Mirror’s Edge: Looking Back

Mirror’s Edge: Looking Back

There is no Faith. There is only the tattoo.


I remember being super excited about Mirror’s Edge when the original was set to come out. I would borrow my brother’s PlayStation magazine and flip through to the articles on the upcoming game inside. The images of the storm drain section were what stuck out to me most.

I’m not sure if the game inspired feelings of ‘wow a protagonist of my own gender! How inspiring!’ – I really don’t remember. However, I definitely recall thinking that Faith looked really, really cool. I also remember wanting her shoes.

With Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst set to come out next month and all that old hype rising to the surface, I’ve been revisiting that old game while I consider my thoughts about the reboot. You could call this a retrospective of sorts, I guess.

Ye of little Faith

Everything about the old game seems so unrefined. I notice it most in the city itself. The skyline is a sea of white, undefined towers speckled with billboards. There’s little definition, unique suggestions of setting or anything… until you get to the rooftops. Now you get sudden bursts of colour, like a whole block of rooftops being bright blue or something pointless like that. Strangely, what’s most interesting about the city of Mirror’s Edge lies in the unseen, the infrequently visited.

It’s almost like it was designed for people running through them. You know?

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Look, I get that this whole lifeless and bland cityscape is supposed to represent the totalitarian regime throttling its citizens, but there’s a massive flaw in how that is represented.

Put it this way, if you tell a story about how someone finds life irrevocably boring, chances are that story is going to be boring. You need to show them rejecting that boredom and seeking excitement. This happens in Mirror’s Edge, but DICE went about it the wrong way. The runners’ rejection of society stands clearest in what they do – running. We never really see what they’re rejecting – except in small snippets, like with the bags you can find hidden in the levels. All we get is this weird assassination plot and cover-up, and the defecting runners in the wake of Icarus. I want to see more of this screwed-up society, the stories of the people who don’t live on the edge! What about this city is so bad?

This is comical.

Two things bothered me about the original game. One was the cutscenes. The other was the combat.

In terms of the cutscenes, I found it really jarring when the game switched to 2D animation during the loading of the next level. Whether this was due to a lack of resources or a stylistic choice, I’m happy to see that it seems to be absent from Catalyst, judging by some gameplay of the closed beta.

As for the combat, ugh. I seem to be the only one of the opinion (oh wait, I’m not), but I always found it incredibly clunky. I’m not fantastic with timing, so fighting was often a very awkward affair – and some of the red flashes for a disarm move always seemed unfairly short. On some, like with the SWAT machine gun guy, I could never disarm them successfully. Hardly a dealbreaker but it was annoying.

When I first played the game, I remember discovering once that I could literally jump on top of someone, which felt awesome! I was never able to repeat it. I could never work out what made the difference between ‘dropping in’, or a simple jump kick. Damn timing.

It’s safe to say that Mirror’s Edge didn’t hold your hand – which is good! I like games that do that. This did get very frustrating at times, however.

Edging into a mirror phase

I am really glad to see how much DICE is trying to flesh out this world. Plus, the name it’s given the world, Cascadia, is really pretty. However, I feel like there’s a better way to do it than with mere text dumps. Hopefully it’s just giving us an idea of what we’re in for, and we’ll see more organic exposition in the game itself. Stuff like newspaper clippings, diary entries, overheard conversations of ordinary civilians. The first game was peppered with little snippets like this, but to me it didn’t go far enough. There were some good ones, however – like this screen-capped email from an ex-Pirandello-Kruger employee.

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Hopefully there’ll be more of this in Catalyst. The fact that it’s open world gives DICE a massive opportunity to make the narrative awesome – on the level of something like Grand Theft Auto V. Something where the side quests are as fleshed out as the main story. That would be amazing. However, the issue is that with most open-world games this just doesn’t happen. Hell, even though I originally thought that Mirror’s Edge should have been open-world, it’s possible that the free-running mechanic might suffer in this state. Why? Players might prefer the path of least resistance, given the wide range of choice.

Luckily, locking core abilities behind a skill tree might actually help. DICE introduced it in an attempt to encourage players to explore the different ways they can traverse the city more fully, and I’m hoping it’ll give them more motivation to challenge themselves and try new things.

I hope that all of these changes DICE has introduced will work out. I really want this game to be a good one, because it could be absolutely fantastic. I also hope it doesn’t follow the original too closely. DICE shouldn’t be trying to fix the old game. It should be using the game as a jumping-off point to go somewhere even better. No assassinated Pope, no wrongly arrested Kate. Something completely new.

So far, I’m optimistic, albeit cautious. I guess we’ll find out on June 7, when Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is released.

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