I had an interesting discussion with m’colleague on the right and a friend of ours about Mirror’s Edge. Despite the fact that we all enjoyed it immensely (the two of us more so), we all had different ideas on what was wrong with it and how to improve it. Don’t get me wrong: Mirror’s Edge is one of my all-time favourite games (as has been mentioned previously), but it is certainly not a ‘perfect’ game (if such a title is even definable, let alone attainable).
To me, Mirror’s Edge is one of those rare games that truly allows the player to live out an experience as someone else. While this is generally the basis of every game, Mirror’s Edge feels that much more enthralling. The combination of the physical presentation of Faith’s parkour abilities, as well as the environment she inhabits contribute to an experience that is not only entertaining, but draws parallels with the current state of the world. Any piece of work that seeks to describe the future will rely on perceptions of the present to drive its message: be it the augmented ‘reality’ presented in The Matrix, or the catatonic drudgery of working life demonstrated in Brazil, it all demonstrates a clear path (albeit exaggerated) from today to tomorrow. Mirror’s Edge’s world feels fabricated, but in a way that reminds the player that it’s a potential future. It’s rather poetic, and it’s visually demonstrated by a limited, but starkly contrasted colour palette, making it one of the few games I’ve seen that incorporates artistic qualities beyond simply making a 3D object look like the object it’s representing.
Games have an ability to exist beyond physical confines to a far greater sense than that of cinema. It’s a point I’ve mentioned in posts before, but it’s something that’s rarely exploited in games. Instead, games are striving to merely emulate the most basic properties of cinema, rather than forge ahead with what makes the medium truly unique. This is the reason why I adore Mirror’s Edge so much – it is not a story that can be adequately told through a film. Yes, it stumbles on components of its gameplay (the combat is rather sub par, and it follows a very linear flow throughout), but it offers an experience that can only occur in a game.
And so, we naturally progress to the well-worn cry of "sequel!". As is becoming a pattern with my favourite games, Mirror’s Edge was critically acclaimed, but failed at retail (or rather, ‘did not meet expectations’), leaving its current situation up in the air. It would be an utter shame not to give Faith a chance to run again, given its themes of control and societal totalitarianism are even more pertinent today than they were when the game was released in 2008. In the meantime, all I can do is ask you to try it (it’s easily available on Steam and Origin, and fairly cheaply) and experience one of the most iconic and unique games I’ve ever had the pleasure to play.
I’ve been replaying Mirror’s Edge (for about the fifth time) recently, and I’m quite disappointed that we haven’t seen any other games following it’s lead since the game was first released. It’s one of my favourite FPS games of this generation for various reasons, but mostly because the gameplay uses the FPS perspective in such a unique and interesting way.
Obviously I would like to see more – rumours of a sequel have been thrown around over the past years, though we’ve never had any actual evidence of one actually happening. I’m hoping that something is being worked on in the background, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what I would personally like to see in a sequel to Mirror’s Edge.
The common faults that are often brought up in Mirror’s Edge are: a weak plot, level designs that promote trial-and-error gameplay, short length, and areas of forced combat. I believe that most of these problems can be resolved with an open-world game.
First of all, the weak plot. This is mostly in the hands of the game creators, but an open world can encourage the plot to be improved. A larger, more unstructured world allows for the world to have a level of unpredictability – NPCs walking around, trains running, cars and buses on the road, and so on. All of these things make the game feel ‘alive’, and the player feels a lot more emotionally invested in the game world as a result. The lacking plot, of course, can mostly be fixed with good script writing, but there are more elements to this than just the plot.
Second, the trial-and-error gameplay. An open world would significantly improve this. To start with, the city would be much bigger in scope, and the players would be able to develop their own paths through it – favourite routes, areas to avoid, shortcuts and so on. Because Mirror’s Edge was quite linear, it had a lot of dead ends, and if you made a jump to a place where the game didn’t expect, you would simply die. This wouldn’t be an issue in most cases in an open world.
Next we have the short length. This one’s fairly easy: side-quests. While the main story would still be expected to be quite a bit longer in an open world game, it can be further fleshed out with side quests, challenge missions, time trials, and so on. The biggest issue here is the world itself. Once a full city is created, more missions are quite easy to add. Some voice acting, maybe a bit of animation work on a cutscene, some enemy placement and the like – but the majority of the work would be done in the world. It would allow much more content to be made for the game’s story, as well as potential to inject future gameplay via DLC without many hassles.
Finally, the forced combat. This was a huge weak point in Mirror’s Edge – in a few places you had no choice but to knock out two or three guys who are shooting at you before you can proceed. Most of this is fixed on the developer’s side, but an open world would also allow players to simply run away down a different path, or even avoid the shooters altogether. High value shortcuts or items might be placed near patrolled areas, to give players incentive to go to these places rather than always avoiding them.
Anyway, that’s my basic pitch for an open-world Mirror’s Edge sequel. Three things that I would want to retain from the original game would be the gorgeous graphical style, the ambient feel of the music, and of course that brilliantly unique gameplay. Those elements alone put a Mirror’s Edge sequel in my "most wanted" basket – anything on top of that is just icing on the cake!