Assassin's Creed Mirage explores the coming-of-age story of Basim, who you may have met in Assassin's Creed Valhalla. Far from the master assassin we know in Viking England, though, Basim is a cunning this time around, who's journey leads him to learn the ways of the Creed. No one ever became a master of anything without some guidance, after all. In turn, Mirage will introduce us to a cast of characters that shape this young man's adventure in 9th century Baghdad – but there's one figure who has a very important role to play in Basim's story: Roshan. As a veteran assassin, Roshan takes Basim on as her apprentice, and it's through her that we'll enter into the world of the Hidden Ones. When Ubisoft first approached the idea of creating an experience surrounding Basim, the team were quick to land on the idea of bringing in a mentor.
This look at the character of Roshan is part of our week of Assassin's Creed Mirage: On the Radar coverage.
"Very early on, when we knew that we were going to work with Basim, with Stéphane [Boudin, creative director] we agreed that we needed a mentor. Because he's going to become an assassin, obviously we need a mentor," narrative director Sarah Beaulieu explains. "What I wanted was a woman mentor, but I also wanted someone who was not too young, I wanted someone in their 50s. That was very important, because of their experience but also because I think that we need more women of a certain age in mainstream media."
"We agreed on that very early on and someone on the team brought up the name of Shohreh Aghdashloo for the role. She has this very specific voice that everybody loves and it helped a lot, because even though at that point we didn't know if she was okay with doing it or not, with writing the dialogues, it really helps hearing the voices in your head, helps to build a character around this charisma that Shohreh has."
Aghdashloo is most known for her Oscar-nominated role in House of Sand and Fog, along with parts in TV series such as 24 and The Expanse, but her voice talents have also popped up in games like Mass Effect 2 and 3. Happily, when Aghdashloo was approached about Mirage, she was on board with the idea of playing the role. We got our very first glimpse of the prolific actress breathing life into the pivotal character Ubisoft had envisioned in 2022. Aghdashloo was quick to recognize a strong woman in Roshan, who also represented the culture and diversity of the setting in Baghdad that Ubisoft Bordeaux is striving to recreate. And while the story takes place in the 9th century, Roshan is a woman who sets an example for the modern era, too.
"When the story appeals to us, we want to tell the story, and when this one came around, I just thought, 'Wow. What an amazing woman she is.'," Aghdashloo says. "She is representative of the ethnicities, cultures, and diversity back in 9th Century Baghdad - at its Golden Age. What a great example for women today, especially in the other half of the world, who want to realize that I too can be strong, I too can stand for justice for all."
"When this role came I knew I would love to play this role, to lend my voice to this strong woman who's struggling so hard to make her society a better society to live in, to get rid of the bad people, the rotten people, dictators who are using and abusing people," Aghdashloo continues, before adding, "I love her name - Roshan. It means vigilant."
As a member of the Hidden Ones, vigilant seems apt, but it's even more so when you consider the role Roshan has in relation to Basim. As our mentor and guide, we will be learning a lot from her as a character and see how she helps us transform from street thief to seasoned assassin, but Beaulieu was keen to express that the team wanted to create a mentor who didn't fall into the realms of a mother figure in the story.
"With Roshan, we wanted to avoid as much as possible having the kind of mother figure for Basim," says Beaulieu. "That's not the point at all. So she's tough, she's not easy to talk to, but she's trying. She's all about the Hidden Ones, but Basim is loveable, so she has a thing for Basim as an apprentice. She loves the guy but their relationship is hard work. She's tough with him, but she has to be, especially at the beginning of the game. He's cheeky, cocky, very proud of himself."
Once Basim joins the Hidden Ones, Roshan takes him under her wing, and, as Aghdashloo explains, is quick to recognize that he's a young man who possesses "all the ingredients of becoming an assassin" who could also "stand for justice" in Baghdad. While we'll have to wait and see who Basim will be facing in the city, it's clear that Roshan will be imparting a lot to us when it comes to our skills and knowledge of the Creed.
"When Roshan realizes that Basim can become an amazing assassin, she takes him under her wing and she's willing to teach him everything she has learned in life," Aghdashloo says. "Wise people know that life is limited, that you don't live forever. It's only the fools [who] think I'm going to do this forever because I'm going to live forever. Wise people know that they have a limited amount of time to relay what they have learned to the one they think deserves to be taught. Roshan sees that ability in Basim and that's why she chose Basim to follow her and learn from her."
Leading by example
Representation always matters, and it's great to see a strong woman in her 50s be a main character with such an important role in Assassin's Creed Mirage. As a series that delves into different periods in history, we'll be turning back the clock to the 9th century, but Aghdashloo believes the story of Mirage is still reflective of the modern world we live in, with Roshan representing so many women.
"Assassin's Creed Mirage can read very well for today's world, for certain places and societies in the other half of the world. It can speak for them as well," Aghdashloo says. "It's still happening right now in this world. What if we had some people like Roshan and the Hidden Ones to come back from the 9th Century and take care of these bad people who are using and abusing others?"
"She is representative of all these millions of women around the world, around the globe nowadays, who are standing for justice, or standing for their basic rights, or standing for taking care of their people, and making the world a better place to live in."
Baghdad promises to be a diverse setting for Basim's adventure, with Ubisoft previously saying the team is treating it as one of the main characters. With a return to the classic Assassin's Creed experience that focuses on stealth and parkour, it will no doubt offer up an engaging landscape to traverse, but it's also a backdrop that reiterates the importance of a presence like Roshan. And no matter the time period, Aghdashloo believes it still holds relevance to what's going on in the world today.
"This story becomes even more fascinating when you think about what's happening in the world, about how many thousands, millions of women in Afghanistan, in Iran and Pakistan, in Africa, elsewhere, are fighting for their rights right now," Aghdashloo says. "When you play the game it doesn't feel like you're playing an ancient game about Baghdad, no matter how elaborate or beautiful the animations are."
"This is Baghdad at its golden time and Ubisoft has done a fantastic job at bringing it into the picture, but it speaks for today as well," Aghdashloo continues. "When I was voicing Roshan, I thought I wish I could do this for my own people, for girls who are dying to bring freedom to their countries, to gain their basic rights such as getting educated or having a choice to wear whatever they like to wear, or not. But I can't find anything else right at this moment that is more relative to today than this game. This game is far more relative to what is going on in the world right now, as we're speaking, than other movies or series that I have done."