also runs fairly well on Steam Deck.

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