The original Mirror’s Edge was about the environment. There was little to no plot, no character development, but you were given rich opportunities to literally run through the city whatever way imaginable. Your main weapon has always been your two feet, and the game did not strip the other options to rally the mission, promising more open-ended solution to the parkour puzzles. The game may have been raw, but it was promising piece of meat.
Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst is a supposed prequel, but also a total reboot to the franchise. The very idea is alienating, so it even sounds weird. As a gamer, I could care less about the plots or characters; those were irrelevant in the first game. What I wanted was a game in which we run through a sublime urban environment. Except the reboot fed us a technophobic fragile teenager on glassy rooftops.
The major change between the original and its spin-off is the open world design. The city of Glass does not begin with your mission, but continues as you move along. At least so is how most players were led to believe. Truth behind the open world design is that there can only be one fastest route from A to B as long as the environment allows it. In order to sell it as an open world, the game needed to be balanced between ever-shifting and ever-lasting, keeping all routes equally valuable at a given time. Open world in the Catalyst essentially broke the parkour economy, reinforcing players to repeat the same route, debasing the whole gameplay to bunch of QTEs — a rough spot its predecessor had in revisiting the same room.
The city itself no longer generates eerie vibe either. New generation of consoles may have given the developers ample opportunity to show-off, but that is not necessarily how they should have pulled this one off. The city, finally named Glass, is a place full of human touch and unique districts. It’s no longer one-for-all dystopian kind of city. In fact, it added too much human touch to both interior and exterior, it made the game less unique with neon signs, smothering one of the highly praised artistic traits of the original game.
As for the running you will be doing inside the city, there is none. Parkour, from what I understand, was never meant to be competitive sports. But the game treats like one. New gizmos you will unlock makes you wonder if you were ever meant to be competitive in the beginning of the game. In order to fully enjoy multiplayer competition, you must play through the entire plots; the game does not have no-gizmo mode, effectively making a first time player to compete against fully equipped veteran. There are games that deliberately cheapen the multiplayer experience by creating pay-to-win DLCs and/or unbalanced low drop rate items. But in the Catalyst, this tactic is deployed to merely slow down the contents consumption, not to add another one. One can reluctantly choose to play through the same course just for competition with better gears, or simply quit after the story is concluded.
Considering how some of the missions —as not all of them are plot critical— require combats, the combat system is completely unforgivable. Pacifist or not, first rule of hand to hand combat is to run from gunmen. K-Sec officers, the proletariat police officer of Glass, are armed with various weapons, most of them ranged lethal —gameplay wise anyway— weapons. These hounds of hell don’t even need to aim; they can shoot you through walls, obstacles, and can’t be more precise by aiming at the night sky to kill you. The very idea of engaging into enemy was discouraged in the previous game, as any game with a limited protagonist would. Your goal is not in knocking pseudo cops out cold. You are a runner, and you must run. For some unknown glitch in this runner’s logics, most missions do not allow you to escape from the combat. You must kill, oh sorry, disable uniforms one by one until most of their pals are unconscious enough.
The real kicker is its shaky plots and characters. All of the characters can be placed on either side of extreme technophobia or technophile; and yet that tiny fence can’t make a point bold enough to affect the devices behind the plot. Take Birdman or Nomad, (two characters most reviewers had problems) they may be scared of realtime surveillance by conglomerates, yet they still implement same features one way or the other. Or take Plastic, the shut in hacker, who is free from surveillance yet still controls everything, much like her archenemy. She also happens to play Morgan Freeman in the Catalyst, who happens to know exactly every new piece of technology she is looking at, and how to defeat it. So long as Faith heed her warning, no one will be harmed. (On a side note, who the hell came up with these names?) The real deal is Rebecca Thane and her hordes of typical violent anarchists bombers. Black November as projected on the game is nothing more than a group of terrorist, continuously taking credits of other people’s deeds. Tyrannic behaviors are more observable with supposed allies, and this would have established different perspectives to multi-dimensional characters. But the plot draws the clear line between ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’, and making a large grey pool in between just gives you a list of names you want dead in the sequel.
Conclusion: Don’t bother.
I do not take the role of making any recommendations lightly, and I can solemnly swear new Assassin’s Creed game would have more proper parkour elements than the Catalyst. This game is flawed. It makes no sense to go through hours of main quests just to unlock the full potential of open world. Open world may have thrown innocent new players into high level dungeons, but it didn’t stop them from trying. The Catalyst couldn’t even get that bit right. Not sure how many players were able to patiently wait for the promised land, but I can guess it must have taken a lot of Faiths.
updated Feb 4, 2018: retitled from “Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst Review from TMTP”.