Everything Seems So Clean
By all accounts Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a game that, from a financial point of view, probably shouldn’t even exist. The original game didn’t meet the initial projections back in 2008, but after eight years and a healthy following, we are once again able to control Faith through the city of Glass. The initial question is if the new Mirror’s Edge entry was worth the wait. However, that may not be the question that should be asked, but rather, if the game is an improvement and if it’s enjoyable.
The plot of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst takes place before the original game and starts after Faith is released from a juvenile corrections prison. Immediately you are put back into the life of a runner; a person that makes deliveries and does odd jobs for those who don’t want to use conventional methods due to the city’s leaders and corporations wanting to keep tabs on everything. It’s a world that is familiar to fans with clean white buildings that have splashes of different colors depending on what part of the city you are in. However, we now have more of the city to explore as this entry goes open world. The map that is used is a bit curious as the whole city is represented on it, but you only end up covering a third of it, if even that.
The parkour in Catalyst is just as fluid, if not more so this time, compared to the original. It’s a blast to traverse on the city’s rooftops and string together running/jumping combos in an effort to keep your focus gauge as high as possible which helps Faith become invincible to enemies and strengthens attacks that you will eventually use. About halfway through the story campaign an option for fast travel will open up to you, but traveling on foot is so gratifying that most of the time you may not want to even bother using it.
As far as the campaign goes, I can’t decide if Catalyst is too easy. I tend to play open world games with a hint of obsessiveness as I will complete a story mission, and then do a few side missions just to take the icons off the map. The side missions in the game range from delivery runs to being a distraction for the benefit of fellow runners to complete an objective. Completing missions, story or side ones, will net you experience points that you can use to upgrade Faith’s abilities in traversing and combat. Doing the side missions will help with obtaining certain abilities, like rolling when landing to keep from hurting yourself that was in the original game. In fact, some of the moves you were used to in the original game will have to learned in this one due to it being a prequel. However, I can’t help but think that even if I didn’t do those side jobs I would have still been able to beat the games story mode.
Having said that, the difficulty of the game seems to be off. While I found beating the campaign easy, many of the side missions are very difficult. Many of the runs you do on the side are time based and many of them are designed to find the fastest route possible to reach the goal in time. I have nothing against this mechanic in the game as some of the side missions took trial and error to complete, but the issue that I had was that none of that difficulty was sprinkled in the main story, timed or otherwise. There is a timed part towards the end of the main campaign, but it is more than enough to get through the mission.
The combat in Catalyst has been expanded upon a bit. You are taught from the beginning to use different moves, most of which involve some style of kicking. As you progress through the game you will be able to unlock abilities that will allow you to be more effective. The ability to upgrade combat is all well and good, but the real need for it is few and far between. For the most part you can get through missions without having to fight anyone if you want, like the original, but there are a few missions that make you clear the board of enemies in order to continue. For a game that has a skill tree for combat, one would think there would be more to it in the gameplay, but there is not that many areas you will really need it. Why not either have Faith fight more often, or give us the option to run away all the time if we want? I will say though that kicking an officer off the edge of a building is pretty satisfying at the very least.
The plot to Catalyst is fine as Faith has to overcome loss and deal with two types of ideals that want the same outcome to stop the oppressive Glass City, but with different methods. The plot twist in the game doesn’t come off as too much of a surprise, especially if you have played the original and actually remember it. The writing is something to be desired as there are some lines that made me wonder why it was even included in the game. Many times you will have communications with others during missions, and sometimes certain characters will chime in with their two cents just for the sake of speaking, and some of the dialogue forces an eye roll or two, especially from the character named Plastic. The music used is right on par with the soundtrack from the last game so it gives this entry a sense of familiarity, and I think the track by the band, Chvrhes, needs to nominated for best song in a video game.
In spite of some of these complaints, I had a great time with Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. So much so that I may even go back and try to collect all the nodes and complete the side missions. The same sort of online capability used in the original is back with a few upgrades. There are timed sprints that you can partake in so you can be ranked against other players online, and compare times with your online friends who have played it. This creates a great way for the player to keep playing long after it is beat as there is no reason to go back to play the campaign unless you just really love it.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, and to have that expectation going into it would be unwise. DICE has taken what we enjoyed from the original and expanded it to an open world experience. There are some story and gameplay elements that didn’t mix well, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying traversing through the city of Glass consistently and enjoying its style with the use of bold colors. I have a bad feeling that we may never have another Mirror’s Edge game, and if that is indeed the case, it would be a damn shame. If there is another entry in the franchise, hopefully it won’t be another eight years.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available for: Xbox One, PS4 (Reviewed) and PC; Publisher: EA; Developer: EA DICE; Players: 1; Release date: June 7, 2016; MSRP: $59.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of the game that was purchased.