Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst
If you take a quick look at my list of Best Games Ever, you’ll notice Mirror’s Edge is on there. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is the much anticipated sequel (okay, technically it’s a prequel) to Mirror’s Edge. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is pretty much an improvement on the Mirror’s Edge formula in every way… So why isn’t Catalyst on the Best Games Ever List? I don’t really know. It’s not a bad game by any means, but I’d like to use yesterday’s post’s main point to argue why it’s not a Best Game Ever. It just doesn’t have replayability to me. I don’t really feel like going back to it and collecting everything. I’ve done everything else in the game EXCEPT getting all the collectibles, so… It just doesn’t feel like there is much else I want to do. I think the sort of episodic way the first Mirror’s Edge was presented helped it a lot. But enough about that, let’s get to the actual review.
In Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, you take control of Faith as she gets out of juvie after a nearly 2 year stretch. Why is she in juvie? The game never tells you. Instead, it tells you during one of the loading screens that if you want to find out, you’ll just have to buy and read the Mirror’s Edge Exordium comic, which you could get for free if you preordered from Target, or so I’ve heard. Many of the characters you interact with you’ll never know their backstories with Faith because it’s all in the comic and assumed you already know. That’s the first thing that made me shy away from Catalyst.
Once Faith is out of juvie, she meets up with a new character, Icarus (wait, wasn’t Icarus a project Faith was trying to stop in the first Mirror’s Edge? Why are we reusing that?), who helps get her off of the Grid, the system that keeps track of all the citizens of the city so the government can make sure people go to their jobs and aren’t doing anything elicit. While you’re escaping from patrols who are now after you for illegally disconnecting from the Grid, the game gives you a controls and combat tutorial that lasts way too long. It probably would have been better if they spaced the tutorial out, bit by bit to ensure you don’t get burned out on being told what to do. So she goes to meet Noah, whom the player can assume had a falling out with, but are now closer than ever and of course, you won’t know why unless you read the comic. Noah exists as your sort of mentor and helps get you accustomed to missions and whatnot around the city. He’s the voice of reason in the angsty teenage head of Faith. The story starts out pretty slow, but gets good about halfway through. There are a couple pretty good plot twists, and the last few missions are really, REALLY cool, where you do all kinds of crazy things climbing incredibly high structures. If you’re in it for the story alone, you’ll be kind of bored in the first half, but re-enthused for the second half. Lastly, there are no references at all to the first Mirror’s Edge in any way, and there seems to be a bit of a hole between the end of Catalyst and the beginning of the first game. Seems like they could squeeze another game in between if they wanted to.
The biggest change between this game and the first one is the fact that it is an open world sandbox instead of a mission-by-mission, level-by-level sort of thing. This is both good and bad. Maybe it’s just me and my tastes, but there are no sandbox games on my list of Best Games Ever. Why? I feel like sandboxes tend to make a game worse instead of better. They tend to fill up a world with a bunch of things you probably didn’t want to do anyway. I feel as though sandboxes tend to water down a game. Allowing you more freedom to explore is cool, especially in a game about parkour, but the world in Catalyst is full of collectibles, races, and time trials (the last two being practically the same thing with a different coat of paint). I would like a bit more variety in my delivery missions, personally. Having full freedom is fun at first, but ultimately, I feel as though it waters down the experience.
Another interesting change (and one for the better, if you ask me) is a progression and sort of bare-bones “level-up” system. As you complete missions and collect things, you’ll gain experience. Every 1,000 experience grants you an upgrade point that you can spend on a new movement skill or to deal more damage to a specific enemy. These are mostly skills Faith already has in the first game like rolling from a drop to maintain speed, or coiling her legs to make a cleaner jump, (which makes sense story-wise, Faith can’t just be an amazing runner from the get-go, right?) but what’s interesting is that they give you a sort of Metroidvania kind of progression, where you’ll want to return to some areas later to get the collectibles or to find a faster way to complete deliveries or time-trials. That being said, you can get all of the movement upgrades pretty quickly, and you’ll have every upgrade well before you get deep into the story (at least, I did) almost negating the upgrade system entirely.
Another “interesting” design choice is the companion app. As you complete missions and other miscellaneous objectives, you’ll get unlockables to customize your profile. You can ONLY access this information from the app, which requires an EA account to do so, creating a bit of an annoying run-around for a feature that has no real reason not to be in game. The only way you’ll see your customized profile is if you find and hack billboards in tough to get to places throughout the city. Interestingly enough though is that if you have friends with Catalyst, the last person who hacked the billboard will show their profile, making a sort of fun little turf war between you and your friends. Too bad I don’t have any friends with Catalyst though. The app also lets you see how many collectibles you have total. They really should have those features in game or give you the ability to read the documents you’ve collected from your phone, but… Ultimately the app is a pointless necessity.
The gameplay itself is fun, but not really ant different from the first game. There are a few more things you can utilize in your runs and a neat grappling hook that you can only use in designated areas, but nothing that’s really a game changer or makes the gameplay any better than the first Mirror’s Edge. The ability to use guns is completely removed from this game, and you’ll fight considerably tougher enemies, further pushing the point that you should be running instead of fighting. Speaking of combat and police patrols, by the time you get near the end of the game, exploring becomes annoying as every other corner has a patrol on it, so if you’re looking for collectibles, you’ll have to come back later. Not only that, but there are cameras everywhere, so if you stand still, they’ll send a patrol after you. You can destroy them, but it’s tedious, especially when looking for collectibles, the only thing you can really do after the story aside from deliveries/time trials.
Combat is slightly improved from the first game with the ability to sort of fight as you run, pushing past enemies to get though an area faster, but in places where fighting is required is annoying, especially late in the game, as the fairly weak kick is your only attack, since those you’ll be fighting late-game will counter your main damage dealing attack. The kick also lets you knock enemies into the environment and preferably, each other, but the parry system is removed from the first game, unfortunately. There is now a “force shield” that builds up as you stay in higher speeds enabling you to take damage without dying. If you stay moving, you’ll be okay versus most enemies. Lastly, you can stun all nearby enemies with a “disrupt” ability, but I honestly didn’t find myself using it very often, as it requires you to stop using your greatest advantage: movement.
The Bottom Line
- Lasts a decently long time.
- Progression system.
- The story, eventually.
- Pretty environments.
- Not really an improvement from the first game.
- Annoying enemies.
- After you’ve finished the story, there’s not a whole lot of things to do.
- The “required” comic book.
- Companion App.
Final Score: 7/10
Ultimately, I’m kind of disappointed that Catalyst wasn’t the Mirror’s Edge 2 I hoped it was. Maybe that’s just my preference, but I feel like Catalyst just doesn’t have the same charm as the first game.