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Letters from the Front

The original Mirror’s Edge was one of the most divisive games of 2008, one that can be argued served better as a proof of concept than an actual game for gamers and for the masses. Mirror’s Edge was unable to get off the ground and DICE was unable to make anything else out of it due to its disappointing sales and DICE went back to what they were known for since 2002 but kept the hope alive that someday they would be able to go back to Faith.

Six years after the failure of the original Mirrors Edge, EA announced Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a reboot and a re-imagination of the original game and in 2016, it finally came out to middling reviews but was somewhat of a success as it became the second-best selling game in the UK in its first week of release, shortly after Blizzard’s Overwatch. While DICE hasn’t really managed to overcome the issues that the original game charged head-first with, it turns out that making a game open-world is a pretty good spot to allow a game to grow.

There are moments within Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst that everything comes together, all the components just come together to create something that is flawless that allows the mechanics to shine, especially the freerunning. In between those moments of pure bliss when everything comes together, there is a disappointing amount of filler and certain mechanics completed with a slight sense of boredom that trips up the experience. The stumbling aspects of the game and the slight sense of boredom are more memorable than the good aspects and that is a major problem.

The slight sense of boredom, the combat mechanics, and the disappointing amount of filler are more memorable. The combat mechanics are clunky. Faith relies on her feet and fists when taking down enemies and the game encourages you to pair the attacks with her movement for maximum damage against her enemies. It’s awesome and pretty epic when it wants to work and it is extremely gratifying to see a enemies head slam into the ground with a kind of force that will make you unconscious. The combat becomes clunky because of the environment around you is too open for this kind of open and flawless combat and without much cover to vault over or platforms to dive from, you’re left with just dodging enemies and punching them in the face to dwell down their health like you’re punching some kind of dummy.

What makes it even worse is the A.I. The A.I is just plain weird and are programmed to counter certain attacks which makes everything unrealistic and just plain awkward. The A.I is just awkwardly predictable which makes the combat a bore so half the time I spent using the cheapest of moves that dealt damage to that specific enemy type and moved on.

Another mixed point of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is the upgrade system. Half of the upgrades that you unlock should be available from the start while others can’t be upgraded until you’re further along in the story and all of this just ends up being pointless and unnecessary. Thankfully, you’ll already have the essential perks unlocked and all later upgrades will help you but they end up being not critical which in itself is pointless and unnecessary. What’s the point of unlocking the later upgrades like increased damage and increased health if it’s helpful but not important?

Outside of the gameplay and combat mechanics, the open world just feels empty. Catalyst has an endless pile of sidequests so you have something to do in between the story missions but half the time, you’re just running from Point A to Point B. It ends up being boring and full of repetitiveness, made worse by the emptiness of the open world, there is a lack of unique and interesting things to do. Without, set pieces or something going on like in the original Mirrors Edge, Catalyst just feels bland and feels like DICE could’ve done better.

However, not of all it is bad, there is alot of good here. The parkour is absolutely wonderful. Unlike, other games of its nature, Mirror’s Edge emphasizes platforming over weapons. Faith’s move-set consists of wall-running, jumping, vaults, rolls, and much more which demands a bit of skill from those that are playing. Timing is everything here and it can mean that you failed a combat move or an animation, split-second timing can determine how fluid a combat animation or animation, in general, is and successfully timing everything correctly requires serious skills.

The parkour stands out because of the controls and naturalistic movement. A small touch of the mouse or a small flick of the mouse right before impact goes a long way and makes movement exhilarating and liberating. Mastering your environment has the same effect as nailing a combo in Mortal Kombat or Injustice.

Finally, its worth noting that the story is nothing too remarkable or too memorable which is a shame considering DICE’s track-record with stories and I was hoping for something better here than in recent Battlefield installments. The story squanders any intrigue from the futuristic environment around you by focusing on a corporate conspiracy filled with predictable story beats and uninteresting and boring characters, very typical of DICE’s stories.

Wrap up:

Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’s certain gameplay mechanics like Parkour remains refreshing for 2019 and perhaps 2016 when the game released. There’s a lot to like here but all of it stumbles thanks to the game’s mishaps. The return of Mirror’s Edge has fallen short. If DICE chooses to return to the series once again, let’s hope they can learn from Catalyst’s mishaps and create a better Mirror’s Edge.

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4 comments on “Backlog Review: Mirrors Edge: Catalyst

  1. I played the original and enjoyed it. The mobile game wasn’t bad either. I haven’t play Catalyst, in spite of it being regularly on sale pretty cheap. I’ll get around to it some day!

    1. Physics says:

      There was a mobile game? Huh. I didn’t know that, I actually did like the original 2008 game although I suffered from a lot of motion sickness. I think the original game is a forgotten gem of that era and needs to experienced by everyone.

      1. It was on iOS. I don’t know if it’s still available, but it’s worth a look.

      2. Physics says:

        Hmm. Might poke around and see what its about. Thanks for the tip!

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