How Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Can Fix the Franchise


Posted on August 11, 2015 by Adam Ferrero

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With Gamescom last week, EA released the much anticipated gameplay trailer for Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. The five minute video takes place during one of the missions happening at some point during the game. It’s clear that certain segments have been spliced together, so we don’t have a full mission, but there’s enough to give us an idea of what to expect come February. The twilight setting proves an interesting contrast to the original Mirror’s Edge brightness and bloom, but there’s still enough to make you wonder who installs the lighting in the air vents. Most of the trailer goes along with what fans like me enjoyed most about Mirror’s Edge. We watch as Faith traverses rooftops and uses unconventional means to avoid elevators and staircases, hopefully for a good reason. Then, once the alarm has been sounded, we see quick shots of the combat as she fluidly fights through the responding police or and private security. Overall, I think it’s a solid first glimpse of what to expect, addressing most of what people wanted to see from Catalyst.

However, there is still much to ponder. How much control will players have over the combat? How big is the promised open world? Once you’re on mission, how much freedom to approach your goal will you have? Where will the story take us? Will it keep everything people loved about Mirror’s Edge, but fix all the problems? On February 23rd, 2016, we will find out. But until then, here are five things Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst MUST do in order to step up from cult classic to gaming great.

#1: Go open world

mirrors-edge-city

I know that it was already been announced that Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst will be an open world game. But it is so critical to the most important and memorable phase of the original game that it cannot be understated. Mirror’s Edge was at its best when you were running across the rooftops, picking your own paths and using the environment to get where few people could ever go. However, those sections were always short-lived and very restricted to meet the requirements of the linear nature of the game. It’s a dream of every Mirror’s Edge fan to be able to spend as long as they want traversing the city from building to building, unlocking the secret paths and Easter eggs along the way. Thus, it is so important that it be done and done well.

#2: Make the city large enough to enjoy, but not frustrating to work in

It’s not enough for to be an open world. Too many open world games have forgotten the scale that they work with. Faith of Mirror’s Edge never had superpowers like in Infamous or Prototype, or vehicles like in Grand Theft Auto or Watch Dogs. There will certainly be a wide variety of locations and people to be interacted with during the game, and players will want to be able to get to them without running a 5k every time. Maybe there will be an underground tunnel system for fast travel, or maybe Faith will just take the bus. Regardless, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst cannot go too far past the mark from too restrictive an environment to too big.

Faith appears to have a grappling hook in Mirror's Edge: Catalyst.

Faith appears to have a grappling hook in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst.

#3: Make the sidequests more than busywork

We’ve seen it so many times before: an open world game with an amazing plot, fascinating characters, a beloved main character, and plenty of time collecting meaningless pieces of paper for experience and completion points. Side quests are important to any open world game, whether third person adventure, first person shooter, or RPG, but those quests need to have more of a reason to exist other than simply to pad out the playtime and number of achievements.

One of the biggest problems with the original Mirror’s Edge was how difficult it was to navigate while being pursued and shot at. This difficulty came from how unfamiliar the terrain was, combined with never having a clear picture where you were heading. Sidequests could include mastering certain maneuvers, exploring parts of the city that will be important later on in the story, improving skills such as length of wall running and jumping height and distance, mastering different combat techniques, or sabotaging surveillance equipment while planting your own. Whatever the developers decide, it needs to work with the story and setting, and not just exist for the sake of existing.

#4: Create a deep storyline with well-developed characters and motivations

mirrors-edge-faith

Mirror’s Edge suffered greatly from throwing players into a “you’re the good guy, just trust me” scenario. As I discussed last week, the political landscape has changed greatly from 2008, and in 2016, killing cops just because you’re told they’re the bad guy will not work, and in the worst way. Mirror’s Edge was a short game, almost simply an experiment, and this time around EA wants Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst as a flagship franchise, so the development team has a lot more room to tell the story they have created. That will be critical, as Mirror’s Edge desperately craves true villains and heroes. This is a new age of gaming storylines, where gamers are more apt to question plot and motivation, and who and what is truly right and wrong. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst needs to bring the series into this world where just being the player character isn’t enough to convince gamers that they are the good guy.

#5: Figure out a true combat system that works for the gameplay style

EA has already announced that Faith will not be able to use guns in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. This is big announcement, as Mirror’s Edge was never meant to be a shooter. But the hand-to-hand combat was subpar by far. Maybe that was low on the development priority list, but now that cannot be the case. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst absolutely needs a true combat system that will allow players to feel powerful and skilled in encounters, yet vulnerable when outnumbered and out of element. It needs to be necessary for players to learn a wide variety of attacks, takedowns, disarm maneuvers, multi-enemy techniques, and hit and run moves, so that when combat must occur, it feels necessary, organic, threatening, yet exciting and opportunistic; a real chance to hone skills and prove that Faith is a force to be reckoned with.

mirrors-edge-attack

As I’ve said, I am a Mirror’s Edge fan. They grew a fanbase out of nothing by doing things that had never been done before in gaming. Now seven years have passed, and those innovations have yet to be scooped up and further developed by anyone else. EA and DICE have an opportunity to surround those exciting concepts with further layers of gaming greatness. Will they deliver? We’ll have to wait until February 23rd 2016 to find out.

What do you want to see from Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst? Do you think it will be a classic, or will it be a bomb? Let us know in the comments, and if you plan on playing it when it’s released.

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