Bennu Reflects on "Mirror's Edge Catalyst"
Recently, I conducted a review of the original Mirror's Edge here on HubPages and reflected on the game's unique style and design along with the fond memories I have of it from my late teenage years. Unlike the original game, however, I don't have a storied history with Mirror's Edge Catalyst, the modern reboot of the series. Namely due to it only having been published three years ago. Prior to this review, I had only played through the game once back when I purchased the game in 2017 and I haven't really touched it much story-wise since; aside from moments here or there where I'd load it up to run around for half an hour and get up to some mischief.
Despite my own personal opinion of Electronic Arts, I once again found myself drawn to another of their products based purely on the quality of the game. Although it received middling reviews from critics and influencers, Mirror's Edge Catalyst manages to take the original series formula and expand it into a larger open-world format. I was initially anxious about the whole idea but I did gradually warm up to it. I think, at the time, I was just eager to play some more Mirror's Edge after having waited eight years for a follow-up game. While I certainly don't hate the change, it does feel a bit different compared to its predecessor.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst was once again developed by Swedish game studio DICE and published by EA in June 2016. Developed as a modern reboot and re-telling of the original game's narrative, Mirror's Edge Catalyst sees players inhabit the shoes of a young Runner named Faith Connors as she's released from juvie after having served almost two years due to events from the game's prequel comic, Exordium. Upon being released, Faith quickly reconnects with her old contacts and establishes herself once again in the Runner lifestyle.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst sees Faith return with most of her original move-set intact. However, some of her moves, such as the quick-turn and skill roll, have been locked behind the game's skill tree. While this doesn't have any major negative repercussions, it does hamper the game's initial few hours somewhat as players are encouraged into grinding experience points to unlock them as soon as possible. To be fair, the first few missions don't require these skills but it's more of a personal preference. I enjoy my characters having all their original skills from the start. It just feels a bit counter-productive.
On the plus side, Mirror's Edge Catalyst does introduce some nifty little gadgets that can help Faith explore the city in more unique and productive ways. Upon reaching around a third of the way through the main story, Faith is given a device known as a MAGrope that allows her to swing across large gaps using a portable grappling hook of sorts. This device is updated several times in later story missions to expand its usage to include vertical ascension and even clearing obstacles in your path.
This allows for more exploration of the city of Glass and visiting areas that might not otherwise be accessible. It's also a natural progression of the sensations one felt from the original Mirror's Edge as the ability to make death-defying jumps and leaps is taken to the next level in a more extreme and fulfilling way. Not to mention, the city of Glass is truly beautiful. It's a huge step up in design and appeal from the original Mirror's Edge. Personally, I love visiting the View district at night-time and seeing Ocean Pier's promenade and apartments all lit up. It's truly a spectacular marvel to behold.
As I mentioned earlier, Mirror's Edge Catalyst opts to adopt an open-world format that is prevalent in so many AAA-games of the modern era. This is both a good and bad decision; as it allows for more freedom of exploration in the vast city of Glass while also hampering the experience with a lot of empty space. Despite this, Mirror's Edge Catalyst does attempt to remedy these stretches of empty space with a myriad of collectables to obtain. These range from intel documents, audio recording tapes, Runner bags, yellow data globules known as gridLeaks and security chips; the latter of which can be stolen from various power boxes around the city. The intel documents and audio recording tapes in particular are handy to collect as they help fill in some more of the city's history and lore along with fleshing out some more details about the supporting cast and their respective ideals and motivations.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst has a relatively interesting cast of characters that help supplement and populate the city of Glass. Faith Connors, our lead character, is similar to how she was in the original Mirror's Edge; with the exception of her being a few years younger and a bit more unsure of herself. She still retains most of her cocky, confident attitude but is granted a bit more depth and emotional range compared to her previous outing. Although the game's story borrows heavily from the original, Faith's character development is fleshed out a lot more in this game which is nice to see. She feels much more human and easier to resonate with throughout her journey.
Noah Kekai is the modern games' version of Mercury from the original Mirror's Edge. Acting as a father figure of sorts to Faith, Noah attempts to guide her through the treacherous minefield that is the growing power struggle between the city's totalitarian government and the underground extremist faction known as Black November. Noah is a man who believes in neutrality and not getting involved in politics; a message he attempts to instil in Faith and the other Runners in his cabal.
