It seems like every few months, after everyone has almost given up hope, someone at EA or DICE will mention a Mirror’s Edge sequel. The most recent case of this was in early July, when EA exec Frank Gibeau told Game Informer, “It’s on the list. It’s just about looking at what teams are available, who’s got the right quality approach to it, and who understands it.”
It’s been almost four years since the original game came out, and while the initial response was lukewarm, it has since blossomed into a well-regarded title, often praised for its bravery to try something different. It’s a game that I loved the moment I first played it, and is still one of my favourite games of the current console generation. As such, I’m anxious to see a sequel, but I’m also wary of what a sequel might become if EA tries to turn it into a more broadly-appealing franchise.
It’s also a series that has massive potential, if the first game is any indication. To me, it’s very reminiscent of the first Assassin’s Creed; you can see there’s a powerful and well-thought out vision behind the game, but it’s almost like a prototype for a later game. Some things are a bit rough, certain areas of the gameplay mechanics aren’t quite as evolved as they could be, etc. We all saw this in Assassin’s Creed, and complained about the repetitive missions and ease of combat, but appreciated the bold cityscape visuals and overall style of the game. Then Assassin’s Creed II came along, and it fixed all the things we hated about the first game, while keeping all the things we loved.
Mirror’s Edge shows the potential to follow the exact same path. We all disparaged Mirror’s Edge’s shooting mechanics, and sometimes the indoor sections seemed at odds with the rest of the game, but we loved the aesthetic, the concept, and above all else – the brilliant first-person freerunning mechanics. Like Assassin’s Creed, a Mirror’s Edge sequel could fix all the things we didn’t like (we could dispense with player use of firearms altogether, for example) and keep the things we love.
Of course, all this is only possible if EA allows DICE to continue to be brave and innovative with the franchise, and doesn’t try to turn it into the next hugely financially successful, mass-appeal blockbuster. So without further ado, here’s a list of DOs and DON’Ts for Mirror’s Edge 2, from someone who loves and has played the hell out of the original game.
Open up the world. We’d all love to see the Mirror’s Edge freerunning mechanics applied to a wide open cityscape for us to climb, jump and explore our way through. Making the city an open playground, while keeping the main storyline linear, would make for a fantastic sequel. Just beware the danger of getting lazy with the environments when building way more of them than the original game. Part of the beauty of Mirror’s Edge is the density of objects you can interact with; there’s nary a square foot of environment that doesn’t have a pipe, ledge, fence or vent to navigate.
Stay true to the roots. As much as there is shooting in the game, and as much as it’s almost a necessary element to the game’s plot, it must never become the primary focus of a Mirror’s Edge game. I personally don’t believe it should be dispensed with altogether, because I think the conflict with heavily armed military police is integral to the game’s world and story, but many will disagree with me. The important thing is that it must always be a game about freerunning and obstacle navigation, with all other gameplay mechanics considered secondary. If we want to shoot cops, there’s plenty of other games we can rely on for that.
Allow player interactivity. Mirror’s Edge is a game about a network of freerunners, but it never really feels like the network exists beyond a few of Faith’s close acquaintances. Give us more indication that there really is a vast network of couriers operating outside the law. Look to a game like Dark Souls for ideas on how to implement this; it doesn’t need to be about pure co-op or pure player-versus-player, but more just about knowing that other players are running the rooftops just like you. Show us their ghosts, let them leave us messages, that sort of thing.
Don’t try to fit the game into a marketable genre. This is the biggest pitfall for so many games that try to be innovative. If your game isn’t a first-person shooter, or an action-adventure game, or some other well-established and easily recognizable genre, it’s harder for publishers to wrap their heads around marketing it. Under no circumstances should Mirror’s Edge be turned towards being a first-person shooter for the sake of marketing and ease of accessibility. It must continue to defy convention and try new things – that’s what we love about it.
Don’t turn it onto a multiplayer focused game. As much as I mentioned above that some interactivity with other players would be nice, think once again of Dark Souls. The trick is to allow players to interact with each other, but without forcing them to, or making it feel like a necessary part of the game. The core of Mirror’s Edge should always be a rich story about one runner’s life of adventure. Some cool little distractions like the player-versus-player chunk of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood would be nice (perhaps some sort of rooftop tag?) but again, the focus must remain on the single player experience.
Don’t complicate the experience. There’s a long list of extra mechanics that could be added to Mirror’s Edge. You could send out other runners to do missions in the style of Assassin’s Creed’s missions for your recruits. You could have a million pieces of character customization gear. You could add an inane hideout defense minigame (sorry, Revelations). None of this is what makes Mirror’s Edge so great, however, and none of it will improve on the original design. Instead, invest your efforts in honing the game’s core vision. Add more terrain variety, more freerunning moves, more incredible moments like the invisible ninja chase in the first game. Stick to what you’re good at, and don’t clutter your vision with additional “features” that will look good on the back of the box.
Last but not least, I supposed to biggest DON’T is…don’t not make Mirror’s Edge 2. I legitimately believe the concept of the first game has the potential to be expanded into one of the finest examples of innovation the medium has seen in years. The fanbase for Mirror’s Edge has done nothing but grow as the game has aged, and with an engine like Frostbite 2.0 already available for DICE to use for a sequel, there’s no way Mirror’s Edge 2 couldn’t be financially successful. It will never be the enormous cash cow that the Battlefield franchise is, but it can be a beautiful and unique franchise that will be remembered fondly for years to come.