Mirror’s Edge is back! See, last weekend I had the opportunity to play around in the Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst closed beta. Now I’ll say right off the bat that the game is looking promising. I enjoyed my time with the beta and am looking forward to when Catalyst launches in early June. That said, there was a lot going on in this beta and it’s not like I didn’t have any concerns, so let’s go through this and see what you’ll want to look at as you decide whether or not you want to take to the rooftops in the City of Glass.
From what I played, the Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst closed beta consisted of what amounted to the first hour or so of the game. I watched the opening cut-scene which kind of established where the game takes place, and just where Faith (our protagonist) stands in this world’s society. Past that, I played through a tutorial segment, one main story mission, one sidequest mission, many minor missions, and several player-defined time trials. All of these, aside from that one main story mission took place in a small section of the City of Glass, on the rooftops of course.
Well as far as the story goes, I can tell you that the only holdovers from the original game thus far are Faith and the City of Glass. This game is absolutely a reboot; not a remake, and definitely not a sequel. In terms of actual gameplay, those who played the first Mirror’s Edge will feel right at home. All movement is controlled through the thumbsticks and shoulder buttons, though they have done some tweaking in order to eliminate much of the awkwardness that hampered the original.
Beyond that, just about everything is here is new. The City of Glass has become a fully realized overworld filled with all manner of collectibles to find and missions to take on. Overworld missions are all variations on the idea of a time trial; tasking players to get from one point to another as quickly and/or efficiently as possible. The trick here is that while the game will often suggest a path to get you where you need to go, that path will not always be the best, so it’s up to you to get to know the rooftops and create your own shortcuts. If you don’t then you’ll never be able to do much better than the basic clear time. The purpose of these missions is to earn “scrip”, which I guess is the Mirror’s Edge term for money, which is used to buy new gear and abilities for Faith. Finally, Catalyst features a pseudo-multiplayer mechanic in the form of player-defined “runs”. You see, at any point you can choose to define a route to run, and then submit it and your best time to the game. You can then compete against the ghosts of other players for the best time in your run. Is it needed? Probably not, but I must admit it was kind of fun trying to beat people at their own game.
What I Liked
Well, to be honest I found a lot to like here. The tweaked controls and move timing felt very natural compared to the original game. I still fell to my death every once and awhile, but it was almost always because I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going rather than me fighting the controls. So yes, movement felt great, which in my book was the most important thing that they needed to get right in this game. I also really enjoyed the new overworld and the missions contained within it. I’m usually very much in favor of linear gameplay, but I think the open-world environment really lends itself well to this game. I actually felt like a Runner (the faction Faith belongs to) as a clambered over the rooftops and made deliveries. I even got to know the environment better as I played and successfully beat some of my own records by going off the marked path and creating my own shortcuts! Oh, and like I said before, competing against player ghosts was also oddly compelling. It definitely had me in that “just one more run” state of mind. Lastly, I think the story has some promise this time around. I got a real sense of mystery here, so I’m looking forward to seeing where it leads.
What I Didn’t Like
All that said, I do have my concerns. Combat is back in Catalyst with a focus on hand-to-hand skirmishes rather than shoot-outs. It does feel better than it did in the original, but for the most part it still winds up doing little more than breaking the game’s flow. I should clarify a bit, there are two types of combat encounter in Catalyst so far. The first places enemies as obstacles in path to your objective, the second stops you and forces you to take out the enemies before you can continue. Now the former actually does feel really good. I always had a choice of either engaging the enemy or just zipping right past them like a wily roadrunner. I could also decide to check them into a wall or drop onto them as I made my run. This I actually found to be incredibly fun. It made me feel fast, powerful, agile, and clever. I’d always get to catch the idiot guards off-guard, and it was awesome every time! The other type of encounter was not like this.
There really should never be a need to clear a room Batman-style in this game. Every time I had to do this, it felt awkward, annoying, and repetitive. Each encounter had me running in circles around 2-4 dudes, occasionally going after one of them to throw a kick and two punches before sidestepping them to deliver another kick. Repeat until all the nasty men have fallen down. It brought to mind the worst encounters in the first game, and that’s exactly what hoping not to see in Catalyst. Mind you, these types of encounters were outnumbered by the fun kind, so hopefully that will hold true in the full game. I also didn’t see much point to having an upgrade system, but it might have been more shallow than the full version will be; this being a beta and all. Finally, I was a touch annoyed that I couldn’t customize my player icon in the game. It wanted me to go to an outside app to do that. Seriously, what’s with all these tie-in apps these days?
Is it Good Though?
So here’s the question: will Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst be good? My answer: …maybe? After getting burned by trusting the likes of the Destiny and The Division betas, I’m hesitant to recommend this game based off this beta alone. It had a lot going for it, but the big question mark it left for me was whether or not this game will continue to feel fun past the first couple of hours. I suppose that’s where the upgrade system will come in. If it can keep us feeling like we’re growing in the game, then I see Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst turning out great! If it can’t then it would probably be better to wait and pick it up on discount.
Did you get any hand’s on time with the beta? If so, what was your take? Do you consider betas reliable enough to gauge a game’s true quality?
(Promotional image from Mirror’s Edge:Catalyst official website)