Noah's character development is fairly straightforward for the most part. He doesn't change much as he retains his core values and principles that he lives by throughout the entirety of his story. In this way, he acts as a central anchor for Faith to hold onto during the turbulent challenges she faces over the course of the story.
Icarus is the new guy on the block and quickly establishes a rivalry with Faith from their first meeting at the beginning of the game. While he assists Faith on several main story missions, it's shown that he's doing it mostly out of respect for Noah rather than his admiration of Faith. It's fairly obvious that both Faith and Icarus have a mutual dislike towards each other.
However, as the game progresses, Icarus is given a bit more character development that helps establish a bond of camaraderie with Faith based on mutual respect and understanding. There's also some optional audio recordings that can be unlocked through gridLeak collections that reveal some more of Icarus' character before the events of the game. These help in establishing Icarus' initial thoughts and feelings and add a bit more depth to his character.
Nomad is Faith's best friend and acts as a recurring support character for her to bond with over the course of the game. Usually involved with some of the game's side missions, Nomad is a teenage rebel who doesn't work as a Runner but acts as more of an artist; usually seen spreading the message of the city's outCaste through graffiti and other works of political art. Despite this, Faith and Nomad are quite close as Faith continually goes out of her way to help him with several jobs and tasks. He introduces Faith to the security chips during an early story mission which in turn unlocks them for collection throughout the city.
Although Nomad is a fairly interesting character, he's unfortunately limited in his presence. He's given less character development than other cast members and by the time we reach the game's third act he's almost nowhere to be found. It's a shame as Nomad is a solid supporting character and a good emotional anchor for Faith to connect to.
Birdman is arguably the game's biggest sin in regards to character development. He's a great character, filled with sass and personality and fills the role of 'wise old master' well. However, he's only used in a few of the game's early story missions along with two side missions before he disappears for the rest of the game.
This infuriated me to no end as I personally loved his character. I greatly enjoyed his interactions with Faith, his love for his pigeons and his role as a former Runner turned intelligence operative with his network of carrier pigeons. He's a very grounded character, brimming with wisdom and experience and it's a tragedy that he's not utilised more in the game.
Plastic is a new character who Faith meets later in the game and acts as the Runner's go-to hacker for any scenario involving security systems or information technology. Plastic is an incredibly smart and logical woman who is offset by her somewhat awkward social interactions. Despite her role as the 'smart, socially awkward nerd', Plastic is a very enjoyable character and is given a lot of screen time and character development over the course of the game. She quickly warms up to Faith and even defends her in several conversations with other characters. Plastic is a slightly abstract yet highly intelligent and loyal character and quickly fills in her role as a strong supporting character for the remainder of her story.
Gabriel Kruger is quickly established as the game's central antagonist and it's understood that Faith has a deep hatred of him and what he represents. Both Gabriel and Faith have a shared history of being present at a certain event in the city's history that led to a traumatic experience in Faith's past. By association, Gabriel Kruger is an enemy in Faith's eyes and the man responsible for her losing her family.
That being said, Gabriel does come across as a man who seems both narcissistic and also somewhat human. He does a lot of terrible things over the course of the game but he also seems genuinely concerned for the people of Glass and for the Conglomerate as a whole. In my eyes, he comes across as more of an anti-hero of sorts than an actual cut-and-dry villain; but the methods in which conducts himself lead to him being an obstacle that Faith needs to overcome. It definitely feels like a step up from the original game's villain who was very much a one-dimensional character.
Rebecca Thane is the leader of Black November, the underground extremist faction working against Gabriel Kruger and the rest of the Conglomerate families. She comes across as a passionate woman, but is also prone to moments of extreme violence. In her own way, she's just as much of a villain as Gabriel Kruger is. It's only through pure circumstance that Faith and Rebecca's paths cross over the course of the game. Without venturing into spoiler territory, Rebecca is given more screen time later in the game after certain events lead Black November into the limelight.
Rebecca's character development is minimal through the main story; however, she's given some significant development through a series of optional audio recordings than can be found over the course of the game. Rebecca Thane is more of a tragic character than anything else; as her own extremist views are fuelling the cycle of paranoia and fear that the Conglomerate families use to justify their own over-the-top surveillance to protect the city and its citizens. That being said, she is still a fairly interesting character. It's just a shame that certain parts of her character are hidden away as optional content.
