The original Mirror’s Edge was a groundbreaking game that proved a lot of critics wrong. Fast-flowing platforming action wasn’t just reserved for 2D environments or third person action adventures anymore – Mirror’s Edge proved that it could be done with a first person perspective as well.
It’s eight years later already, and Mirror’s Edge returns with a sequel called Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. Surprisingly, not that many games have copied the formula. In fact, most of the examples we can think of have all been indie games on Steam that still don’t reach the level of quality that DICE realized eight years ago. So that made us extra curious – has the bar been raised now that there’s a proper sequel?
Unfortunately, we can’t straight up say that Catalyst is better than its predecessor. We can’t say it’s worse either – it’s just different, even though it’s familiar. The biggest change comes from the scope of the game world. Instead of missions taking place in closed off environments, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst takes place in the City of Glass, a huge open world environment for you to traverse. This has its advantages, but also feels like it holds the game back a little. In terms of new opportunities, the big open world environment allows you to do incredibly long runs that are not just fun to do but also fun to share. Catalyst gives you the chance to define and share your own parkour trials, so you could say that there’s much more of a social element this time around.
On the down side, having such a big open world means fewer areas that have been specifically and meticulously crafted to offer certain kinds of challenges and scenarios. Very often, this is an easier and less exciting way to get to a destination, where in the original game you’d see heart-pounding tense situations arise from a lack of options. It’s the old linear versus open discussion, but let’s not forget that linear games have their merits as well. Cinematic drama and suspense is often best served with a healthy dose of linear gameplay – just take a look at the single player campaigns in Call of Duty. Games that try to fuse the two often succeed (look at Assassin’s Creed, for instance), but do sacrifice something in the process. This is true for Mirror’s Edge Catalyst as well.
The free running itself is still as good as ever though, and once you unlock a grappling hook you’ll be able to uncover even more of the city as well. Free running transitions very well into combat as well, and taking out opponents mid-run is extremely satisfying. Things fall apart a bit when you stop for a bit of hand-to-hand combat though, as things feel a bit clunky and far from exciting.
The game’s story is about a futuristic city where the government knows your every move, and you (and your friends) represent an opposing view to all this. It’s exciting in theory, but the story never really gripped me – perhaps largely due to the fact that none of the characters in the game are very likeable to begin with. Unable to sympathize with the main cast and enjoy their conversations, I felt disconnected from the story and instead just enjoyed the running sequences.
So unfortunately Mirror’s Edge Catalyst isn’t the glorious return of a game that invented a (sub)genre, but it’s also not a bad game. Its core dynamics still work great and they’re a lot of fun, and the game’s open world and social aspects could mean that the game will have more lasting appeal than the original Mirror’s Edge had. It’s a fun game that fans of the original will enjoy, but if you never played it before then you might want to pick that one up before you start with Catalyst.