Published and developed by AAA power couple EA/DICE, 2008’s Mirror’s Edge was a game that divided players. There were many who praised its beautiful visuals and innovative first-person parkour platforming action, however it was undeniable that it had some fairly deep flaws. The overly short campaign with its relatively weak plot as well as its many unforgiving jumps that doomed certain sections to trial-and-error tedium were the two main criticisms levelled at the then new IP. Personally however, it was one of my favourite games of the last generation. It was such a fresh and interesting new experience, with a unique sense of motion and momentum as you traversed the gleaming cityscape with its bright but sterile aesthetic. Sales for the game (while relatively strong) were not as high as projected, which is likely the reason that EA hesitated on following up with a sequel until eight years later. With the release of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (MEC) just around the corner, I thought I’d round up the important info on both the gameplay and story for this promising sequel.
As with the original game, MEC puts us in the well-worn shoes of Faith. Faith is a Runner, a group of elite couriers with a penchant for parkour (think Australia Post employees if they were ninjas hepped up on Red Bull). In a capitalist world that increasingly values societal order over personal freedom and privacy of information (sounds oddly familiar…), Runners operate outside official channels and receive and deliver sensitive goods. They’re also open to a bit of burglary and other shady dealings for those that have the coin to employ their services. While technically Runners only answer to themselves, their role in helping often questionable characters can land them in a spot of bother from time to time.
The game is set to take place in the city of Glass, a pristine faux-Utopia ruled by the Conglomerate. The Conglomerate are formed from a group of corporations that restrict the freedoms of their citizens to ensure perfect law and order. Ruthless and morally ambiguous, the Conglomerate will employ any means to ensure their complete and utter control. Opposing the Conglomerate is the resistance movement Black November, whose raison d’être is to disrupt the corporate machine that has a stranglehold on the city. While they’re generally keen on protecting civilian life, their leader Rebecca Thane is becoming increasingly less discerning when it comes to achieving the group’s aims. While specifics on the plot haven’t been revealed, it is heavily hinted that Faith will be unwittingly drawn into the struggle of the resistance against the city’s oppressors, and that perhaps the motives and loyalties on both sides might not be as cut-and-dried as they appear on the surface.
In a welcome change, cutscenes will be fully animated rather than the simple comic book-style segues of the original. ME’s rambling story was very much let down by these underwhelming segments, and MEC looks like it will have fully motion-capped actors and gorgeous cinematic sequences. There also seems to be more focus on fleshing out an expanded roster of interesting characters. This includes Faith’s surrogate father Noah and some of her fellow Runners (who have rad names like Icarus, Birdman and Nomad). ME’s dystopian world is rich with potential for good storytelling, hopefully DICE can tap into this and provide a compelling tale that gives you a sense of purpose and provides some solid impetus for the unfolding action. Check out the dev diary for how the city and narrative will come together in the game.
The tight first-person parkour of the original will of course return, but if the gameplay trailers are anything to go by, the developers have been taking notes as to how to further enrich the experience. The gameplay centres around forward momentum and pulling off seamless moves as you traverse the city. This includes vaulting, sliding, rolling, jumping and swinging your way as fast as possible from point A to point B. There’s also a new trick up Faith’s sleeve in the form of the Mag Rope, which can be used to anchor to the flying surveillance cameras littering the city, opening up new means of traversal. The original ME was criticised for being a little linear, and it’s true that you were more or less shuttled through areas with preordained paths. MEC promises to be a little more expansive in terms of the options it gives you to move around the world, and will favour a more open world structure. While I’m a firm believer that an open world does not necessarily the good game make, it is exciting to think that you can seamlessly make your way across the city while having the freedom to choose your own path. If the developers manage to nail an organic feel to traversal and conservation of momentum, it may be on par with the thrill and freedom in Rocksteady’s Batman games.
Combat is an area in the original that was slightly weak. While Faith is a skilled martial artist, combat in ME felt a little clunky at times and was odds with the fluid movement that featured in every other aspect. MEC will emphasise the same central philosophy of momentum when it comes to combat, such that a run will no longer feel interrupted by the many bad men with sticks and guns intent on ruining your day. If Faith can continue a free-running flow she will gain something called Focus, which makes her impervious to her foes’ attacks. As long as she can maintain Focus and momentum she gains the ability to perform both Heavy and Light Traversal Attacks which will send enemies flying over railings and through windows. All of this will be done while in constant motion, and the gameplay trailer features some deliciously cool moves like running vertically up a wall to avoid gunfire before backflipping and landing on top of a hapless guard. Running from armed guards in the original was thrilling, but in the sequel we are likely to see a Faith who is a little more empowered (as long as she can keep moving).
There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of hype from the general gaming populous for this title, it has very much operated in the background (this will undoubtedly change as we get closer to release on May 26th). This could work in its favour though, as when people’s expectations are low (or non-existent) a game can truly swoop in and blow some minds. For this guy, it’s going to take the finest jorts tailor in all the land to craft a pair capable of not bursting at the seams when this game finally drops next month. For more info head to the official website and be sure to check out the slick gameplay trailer below if you haven’t already.