In 2008 Mirror’s Edge amassed a cult following of fans, I was one of them. The slick first-person parkour gameplay was extremely impressive at the time. Getting 3 stars in all of the speed-runs in the game is still one of my fondest memories. To be truly great at the game, that required genuine skill. However, Mirror’s Edge didn’t sell particularly well. It seemed like we’d never get a fully-fledged continuation. Well, in 2013 EA announced Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. The game would be a prequel to the first game rather than a sequel. After an 8 year wait, it finally released in 2016. Was it worth the wait or was it better left alone?
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a first-person action-adventure game in which the player takes control of Faith Connors as she progresses through a futuristic city named Glass. Similar to the original Mirror’s Edge, players traverse the city using aspects of urban exploration and parkour movements to complete missions and evade or fight enemies.
When players mark an objective on their map, Faith’s “runner vision” is activated and some scenery items automatically highlight in red. These act as guides to lead players towards their objective. The use of levels and linear gameplay found in the first Mirror’s Edge has been replaced with an open world, free-roaming environment. This gives players more freedom in traversal, allowing for the use of multiple paths to reach one’s objective. In addition to the campaign’s mission, side activities such as time trials, races and environmental puzzles are featured. Additionally, items called GridLeaks can be found across the world that can be collected by players.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst focuses on protagonist Faith Connors’ origin – and her attempt to overthrow a totalitarian conglomerate of corporations who rule the city of Glass.
Firstly, when looking back at my time with Catalyst I recall more aspects that I disliked rather than ones that I enjoyed. The story has to be one of the most boring, generic and skippable narratives that I can recall in recent memory. This isn’t helped by the poor looking character models and mundane dialogue. I just didn’t feel invested at all which is disappointing.
Faith might look visually interesting but there isn’t much else to her it seems. Secondly, one of the weakest aspects of the first game was combat. For whatever reason, they decided to put an even bigger emphasis on close combat here. While it has been improved it is still a mess. Encounters always feel clunky, annoying and pointlessly simplistic. The final section of the game ends in combat, what even?
Considering Mirror’s Edge is all about free-flowing speed, it surprised me just how slow paced Catalyst feels. It might just be me but there’s a slowed down feel to the movement of Faith and traversal. Also, load times are just horrible. I hope you like staring at blinding white screens because you’ll be doing a lot of it. In a game where you’ll need to restart constantly, it just isn’t acceptable.
I’m going to say it; Mirror’s Edge should never have gone open-world. This is especially true when you have no idea how to fill a world. The city of Glass is a good size but it’s practically barren of anything interesting to do. There are side quests and repetitive delivery missions that seem endless but that’s about it. How do you pad out an open-world? Well, you add collectibles of course! In fact, there are over 400 of them and they are all mostly worthless.
The issue with the game being this way is that you end up feeling like you’re doing the same thing over and over. You’ll quickly recognise the same areas as you make your way through. The city of Glass itself isn’t very pleasing visually either. Certain colours pop and shimmer nicely but it’s all rather unimaginative. I know it’s the style of the series but it worked better in the more linear original. Some of the main missions take some chances and show brief glimpses of brilliance but it’s mostly about getting from A to B.
The most fun I had with the game was with its 22 dash challenges. These are timed speed-runs that task you with getting to a certain point. This is when the gameplay truly shines. It reminded why I enjoyed the original so much in the first place. In fairness, a game like this doesn’t need the strongest narrative. The gameplay has issues but for the most part, it’s solid fun.
Finally, locking essential abilities like the “skill roll” behind an upgrade system was dumb. I know Faith is less experienced but upgrade points come so easily it was pointless and annoying.
Overall, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a disappointment. It’s lacking in so many areas that it is sometimes hard to see any positives at all. However, at its core there is game play that is genuinely a blast at times. Unfortunately, Catalyst fails to utilize it to its fullest potential.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst