I’ve gone on record somewhere (I think Twitter, but no idea really) saying that I wasn’t a huge fan of Mirror’s Edge. For me, it was a game that introduced an interesting and novel concept that I absolutely wanted to embrace. The clean visual aesthetics, the cool first person parkour moves, it was unlike a lot of things at that time. Unfortunately, after playing it, the game just didn’t take with me and I got more and more frustrated the further I went.
Even knowing all that, it’s weird then that a sequel to a game I didn’t really enjoy all that much has managed to worm its way inside my head to the point where I’m actually looking forward to it. With videos and news hitting the web recently, I’ve been able to get a better sense of the game, even though trailers, previews, and other promotional materials have been somewhat scarce with the release date looming.
While I may not have enjoyed my time with the first game, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst appears to be bringing a few fresh and new ideas to the table which just may help the game win me over. Here’s a few things that have caught my attention:
Looking back on my time with the first game, this fact may have ultimately been the biggest downfall for me. Most levels were somewhat linear, containing a best path it wanted players to take even with the illusion of appearing bigger than what they actually were. Due to this, levels could sometimes be obtuse or confuse the play about where to go, making the experience frustrating. Couple all of this with the fact that many times, you’d be beset by enemies or snipers shooting at you while you’re trying to figure out how to jump up to a ledge, and things quickly fell apart.
With Catalyst, DICE has done away with the closed linear levels and focused on making a true open world for players to free run around. In this new City of Glass, the highlighted path may not always be the best one, and players are encouraged to explore the city on their own terms. Not only that, hidden collectibles, side missions, and social missions also populate the map giving players an alternative to running story missions.
The first Mirror’s Edge was excellent in this department and now that the team has new hardware to work with, the visual design of Catalyst is even more striking than before. Fans will notice a lot of similarities with the colors and clean look of the world. White is still a prominent color, with other colors getting used minimally making them more striking. Like the previous game, red is a very important color and thanks to runner vision, things that can be interacted with will be easier to see as they are highlighted in the color red.
For newer players, this tool will be invaluable as running fast in a first person view can be somewhat disorienting at first. The good news is that this feature can be turned off, so if you’re already an expert, DICE has you covered.
Of course, like any current DICE game, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is powered by the Frostbite engine, which means the game is going to be a visual stunner.
Another new element to Catalyst is a skill tree typically found in traditional RPGs. While Catalyst is clearly not an RPG, introducing the ability to unlock skills not only allows players to craft their version of Faith, but certain concepts like Quickturn can be introduced gradually and with more care.
DICE has mentioned that some skills that were available right from the beginning were never used or used sparingly, but by letting players unlock things at their own pace, they saw a change in behavior.
No More Guns
To everyone who played the first game, many would agree that the combat, especially gunplay, was one of if not the weakest aspect. DICE has seemingly taken the feedback to heart and has made a number of changes and hopefully improvements to the combat department for Catalyst.
The biggest change is that Faith can no longer use guns resulting in combat that is strictly hand to hand based and influenced by player momentum. So the more momentum you carry while kicking or punching, the harder your strikes will be. On the other hand, Mirror’s Edge will punish players who try to stop as it tries to discourage players from turning the game into a quasi-brawler. So far, the combat is fairly interesting combining fluidity and grace and rewarding players with a flashy cinematic take down.
While some of you may wanted a first person style multiplayer mode, or at the very least a co-op mode with friends (I’ll admit, exploring with friends does sound excellent), you unfortunately won’t find it with Catalyst. Still, DICE has created a sort of asynchronous multiplayer mode where players can create their own time trial races for other players to beat. It’s all supported by leaderboards so I’m sure more than a few of you will get sucked into this mode. For fans, it certainly seems like it could be addictive.
There’s also some more subtle things players can do to inject themselves into other players games such as tagging billboards, but ultimately, players will be physically kept apart.
What About Combat?
While these are all great steps for the game, I do have some concerns as well. In many of the gameplay segments I’ve seen both from regular YouTubers and big sites, the combat seems somewhat basic. Groups of enemies seem to take turns when fighting Faith resulting in what looks to be unintelligent AI behavior.
Who knows though, this could be the result of a modified demo, an early beta build, or the first parts of the game meant to get players used to the experience. With that said, I do hope the enemy AI isn’t as dumb as it appears in the videos as that would hurt the experience overall.
I won’t lie, I’m pretty jazzed about Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. On paper, it’s a game that seems to be taking big steps forward over it’s predecessor. That is usually a recipe for success, just look at the evolution from Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed 2. With about a month to go before release, here’s hoping that the game can live up to the hype. Are you excited for the game? Let me know your thoughts below.