When the original Mirror's Edge was first released, it managed to create a compelling world with an innovative first person parkour system. Now eight years later we have finally received a follow-up in the form of Mirror's Edge Catalyst.
One thing to note for franchise fans is that this is a complete reboot. The events of the original Mirror's Edge will not take place in the world that Mirror's Edge Catalyst has set up. The designers seemed to a picked out things they liked and discarded the rest. Some aspects of the story are the same, and some are not. You still play as Faith in a heavily monitored and controlled city. Characters from the first game show up but are completely different in this one. It seems kind of a shame that fans have been asking for a new game for years, finally get one, but the events of the first game have little to no impact on this one. The fact that when the game was announced, DICE developers stated they didn't see the game as a sequel or a prequel. Saying "We have landed on a vision that honors the first game." confused things.
The original Mirror's Edge was criticized for creating a unique world and then having a story with no connection to it. Even though the story was weak, there was still a lot that fans liked. Things like the main character Faith. The Faith in Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a lot younger than the original. She is rash and makes decisions that will have dire consequences that set the game in motion.
The main draw of Mirror's Edge Catalyst is its parkour and movements system. The free running is hardly changed from the first game and is still incredibly fun. With the game's move to an open world, it is very satisfying just to run about the city, learning new routes and improving your skills. One thing that baffles me is that you have to unlock moves that should be available straight away. When you start playing, you don't have a roll or a quick turn. These things a vital for traversing the city and it only makes it awkward when trying to play. Instead of just giving you the necessary tools and letting you learn naturally, it halts your progress for no reason. Luckily you don't get too deep into the game before you can get them, but it is still a bad choice. Once you do get the necessary upgrades the parkour feels fluid, and when you get in a rhythm all of the movement just works together.
Combat has been changed quite a bit. It works great when you stay on the move and mobile, but as soon as you stop and try to fight someone, it just becomes an awkward mess. Sadly there are several occasions the game will force players to stand and fight. You now have a light and heavy attack. The light attack work best if you want to stay on the move, and you can use the heavy attack to kick enemies into obstacles and such. Some enemies will require you to rotate between light and heavy attacks in order to take them down.
The world is littered with collectibles and side-quests. These normally consist on delivery missions where you have to get a package from point A to B. Fitting work for a "runner", but they do get tiresome after a while. There is also times trails that can be set up by the community which are a lot of fun, and encourage experimenting with different paths and such. After a while, I stopped doing them until I had all the main movement unlocks, due to the fact even if I had the skill, sometimes I just wouldn't be able to beat a time because I didn't have a particular move.
One of the new additions is a grappling hook, which allows you to get to certain parts of the city you wouldn't normally be able to reach. At predetermined points, it lets you shoot out a wire where sometimes you'll swing across a street or be pulled up to a ledge. The swinging is fun, I just wish I could use it more freely, and the places weren't so rigidly set.
The city of Glass looks beautiful. The bold whites are complemented with colorful adverts that enforce the control corporations have over the city. When you look down to the streets below you get the sense this is really a bustling city. As you progress through the game you see a variety of different environments such as building sites and sewers. All of these environments look good and add a little something to the game. Allowing you to see parts of the city the corporations wouldn't want the average resident of Glass to see.
The story for Mirror's Edge Catalyst is pretty lackluster. One of the reasons I don't like that this a complete reboot is because they threw out all the stuff from the last game only to make another bad story. And in some cases, changes to characters are way worse. It's filled with eye-rolling moments that can be seen from miles away, and the ending, not only is it boring, its offers zero closure. The storytelling itself isn't that bad. Cutscenes are done well, and light, ethereal sci-fi sounding music sets the scene well. However, characters are all over the place, and the story moves at a pace that leaves no breathing room. We barely get time to get to know characters before they are just gone, and we never see them again. Overall a complete reboot of the story wasn't worth it.
It is a game of conflicting ideas. It emphasizes speed and movement yet doesn't give you all the tools you need at first. Its combat works best when on the move but forces you to fight in small arenas against tough enemies. It reboots its story but doesn't do a good job with it. Design and story choices that consistently seem to conflict with each other.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is best when you're on the move, climbing a tall building and booking it across rooftops. When the world is like a puzzle that you are solving on the fly using all your skills. These moments are in the game, but there just aren't that many of them. There is still a lot of fun to be had with the game's parkour system, but the experience is just let down by some bad design choices and a weak narrative.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst is best when you're on the move, climbing up a tall building and booking it across rooftops. When the world is like a puzzle that you are solving on the fly using all your skills. These moments are in the game, there just aren't that many of them.