Released back in 2008, the original Mirror’s Edge holds a special place in the hearts of many for attempting the then-unthinkable: a first-person parkour game. Since then, Dying Light, Outlast, and VR-exclusive Wildlands, among others, have all offered their own take on the genre, each with their own variations therein. DICE has undergone substantial changes as well, not to mention Rhianna Pratchett, the writer of the first game, is not returning as well. With a beta period that’s come and gone, how is Catalyst shaping up, a month or so before release?
In lieu of a level-based game, DICE has opted instead for a quasi-open “space” experience, though I’d hesitate to call it truly “open world.” Taking place within the confines of the City of Glass, the City spears upward, white concrete almost surgical in appearance. It is here that Faith has made her home, and where she thrives, dangling off of flagpoles and navigating through scaffolding. Though it appears as though the city offers limitless freedom, Faith will require certain upgrades in order to progress to later areas, not unlike titles like The Legend of Zelda.
However, that’s not to say that approaching objectives isn’t without freedom. To the contrary, I approached story missions as the side content, and the exploration as the main part of the game. Soon after completing a few cursory missions, I was left with freedom to scour the environment for collectibles, jockey for position in time trial leaderboards, and complete a number of side quests. To that end, it’s clear that DICE is striving for an emulation of an actual parkour space, with the freedom of movement and paths to an objective.
If you liked the movement in the original title, rest assured, because Catalyst’s movement is roughly the same, if not more fluid. Gone are the days of frantically mashing buttons in an attempt to wallrun or pull off some other fancy combo, and in its place are vastly simplified button sequences. Because of the freedom offered in the game environment, much of the movement itself had to change, and removing hiccups in sliding, rolling, or generally flying about the environment was necessary.
With this freedom of movement comes the removal of firearms as well. Developers have previously stated that Faith won’t even be able to pick up guns, and Catalyst is better for it. DICE has instead opted for movement-based combat, with Faith’s abilities garnering more usability the faster she’s moving. If she gathers enough momentum, Faith will become immune to fire from snipers, helicopters, and other enemies wielding firearms. The self-informing system means that sometimes, it’s in your best interest to avoid combat altogether, if only to keep on building up speed.
When not dodging patrols of KrugerSec, there’s plenty of social activities and collectibles to entertain yourself with. Timed delivery challenges, physical representations of data, and computer parts are just some of the collectibles found in the environs. For challenges, preset races are scattered around the world, but players can also design their own races along whatever they choose. There’s also the ability to set up markers for Easter Eggs or other points of interest that are visible to all players.
There are some more curious changes found in Catalyst as well, with the inclusion of some light RPG elements in the form of skill trees. Experience is gained by doing just about everything in-game, and players can spend earned points on new combat abilities, technological upgrades, or new movement abilities. That last point may be a stickler to come, and we’ll have to see how drastically the trees affect gameplay once the full release is had.
Gone are the slightly weird-yet-charming cutscenes that wouldn’t look out of place in an Esurance ad, and in its place are in-engine scenes instead. In addition, Faith’s voice actor has also changed, though with both of these changes, we’ll have to see how well DICE has adapted the game upon the full release. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Solar Fields, creator behind the masterful soundtrack in the original has returned for Catalyst. Based on what limited glimpses were available, he’s updated the soundtrack to sound crisper and clean, much like the City of Glass.
With all these changes and considerations in mind, it’s clear that DICE has taken the feedback and criticisms of the original to heart, and made substantive changes. Whether or not these result in a more complete package, well, we’ll know once Catalyst releases on June 7th.