Nothing at E3 got me excited like the announcement of a new Mirror’s Edge. By the time E3 rolled around it was pretty obvious the announcement was coming and yet when the trailer started, I sat there eyes wide, hand covering my mouth just blown away at seeing Faith again, this time headed for next-gen consoles. Few E3 moments can match the announcement of a long-awaited sequel and this one left me a little breathless. I’ve been scouring the internet for any details and thought I’d write up a blog on some of my hopes and concerns for the new Mirror’s Edge.
The reveal trailer (check it out here) featured a quick bit of our hero Faith wall running and sliding beneath a closing gate amongst gunfire while the rest of the trailer cut between footage of her getting her trademark tattoos and performing melee takedowns on various enemies before ending on a shot of Faith hanging from a wall with the cityscape in the background. The visuals are beautiful. While the original game looked quite good on Unreal Engine 3, it’s hard to not be excited to see it running on developer DICE’s own Frostbite 3 engine. The trailer lacked some of the sharp contrasting colors that accented the bright white city in the original, but I hope we see more of that in the full game.
Faith receiving her tattoos hinted at another piece of info about the game, it is a reboot of the franchise. While that seems a little weird for a series with one entry, I get the idea they just want to start the story fresh which I am totally cool with. The first game’s story was kind of forgettable. I did enjoy the lead character and world which seem to be making reappearances. I hope they go in-engine cutscenes this time over the cartoony ones in the first game which always felt a little out of place. I always thought staying in first person throughout might work well, but I guess some traditional third-person in-engine cutscenes would do the job.
I think one big worry about a sequel to a game that didn’t do well in the sales department the first time around is that they might change it to appeal to a broader audience. It has definitely crossed my mind in the past as I dreamed about a possible Mirror’s Edge 2. The good news is that an EA rep made it clear that it is not a shooter (this article on Eurogamer features a number of things I will reference here). The original had some shooting, but very little. It was about running and platforming and encouraged avoiding enemy encounters altogether. Along with the quote from the developer, the trailer seemed to support this as it only showed hand to hand takedowns. EA also mentioned that Faith would be able to take control a bit more. I’m reading between the lines, but that combined with the trailer makes me think takedowns will be a little easier. I don’t actually have much of a problem with that. It might make certain encounters a bit quicker to get through and easier to get back to the free-running. As much as I liked to avoid combat in the first, there were times when it was quicker to dispatch a few enemies. So this doesn’t seem like a change for the worse.
The biggest reveal and change about the new game seems to be its move to an open world and it is one that I’m a little leery about. If my experiences are anything to go on, platformers in an open world lack the tight and challenging level designs of more linear affairs. Open worlds would need to be traversed in multiple directions which I could see taking away some of the precision and challenge necessary in the first game. Having too many options takes away the “how do I get from here to there” element too. I think if this were ten years ago maybe I would be a little more enthused by this idea. When Sony’s platforming trio (Jak, Sly and Ratchet) went away from platforming and took the genre in new directions last gen, I was for it. But we were swimming in true platformers back then. Shaking up the genre seemed like a cool idea and I largely think those series were better for it. But now? I’m a little more apprehensive. Tomb Raider just ran away from its challenging platformer roots in the recent reboot and I’d hate to see my favorite platformer this gen do the same.
On the other hand, it could be a good thing. Imagine a sea of rooftops to hop across in typical Mirror’s Edge style. Side missions that have you racing against time to deliver packages or challenges against other runners. Secrets hidden away in the open world that you must puzzle out how to get to. And I’d like to assume that regardless of moving to the open-world, they’d still have linear levels for the main missions to take place in that would play more like the first game. A place for the tight level design to shine. Hopefully between those levels and being able to sort of fence off various areas for the deliciously addicting time trials that gave the original game so much replay value, we will have plenty of challenging platforming goodness in this new game.
And that challenging platforming element is what I hope they retain the most. The original game had this great level design that really challenged the player. It demanded practice and careful observation of the environments. There were just enough routes in what was largely a linear game that finding the fastest way was a lot of fun. Even which moves you used came into play when trying to shave seconds off your time. There was even a risk reward element. Do I take the shortcut here or play it safe and try and cut some time later? All this made for a game that really rewarded the player for practicing and I really want that sensation back regardless of the world’s structure.
Finally I really hope Solar Fields is back to do the soundtrack. The original Mirror’s Edge soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites in gaming and no post about Mirror’s Edge is complete without a link to the track Shard, my favorite in the first game. The music in the trailer sounded great so whether Solar Fields is back or not, hopefully the soundtrack in the new game will deliver.
It will be interesting to see how this new Mirror’s Edge shapes up going forward. It sounds like it is a ways off though I don’t think it will go the way of The Last Guardian or Beyond Good & Evil 2 as I trust DICE to finish games a bit more than Team ICO or Ubisoft. If it ends up more of an open-world action/adventure game with the classic Mirror’s Edge bits sort of mixed in there that would still be pretty cool, but the Mirror’s Edge and platformer fan in me desperately wants something with as much a focus on challenging platforming as the original game. I guess we will just have to wait and see how all this turns out.