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Sunday, February 24, 2013

What I Want To See In A Mirror’s Edge Sequel

Despite being released a little over four years ago, EA’s and DICE’s stunning and original first-person title Mirror’s Edge still stands as a unique hallmark of the first-person genre. Not only does it feature realistic and pulse-pounding parkour-inspired gameplay, it also stars one of the strongest female video game leads of the past decade; Faith Connors.

These days many gamers no doubt equate developer DICE with the long-running Battlefield series and, funnily enough, Mirror’s Edge was actually the studio’s attempt to create “something fresh and interesting” since they knew they couldn’t just keep making new Battlefield games forever.

 Despite minor flaws such as a weak story and short game length, Mirror’s Edge went on to sell fairly well both in North America and elsewhere and even spawned a variety of spinoff media including several mobile games and even a six-issue comic series. The existence of a sequel has been fairly hit or miss since it was first confirmed by EA Europe in 2010, then supposedly canceled in early 2011, then *re*-confirmed by EA during 2011’s E3 conference. So if and when a sequel does surface, what should it include?

 More Freedom, Less Fluff

The story behind the original Mirror’s Edge, while not without its interesting bits, didn’t really leave a lot of room for either Faith or the player to “color outside the lines.” Despite their visual appeal, the environments were linear and often cramped which made gameplay feel more like navigating a maze of pre-set obstacles instead of getting to parkour around an entire city.

The narrative, which encompassed themes of murder, espionage, and betrayal, managed to fit well enough into the overall setting of totalitarianism that it didn’t feel clichéd and the idea behind “Project Icarus”, training elite security forces in parkour so they could more easily chase down and eliminate runners like Faith, is a concept that is just begging to be explored more fully.

I think DICE could take a page from Ubisoft’s book when it comes to giving players more freedom by allowing us to run around and explore entire sections of the city much like in the Assassin’s Creed games. Roaming “Icarus Initiates” could be peppered around each hub area, allowing Faith to either practice her combat skills or simply find new escape routes on the fly. 

Dedicated and crafty players could find ways to access hidden side areas and puzzles, earning addition collectibles and other non-essential rewards. Perhaps players could also stumble upon new time-trial challenges, offering further incentive to get out and explore.

These hub areas would not only lend a more cohesive feel to the game’s story, they could also help to prolong the game’s staying power as players would have several activities still available even after completing the main story. 

 Anything You Can Do….

One thing the original Mirror’s Edge did really well was allow players to upload their times and scores for the game’s time trials mode online to compete with other players. This concept could be taken even further in a sequel with the inclusion of custom challenges.

Using a list of pre-set conditions, players could take their favorite challenges and make them even harder, uploading their times and scores for other players to try and beat. Maybe make it so that they had to complete a challenge without jumping more than three times or without taking any damage, or having to utilize specific parts of the environment as part of the challenge?

These custom conditions wouldn’t have to be limited to just time trials challenges either. Maybe a player could try to beat a story mission without being detected or without ever touching the ground. Maybe DICE could implement combat challenges; tasking Faith with disarming and/or taking down a group of thugs within a time limit or by fulfilling certain “combat conditions” like in Arkham City’s Riddler’s Revenge challenge maps.

These custom challenges could allow players to flex their creative muscles while also adding on a hefty incentive of bragging rights and bravado for the truly hardcore. DICE could also include a few default custom challenge requirements that could tie into the extra collectibles and goodies I mentioned earlier.

Taking A Leap

Personally I’m pretty confident that we’ll be seeing a proper sequel to Mirror’s Edge before long, maybe even before 2013 is over. The first game wasn’t perfect but it did lay the groundwork for an amazing new IP that manages to be engaging without the need for guns or explosions. DICE was willing to take a big risk when they first introduced gamers to Faith and her world and I hope they’re willing to follow through on that risk. 

Even after four years Mirror’s Edge still retains its position as the only game of its kind and I know that with a great developer like DICE at the helm, it can only get better. Rumors have already begun circulating that the supposed sequel will utilize DICE’s in-house Frostbite 2 engine (the original Mirror’s Edge used Epic’s Unreal Engine 3). Imagine getting to leap between skyscrapers with those kinds of graphics…..

Follow me on Twitter at @NateHohl and be sure to check out my other work here at "Thoughts of a Gamer" and over at vgu.tv.

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