Isabel Kruger is Gabriel Kruger's daughter and personal bodyguard. Her story is shrouded in mystery and she is given very little character development for most of the story. That being said, her role in the game is significantly expanded upon during the story's final act which leads to her acting as a rival of sorts to Faith. She's a competent fighter and is able to keep up with Faith in terms of hand-to-hand combat. There's not much I can really say here without spoiling Isabel's story but there's certainly more than meets the eye with her. She comes into her own fairly quickly when given screen time.
Finally, we have Dogen. Known as the crime lord of Glass, Dogen is a very enigmatic individual who seems interested only in people who can benefit him in some way. Dogen is a prominent figure of the Exordium comic who is indirectly responsible for Faith's capture and imprisonment. That being said, he is also the one who helps her get released and puts her to work making scrip to pay off her exorbitant debt to him. Dogen appears in several story missions and is given more screen time and character development later on in the game as Faith's journey starts to reach its crescendo.
That being said, Dogen is also developed through a number of optional audio recordings found throughout the game. These showcase more of his compassionate side along with his more ruthless, businesslike side as well. Out of the supporting cast, Dogen feels the most well-rounded with a familiar business attitude and professionalism while also mixing in some moments of sincerity and honest humanity.
The narrative of Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a major step up from its previous iteration. While the original Mirror's Edge had a solid story, Mirror's Edge Catalyst has a more detailed narrative with twice as many story missions and plenty more story demos for players to watch. The game spends more time developing its cast of characters, with several recurring characters showing up to support or challenge Faith in different ways. For the most part, the main story missions are beautifully designed and well-constructed levels that are easily the main highlights of the game. The addition of select collectables within some main story missions also helps to increase the re-playability of some levels which are fun but don't overstay their welcome.
However, it should also be pointed out that the narrative does still feel somewhat shorter than anticipated. Given the open-world nature of the game, Mirror's Edge Catalyst attempts to flesh out some of its supporting cast by adding in story elements to the game's side missions. This works for the most part; but again, there's sadly not enough content here to truly expand upon the narrative in a major way. It does try, mind you, but it just falls short of the mark in my opinion. A true disappointment as there is plenty of potential there within the vast expanse of the city of Glass.
On the plus side, I did enjoy the story demos in this game a lot more than in the original Mirror's Edge. While the animated story demos weren't bad, they were somewhat tonally inconsistent with the rest of the original game. I did enjoy them but I'm glad that DICE decided to render the story demos of this game using the actual in-game engine. The Frostbite engine is truly gorgeous and it's nice to see it get some good use with the sharp visuals of a game like Mirror's Edge Catalyst.
Gameplay-wise, Mirror's Edge Catalyst once again knocks it out of the park with a myriad of skills and abilities for Faith to use in her traversal of the city. She can run, jump, climb, scale up pipes, swing on, climb up and walk on narrow poles, perform wall-runs, wall-climbs, quick-turns and skill rolls to name a few. Not to mention the abilities she unlocks with the MAGrope over the course of the game that allow her to swing across or vertically ascend up large distances and pull out obstacles blocking her path. There's so much variety in her move-set that is both new and returning from the original game that is great to see. Veterans of the original Mirror's Edge will be right at home for the most part here. Although, as stated earlier, the decision to lock off some of her base moves behind the skill tree is a bit silly and questionable.
Within the city of Glass, there are several activities for players to do. Aside from main story and side mission content, the game provides over thirty delivery and diversion missions that see players perform runs through certain segments of the city within a time limit for non-player characters. These are fairly challenging and provide some element of strategy and planning as one needs to learn the fastest and safest route while also racing against the clock. However, they do become a little tiresome after a while as most of them have minimal or no relevant dialogue that helps to fill in the city lore. There are some runs that are more interesting and contain some elements relating to Dogen or Black November that are fun to experience. Unfortunately, they are a bit too far and few between to truly bring anything substantial to the game's world building as a whole.
A returning feature from the original Mirror's Edge are the time trial segments which have been re-branded as dashes for this game. Dashes are short time trial bursts that act as point-to-point runs with varying degrees of difficulty. Each dash has up to three stars to earn, with a three-star run being the hardest to obtain. With a total of twenty-two dashes, there's a grand total of sixty-six stars to collect in the game. Although challenging, the dashes in Mirror's Edge Catalyst do feel a lot easier than the time trial challenges from the original game. It's certainly not a bad thing but it is something I noticed. I do enjoy them for the most part though.
