I’ll be honest: I bought Deus Ex: Mankind Divided but haven’t started it yet because this past weekend Mirror’s Edge Catalyst was on sale and I grabbed that too. Starting the latter before Deus Ex unlocked, it’s got my attention for right now.
I loved the original Mirror’s Edge and was always prepared to pick up Catalyst, even at full price, but was busy with other games at the time. I’d read a bit of the general critical consensus on the new game — that it retained the heart that made the original what it was, but it was buried underneath a bit too much formulaic blockbuster game bloat. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, particularly in regards to the open-world setting in Catalyst.
People are understandably tired of open-world games, but I think it’s because too many games misuse the mechanic. To a certain degree Catalyst does too, but I also think an open-world makes sense in context with the main concept of Mirror’s Edge. I think I speculated this way back before Catalyst came out.
I think there are two main good reasons to make a game open-world: to encourage exploration and to provide a sandbox for the fundamental game mechanics. Catalyst does a pretty good job at the latter but from what I can tell in the beginning hours misses some potential in the former.
The main reason I think the open-world is ultimately a plus for Catalyst is because it gives players more opportunities to do the main thing that makes the game fun — running. Whatever else is on top of that, DICE has a fun, responsive, and fresh gameplay core in its first person parkour system. For the most part the open-world here just expands upon that, offering players more challenges while also letting them play around with the system at their leisure. That last part is especially important.
A big problem with the original Mirror’s Edge is that it’s a roughly six-hour adventure, but it probably takes around 20 hours to get really good at the game. People had to fail and retry the main levels a lot of times before they broke through the barrier of the game’s difficulty. Catalyst gives you a lot more room in which to practice and experiment at your leisure in order to eventually get good. The heart of the game is traversal, and an open-world simply offers more ground to traverse.
The issue a lot of people seem to have with open-worlds is that some developers use them as an excuse to bloat a game with content like junk strewn everywhere to collect. Catalyst certainly has that collect-a-thon element, but here I think it’s an opportunity to simply provide more parkour challenges. For the most part things like documents and machine parts in the game are just thrown into seemingly random places, but I have found one or two collectibles that made me wonder “how do I get up there?” for a while. Presenting actual challenge rather than busywork is something collectibles don’t do enough in big-budget video games these days.
Outside of that I think Catalyst is pretty great if you enjoyed the first game. It still technically has the same flaw in that you’ll probably suck at it for a while when you start playing, but I’m thinking now that’s an inevitable consequence of the system DICE built. In a way Mirror’s Edge might always be destined to be a somewhat niche game.
- If you still don’t know what the immersive simulation is or why it’s important, this video is a pretty good primer: https://t.co/VqsT1NXFCE
- Oniken has an enhanced edition now: https://www.gog.com/game/oniken