Five Changes to Hope For in Mirror’s Edge 2
Spoilers ahead for Mirror’s Edge
One of the more beloved and memorable experiences on the last generation of video game consoles, Mirror’s Edge brought freerunning to the forefront of major-market gaming. Released in 2009 by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE), Mirror’s Edge exists in a near-future, unnamed, utopian, urban environment and follows the journey of a young “Runner” named Faith Connors. Runners serve as couriers in this new world, where crime, poverty, and personal struggle have dropped to historic lows. This is accredited to a technocratic totalitarian regime that uses their resources to monitor crime and enforce their laws throughout the city.
DICE has announced that the aptly named Mirror’s Edge 2 will be released on the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC in the spring of 2016. Originally intended to be released on the previous generation of consoles in 2012, Mirror’s Edge 2 was rejected by EA’s development team and was delayed for several years. Announced in 2013 at E3 as a prequel to the original, it will explore the origins of the Runners and examine Faith’s life following the deaths of her parents. As we look forward to the release of the new game, here are five aspects of the first Mirror’s Edge that should be either changed or more integrated into the game in order to make Mirror’s Edge 2 an even more enjoyable gaming experience than the first.
5. An Open World
A key selling point and focus of Mirror’s Edge was its free-flowing parkour aspects and its ability to string together the environment to create nonstop motion. EA encouraged the players to “feel the flow of the city” and players were supposed to be able to complete some levels without ever having to stop running. The clustered and linear level design, however, took away from this feeling of freedom. This degraded the game to merely a linear level with several different paths to go in order to complete your task. Rather than repeat this method, Mirror’s Edge 2 would do well to completely open up the world map and create a close-knit but well-spaced open world.
One of the key issues with the environment of Mirror’s Edge was that a large portion of the game took place indoors, while Faith was surrounded by enemies. This slowed the game down, and on the higher levels of difficulty the game had the habit of becoming more of a sneak and stealth game rather than a fluid racer. By removing the indoor sections and designing a world with more improvising and options, Mirror’s Edge 2 will be able to keep the flow of the game and increase the freerunning feel when exploring the city. EA Labels president Frank Gibeau was quoted at EA’s 2013 analyst call, describing Mirror’s Edge 2 as, “an open-world action adventure game.”
4. Do NOT Put in Multiplayer
There have been so many exceptional games that have been ruined by the inclusion of multiplayer in an attempt to become more marketable to a generation of gamers that is so accustomed to being able to play with their friends online. Notable games in the last five years that had no reason to implement multiplayer but did so to the detriment of the series include: Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, Batman: Arkham Origins, Far Cry 3, Mass Effect 3, and Bioshock 2. These games came from successful and iconic single-player-based franchises that felt it necessary to include full multiplayer modes that felt more like ultra-repetitive betas in order to appeal to a wider market. It greatly takes away from the overall gaming experience, and for those of us who are total completionists looking for every achievement, there are few things more unappealing than poor quality and unwanted multiplayer.
Co-op, however, is a different animal altogether. Being able to jump in and out of a friend’s game in order to travel the world together has been used far more successfully in recent games. Rumors abound that the new game will feature a persistent, always online component that will allow players to drop in and out of one’s game. As long as there is a way of regulating this, like playing privately or allowing only your friends to join, it can be seamlessly incorporated with the open-world nature of the game. Allowing strangers to enter into your game is fighting a constant battle against other players who have already beaten the game and will speed run through the levels while you’re busy exploring. Any sort of co-op will have to be regulated, especially for a game that started off as strictly single-player.
Any racer game would do well to incorporate competitive Time Trials into the fabric of the game, much like the original Mirror’s Edge. Competitive Time Trials would also be a stellar addition, allowing players to battle one another to get through areas of the open-world map. Placing markers at opposite ends of the map and challenging racers to find the quickest route from one place to another would provide a constant challenge for players to improve their skills as Runners. Just stay away from combative multiplayer. Actually…
3. Make the Combat Flow
Probably the most annoying aspect of Mirror’s Edge was its combat system which, like the indoors sections, slowed the game down considerably at stages. If an enemy was facing away from Faith, she could disarm them from behind while running; once the enemy was altered to Faith’s presence, the combat system got caught in the muck. Although the AI are equipped with handguns and automatic weapons, Faith’s only combat options are to get incredibly close to disarm her opponents or use a taken gun and fire. The shooting in particular takes away from the racer aspects of the game, especially on the higher levels where the game gets reduced to a pop-and-shoot.
In a message sent out to the internet community on the Mirror’s Edge website, Senior Producer Sara Jansson brought up the gripes about the original game’s combat system saying, “We are also committed to provide the best 1st person close combat in the world. Advanced combat that is integrated into an improved fluidity of movement.” Hopefully these improvements include being able to use the environment to Faith’s advantage, as well as the ability to disarm opponents without having to play the annoying pseudo-quick time event in the original. Waiting for an enemy’s gun to glow red while Faith is trying to wail on said enemy breaks up the combat, causing an uneven flow to the action. Give Faith more of an ability to fight on her own terms, or make the combat scenarios so few and far between that it does not break up the flow of the game.
2. Either Elaborate On or Remove the Political Overtones
Mirror’s Edge revolves around the central idea of personal privacy and choice in a world that is growing far less private with every advancement in technology. The “utopian” government that controls the city is not oppressive; rather, it rules not with fear but with convenience. It is understood that everyone in the city is linked in to this new technology because it makes their lives easier. As a society as a whole becomes more and more comfortable with placing its personal information out into the public sphere of the Internet, there is a far greater risk of that personal information being taken or exploited. Private search histories can be tracked for government studies, personal information can be stolen due to an overused or cliché password, and recently opened web pages can form a pattern that can be tracked by advertisers to better sell their products. Faith and her fellow Runners use this same technology to circumvent the powers-that-be in order to operate in the shadows with relative anonymity.