There's also several varying activities one can do in the game as well. Security Hubs are introduced after the first few story missions which see Faith fight KrugerSec officers and destroy a small surveillance tower before having to evade pursuit. There's a total of eight Security Hubs that are gradually unlocked over the course of the game. In a similar vein, Intervention opportunities are a bit harder to find as their locations aren't displayed on the map. During these short fights, Faith is forced into battle against two KrugerSec officers who are attempting to arrest a civilian. These are brief battles but count towards 100% completion. As I recall, there's at least eight Interventions hidden around the map; although there might be more that I'm forgetting.
For those who enjoy a plat-forming challenge, Mirror's Edge Catalyst has you covered in the form of gridNodes and Billboard Hacks. gridNodes are special server towers located in remote areas of the city that require Faith to find her way up to the top in order to increase her network presence in the city. These come with a positive bonus though as completing a gridNode run sees players able to fast travel to any safe house within that gridNode's district. There's a total of four gridNodes to visit in the game. In a similar vein, Billboard Hacks require Faith to use her traversal skills to climb various buildings and structures in order to access large billboards. There's no real benefit to doing these aside from completion and bragging rights; as players can show off their customizable Runner symbol in the game.
In regards to the music, Mirror's Edge Catalyst once again brings back series composer Solar Fields to score the music. For the most part, Solar Fields does a great job in producing some atmospheric and emotional music that resonates well with the city's look and feel. Given that the game is set in an open-world format, I was initially a little worried that the music would suffer as a result as it would have to maintain a consistent tone and feel for much longer than in the original game. Solar Fields manages to succeed in this venture with a soundtrack of solid quality and memorable tunes.
My personal favourite tracks in the game are Benefactor, Prisoner X and Family Matters. Benefactor is a great, uplifting tune that truly fits with its respective mission. It makes you feel as if you're ascending into the clouds while keeping an almost divine ambience before shifting into a more fast-paced adrenaline inducing beat that gets the body moving and the heart pumping.
Prisoner X, on the other hand, is a more introspective piece that feels as if one is heading down into the very depths of cyber space. A fitting tune given the atmosphere of the level it plays in. It's deep, methodical and a bit quaint and I do enjoy it immensely.
Finally, Family Matters is a beautiful tune that manages to harmonise elements of both Benefactor and Prisoner X. It feels like the best atmospheric elements of both songs have merged together to showcase a sensation of fear of the unknown while also feeling hopeful and uplifting. It's the most well-rounded tune of the bunch and helps to both ease and unnerve the player as they fast approach the narrative's endgame.
Overall, Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a mostly fun game that's made the transition to the open-world format somewhat well. It has a few issues with scope and pacing but this is offset by the strong game-play features and solid story elements. Most of the main story missions feel fulfilling and have an element of re-playability with the addition of secret collectables to obtain. The open-world format lends itself to additional exploration of the city of Glass to collect more hidden items; in the form of intel documents, audio recording tapes, Runner bags, gridLeaks and security chips.
The world design is great with some districts feeling more appealing than others. The decision to lock away some parts of the map until later in the story is fairly disappointing but not too much of a hassle as the story missions aren't too long to play through for the casual gamer. Seasoned veterans of the series will be disappointed at the decision to lock away some of Faith's base abilities behind skill trees for the first few hours of game-play. However, this can be remedied fairly quickly by putting in some work on the main story missions or side activities.
The game's story demos are of great quality with good music and a diverse cast of characters. It's unfortunate that some characters weren't afforded more screen time or character development though. The game's combat system is fairly fluid but still suffers from some of the original game's awkwardness. It's easier to counter enemies in this game but there are some significantly tougher enemies as well to counteract this. In order to maximize damage against tougher foes, it's strongly recommended for players to grind experience to unlock the respective enemy intel skill tree by completing side content.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst takes a number of steps in the right direction but it also does feel like it falters a bit from the minimal number of side missions and mis-management of its vast city expanse. There is so much potential here for more content to fill out some of the more prominent districts such as Ocean Pier or Regatta Bay and it's a true shame that some characters such as Birdman weren't given more time to develop as characters.
However, with that being said, I did still enjoy Mirror's Edge Catalyst very much. I'm glad to have it in my trophy cabinet alongside the original game. I just hope that if EA ever decides to make another Mirror's Edge game, they fill it with more story content that will enrich the experience.
Here's hoping anyway.
Rating: 8.25 / 10
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