With Design Trends Like These, Mirrors Edge Catalyst Would Have Never Truly Succeeded
Every E3 we’ll get a miracle, and in June 2013, EA surprised passionate fans with an announcement that their favorite, albeit faded franchise was making an all new delivery. It didn’t have a title. It didn’t even have a release date. But a quick CG trailer that just brushed over a minute long was just enough to get faith in the Mirror’s Edge franchise going, or so we thought.
Fast forward three years later, and the rebranded Mirror’s Edge Catalyst hits store shelves. Arriving the week before the biggest gaming event of the year, the game receives middling reception, little to no marketing, and massive sales and price drops. Some of this could partly be blamed on EA, but I think the problems lied elsewhere. While the team at DICE are talented, Mirrors Edge: Catalyst reminded me while some franchises do not age well and buckle under new trends. Here are a couple reasons why.
The new Open World:
Mirrors Edge: Catalyst’s open world is the of the more flawed ideas in practice, despite seeming cool in thought. Yet, you’re missing the cities true atmosphere nearly all the time. Instead of residing near propagandist city structures or the occasional government building, you’re forced to simply follow themes based off of futuristic products and billboards. This is something the first Mirrors Edge also failed with, but it’s more inexcusable in Catalyst due to it’s bigger scope.
An Unnecessary Upgrade System:
By adapting the Mirror’s Edge franchise to a more common tendency of leveling up, DICE figuratively shot the runner, at least mechanics-wise. The game could have felt grounded during it’s earlier parts, but instead just feels unfair. There isn’t a true association between what you’re learning in the gameplay and how Faith is changing as a runner, which cuts into the immersion severely, a negative impact for a game that relies so much on it.
The Lack of Focus, and a Misplacement of Improvement:
In some ways Faith could be considered a strong character, and she’s certainly been reshaping tropes ever since her debut. This is still the case in Catalyst, but above all, some issues still arise. The game unleashes a cast of characters, while the original game had practically a skeleton crew in comparison. One could criticize this as a move of laziness, but it still felt more shocking when something unfortunate happened to a character, or they did something devious. After all, Faith’s relationship with Merc was one of the subtle hints at what made the first game so great.
The Padding of Side Missions:
While Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain doesn’t strike the same gameplay chords as Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, they both align with the same struggles of side missions. The farther you progress, the more contrived and tedious they come, and start to lose their novelty among the main missions. While MGS 5 kept a straight sense of suspense till the trainwreck that was Chapter 2, Catalyst doesn’t have much of this in it’s story, or at least tries too hard.
A Loss of Astonishment for Graphics:
The first Mirror’s Edge still holds up graphically today (thank DICE’s fantastic lighting and color contrast for that) but Catalyst feels a baby step in comparison to what the original accomplished. Even worse, many models have pop-in and texture muddiness, a problem that the first game all but lacked. Since we’ve already gotten used to the atmosphere, it’s sad to see the game’s personality fall apart in a way like this.