The invasion of privacy and addiction to technology become more of a tolerated evil rather than an attack on personal space and a breach of civil rights. The march of technology becomes an unstoppable force, so rather than fight against the tide, the Runners adapt in order to thrive. Surrounding this critique about our growing reliance on technology is a loosely-followed narrative about a political corruption scandal. The concept of a political/technological regime taking control of a city has been rehashed dozens of times, recently seen in Ubisoft’s next-generation release, Watch Dogs, which follows the story of another person operating outside the law in order to combat an invasive organization promising convenience.
Political aspects work for certain genres, like the mysteries or thrillers that can incorporate grandiose points into a much longer plot, but it doesn’t quite work in Mirror’s Edge. The story itself is far too short and not nearly in-depth enough to properly flesh out the ideas that it is trying to get across. The idea that what hinders society most are not the challenges of life but the removal of those challenges is a very complex and multi-faceted one. The relatively short campaign of Mirror’s Edge does the story a disservice, trying to pack an entire political statement into only a few hours of running and jumping. By revolving the story around something simpler, Mirror’s Edge 2 will have more of a chance to be simply a fun racer game with open-world qualities. If DICE plans on delving back into the world of political intrigue, a longer and more coherent campaign will definitely be required.
1. Detailed and Interesting Characters
While there aren’t exactly a plethora of really detailed and stand-out characters developed by EA in recent years, Mirror’s Edge definitely suffered from its lack of an interesting cast. Faith and her sister Kate have a good dynamic, but the rescue-your-family cliché has been used so often that it takes a truly exceptional story to make it memorable. Mercury, Faith’s dispatcher and guardian, is really only a voice in Faith’s ear, and everything that the player knows about him comes from the stylized cut-scenes. This lack of interaction makes his death somewhat hollow, seeing as how we are unable to form any sort of attachment or meaningful opinions about Mercury.
The only other Runners you meet are your training partner Celeste and Jackknife – who serves as a general annoyance and target to chase. There is also Kate’s superior officer who works in the same vein as Batman’s Jim Gordon, helping this vigilante who has a habit of disappearing when he’s not looking. Other than the generic AI soldiers and various bit-part enemies that are killed before you can learn about them, there are no other characters. This makes the game’s major reveal almost expected: it turns out that the only two Runners that you meet throughout the game are in fact working alongside Project Icarus, the secret plan of the aforementioned technocracy to wipe out the Runners.
The whole “faceless corporation” as an enemy has long gone past its expiration date as an interesting or original villain. Many successful games today feature an interesting, complex, and most importantly, unique villain to counter the hero. These recognizable villains include GLaDOS from Portal and Portal 2, Kefka from the Final Fantasy franchise, and Bioshock‘s Andrew Ryan. The most threatening villains in Mirror’s Edge were basically carbon-copy faceless ninjas that Faith ran away from. It created for some tense chase moments, but were shallow and boring overall. For Mirror’s Edge 2, hopefully there will be more exposition into the back-story of this company and their rise to power. By making the face of the corporation one iconic villain and having the motives behind the corporation be more than just the overdone reasons of world control and safety-over-freedom, Mirror’s Edge 2 can create a strong foil to challenge and push Faith to her limits.
Celeste being the game’s primary villain is particularly unsurprising, as the “best friend and trusted ally was working against you the whole time” cliché has been pounded into the ground for decades in every form of media. If Mirror’s Edge 2 focuses on Faith’s formative years as a Runner, having a strong supporting cast would help the audience understand Faith’s motivations and better examine her estranged relationship with her sister. One of the key issues with prequels is their usage of characters seen in previous incarnations of the franchise. When we know that a character is going to die in the future, there is no suspense regarding their character in the prequel. Adding a different cast would provide the writers a fresh palate of characters to work with – namely Drake, the friend of Mercury and one of the premier developers of the Runner network. Allowing the player to learn more about the characters surrounding Faith on a deeper level would go a long way to improving the quality of immersion.
By improving Mirror’s Edge 2 in these crucial areas, DICE can create a special and powerful video game experience. The story of Faith Connor’s evolution from child activist to outlaw Runner could place her in the upper pantheon of the industry’s female leads. Mirror’s Edge had an immense amount of potential with an original premise and impressive gameplay mechanics; hopefully the developers at EA can live up to the hype of both installments and create a beautiful and interactive world to explore.
 Ivan, Tom, “Mirror’s Edge 2 is open-world, says EA exec.” Computer and Video Games. Published June 12, 2013. http://www.computerandvideogames.com/413684/mirrors-edge-2-is-open-world-says-ea-exec/ Accessed June 20, 2014
 GameCentral, “Mirror’s Edge 2 out 2016, has open world and persistent online claims rumor.” The Metro. Published March 12, 2014. http://metro.co.uk/2014/03/12/mirrors-edge-2-out-2016-has-open-world-and-persistent-online-claims-rumour-4539620/ Accessed June 20, 2014
 Jansson, Sara, “A World From the Producer.” Mirror’s Edge. Published June, 2014. http://www.mirrorsedge.com/ Accessed June 20, 2014.
 Smith, Jeff H, Managing Privacy: Information, Technology, and Corporate America. (University of North Carolina Press, 1994) Chapel Hill, NC. 8.
 Tierney, Thomas F. The Value of Convenience: A Genealogy of Technical Culture. (State University of New York Press, 1993) Albany, NY. 11
What do you think? Leave a comment.