Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After years of off/on talk about another Mirror’s Edge game, the beautiful if flawed game finally has an official sequel. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst puts you back in the shoes of runner Faith trying to subvert a number of wildly powerful corporations controlled by a man named Gabriel Kruger. The demo starts off with Faith getting out of jail and having the guards basically be huge jerks to her. Once she’s back on the street, some snot nosed punk whose name we’ve thankfully forgot, takes off her government trackers and gets her back on the streets. He’s mainly annoying because he keeps questioning Faith’s abilities and come on, dude, she just got out of jail.
Anyway, the first part of the demo is on the rainy, dark streets as you try to get your runners legs back, jumping over and under obstacles and trying to keep a constant flow. The visual tone of this section is markedly different from most of the original Mirror’s Edge games with its dark colors and messy environment. As you burst through a door, the demo whisks you away to the rooftops at some other time with a style far more familiar with stark whites and a clean environment to run in. The only difference is the biggest one — you’re in an open world. Yes, the huge shift from missions to open world means you can now freerun across the city and explore in a non-mission context, something definitely lacking from the first game. Missions are placed around the environment, in the style of Assassin’s Creed, so that you’re never taken out of the game.
The desire to not break the flow of the game also translates to the gameplay as well. As you keep your running flow going, there are subtle atmospheric differences like a change in music or an increase in speed, giving you subtle ways to feel like running and keeping a flow are important. In that vein, there are really only a few buttons for freerunning, one for upward movement (jumping, climbing, swinging) and one for downward (sliding and dismounting). This configuration makes running a breeze, which is good because combat actually becomes easier the faster you are.
The demo has a few missions to do including a race, hacking a billboard, and delivering a package from one place to another. Running between missions and objectives felt really free, a feeling that Mirror’s Edge has always been pretty good at instilling. The missions themselves weren’t particularly hard and the only one we couldn’t do as good as you could at was the race. We blame the obnoxiously loud volume of the EA booth.
The game’s story promises to focus on Faiths’ origin, fleshing out our favorite runner in more detail. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until February 23rd of next year to get it. In the meantime, we’ll be painting our eye and buying red shoes. Not freerunning, that looks hard.
Arguably the smallest game that made the biggest splash at E3 this year was about a little guy made of yarn. Unravel is a game about the connections between people told through the eyes of a little creature made of yarn solving puzzles and going on adventures. The idea behind the game is that it’s harder to do things the further away you are from people you love. With that in mind, Yarny starts coming unraveled the further you progress through the stage, meaning you have you find more yarn to rewind yourself as the level progresses.
The demo starts off with a short video of an elderly woman looking at old photographs and smiling at them, reminiscing over tea at her table in her small kitchen. She then walks upstairs with her bag of yarn, taking care to adjust a baby picture on her way up. A small ball of red yarn then bounces out of her and we take control of Yarny from there.
One of the best things about this short demo was how well Yarny was characterized. From the moment you take a step out of the front door, he’s looking around, taking in the world around him. Any time you stop moving, and even a bit while you’re running, Yarny is constantly looking at stuff in the environment, showing how curious the little guy is.
The yarn mechanics also make for interesting puzzles to solve. You can rewind your yarn to pull yourself back up to an area if you’ve gone to far or done something wrong. In that sense, there’s no real way to fail a puzzle. Sure, there are environmental hazards like deep water and toxic materials that can take our little friend out of commission, but there’s no failed puzzle.
Yarny can also swing from his yarn to get in to new areas or cross gaps, kinda like a red, cuter Indiana Jones. You can also attach your yarn to two different static points to create a bridge or a trampoline for yourself. Using these simple mechanics, we take Yarny through the old woman’s front yard and very quickly get spooked by a butterfly. It’s adorable. You also come across bits of memory, which represent themselves as kind of blurry picture formed by light in the sky. This one in particular is of a smiling child running through the grass. The yard is basically a tutorial level, showing you how the yarn works, how attaching and swinging work, and letting you solve a few puzzles.
The second half is where things get intense. Yarny is in a dark forest while it’s raining outside. He still seems pretty excited to be outside until lighting strikes. His whole body language then changes to one of fear. Our friend is hugging his arms together, walking more slowly, and those same eyes that viewed the environment as a wonder now view it as potentially a threat, a big, scary threat. Yarny stumbles out onto a road and very nearly gets hit by a car, which really cranks at your heart strings, making you feel simultaneously bad for our friend and angry at the car that almost hurt him. Once the road is crossed, you’re met with a series of more intense puzzles, making you create and disassemble multiple trampolines or have large leaps of faith. The memories you find also take a more dark turn, one showing a man being dragged away by suited men, and another of people in hazmat suits pushing toxic barrels.
We were hurried out of the room before we could complete the demo, but what we saw really captured us. Yarny is our new best friend and the mechanics, though simple, are so much more charming through the eyes of this innocent protagonist that this is toward the top of the list of games we want to play.
Free to play game seem to be all the rage these days, specifically free to play versus games. Bethesda’s answer to this growing market is Battlecry, a 4v4 class-based shooter. The demo put us in a match of control points in which each controlled area added points to a total until time ran out. There were only 4 classes to choose from in the demo, but they were all very different form one another. From stealth killers to long shots to tanks, we weren’t bored by the class selection at all.
The demo was relatively short and unfortunately, it didn’t come with a tutorial beyond a sheet of paper with buttons on it. It took us until about halfway through to pick a class that we actually enjoyed and figured out how to use effectively. By that time, the other team had already beaten us back to the point that it was hard to make a comeback.
Regardless, the gameplay was fun, especially for the ranged character we played. As you aim longer, the damage your shot will do increases. He’s also got a few special abilities like stealth and shot modifiers that made him a lot more useful, if only toward the end of the match, when we figured out what everything did.
Battlecry is opening itself up to demo soon and you can sign up for it on their website.