I Really Don’t Want EA To Screw Up Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

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There’s a lot I’m excited about and interested in for E3 next week. I’m probably not going to devote blog posts to predictions or anything like that since I don’t consider mine to be that special. The one game I might be the most concerned about right now though is EA DICE’s recently titled Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

The main reason I’m so worried is, quite simply, you normally don’t get a game like Mirror’s Edge from a company as big as EA these days. When EA or Ubisoft is involved in a retail console game you expect guns, radial menus, experience points, quick kill animations, and features designed so as many people as possible can beat a game with as little frustration as possible. You don’t expect a totally fresh but divisive take on the first person action game with a main emphasis outside of combat, but that’s what we got in 2008 with the original Mirror’s Edge. To make things more uncertain, it seems that game didn’t sell extremely well. Logically, EA has every reason to change it into something “more accessible.” This is the worry basically all its fans have right now.

The E3 2014 trailer looks promising, and actually offers a bit more than a bunch of talking heads at DICE saying the things it knows we want to hear. It talks about an emphasis on players experimenting and finding different routes which was one of the most compelling things about the first game. If it’s still open-world, which I think we heard DICE say either last year or the year before, I’m actually interested in the idea of finding the optimal route between different points based on varying levels of skill and knowledge of the environment. I don’t even know what to think about the “new features” the press release talked about. That’s probably some kind of gadget on Faith’s arm in the new CG art. I’m still cautiously optimistic about the two main things though: the movement system and combat.

The video shows movement that pretty much looks like movement from the first game, but from that you of course can’t see how it controls. This is the one thing I hope DICE doesn’t simplify or streamline too much in the name of “accessibility.” 2008 Mirror’s Edge has a platforming system that is both deep and skill-based. As soon as the demo came out people immediately began figuring out tricks within the system to beating it faster and faster, stringing movements together like combos in a fighting game. In Catalyst I want to be able to get a real sense of accomplishment and discovery out of figuring out I can shave 10 seconds off a route by combining a wall run with two flips up a staircase and another wall run off the back side of a billboard.

At the same time, I want to know I can skip a whole combat encounter by combining two wall runs and a crouch jump over a secret path above a fence. Last year’s video did show combat that thankfully omitted guns and seemed like it might be a fairly good melee system. The system in the 2008 game actually had some unfulfilled promise if you ask me. If you explore it enough you discover the foundation for a combat system based on low, medium, and high attacks. In some ways Mirror’s Edge applies some of the same philosophy behind fighting games to its spin on first person movement. I’m honestly not betting on DICE taking that idea all the way, but it’s possible. The 2014 video at least shows some good movement and attack combinations.

But I still want combat in itself to be optional. If you play it enough combat pretty much is optional in the original game. I’ve figured out how to skip every encounter in the game save the final one, and it takes real exploration of the mechanics. I guess that’s what really sets apart Mirror’s Edge. It’s a game from a AAA company coming out in the retail space in the modern era that actually rewards deep exploration of its systems. That spirit is ultimately what I want Catalyst to keep, but everything about today’s market suggests the opposite. Really, Mirror’s Edge is the kind of game that should be coming out of an indie Kickstarter or something. I should be glad It’s coming from a developer with access to EA’s resources.

BULLETS:

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