Mirror’s Edge has gained a strong cult following in the years since its release, and noise of a sequel has been met with almost overwhelming glee by people who enjoyed the intense, first-person game. Very little information on the sequel was shared by EA at E3, but while we’re thinking about it, let’s talk about a few things the sequel needs to avoid, or fix from the original
The first Mirror’s Edge gained a fan base due to the novelty of the gameplay, and I might argue the idea of that novelty was more effective than the reality of the game itself. This is what needs to be adjusted.
Those damned elevators
Mirror’s Edge was at its best when you were able to run for extended periods of time, jumping from roof to roof while dodging the enemy forces and linking your moves together. The sense of freedom and speed the game gave the player, and the sense of mastery Faith had over her environment, were huge draws.
Don’t put one of the most kinetic action heroes in a box.
Then you would be slammed into a tiny elevator and held while the game loaded. This was likely a concession to the technological limitations of the time, but those limitations are gone. The longer the game can go without loading, or breaking up the sense of speed and movement, the better it will feel.
Get rid of the elevators. Don’t put one of the most kinetic action heroes in a box. She doesn’t belong there, and it was annoying as hell.
Fix the combat
Gunpoint developer and erstwhile game critic Tom Francis talked about the issues with the first game’s combat. I’m going to quote it at length, because it’s a great analysis of what went wrong, helpfully titled "The Combat In Mirror’s Edge And Why It Fucking Sucks"
"If I, an unarmed action hero, manage to run at a firing gunman and flying-kick him in the face before he kills me, it has to knock him down. Look into your hearts, DICE, you know this to be true," Francis wrote. "It’s a fundamental axiom of awesome, like glass breaking when I dive through it. The same goes for slide-kicks to the groin, which should lift your victim momentarily from the ground as he’s propelled backwards onto his ass."
"Punches should be weak, of course, which is precisely why there shouldn’t be any. You’re a slim woman with unprotected hands, it’s just not wise to hit someone wearing full body armour. If you’re sprinting when you collide with them, the impact should make them stagger. If you’re stationary, Attack should do the same as Disarm — recall that the Disarm button is actually the ‘Beat them up and disarm them’ button."
Any time you are holding a gun, the game has failed
And most importantly, the disarm animation. "Waiting for an enemy’s weapon to flash red during a specific frame of the same nonsensical shoulder-nudge they each perform is preposterous. I feel like I’m standing there as a favor to the game’s animators, because they only know how to show me grabbing a wrist in one particular position. It’s a terrible challenge, relying either on using slow-mo so slow that the wait becomes boring, or learning the animations by rote to anticipate the absurdly brief red flash," Francis explained.
So it’s bad. It’s really bad. Any time you are holding a gun, the game has failed. The idea that Faith would go toe to toe with an armored adversary was always deeply silly, so any discussion of combat that doesn’t include the words "we’re focusing on letting the player avoid it" is bad.
Combat should be limited to a few effective moves that allow Faith to continue running towards her location. Enemies should be treated as obstacles, not people who needed to die.
Don’t worry about reality
There doesn’t have to a story, there doesn’t have to be character development, there should just be running and movement. The bliss that you find in the ability to move like water across these environments should be the focus of the game.
The time trial maps that were ultimately added to Mirror’s Edge that allowed Faith to explore abstract environments and take advantage of all her movement options were way better designed than the game’s story missions, and they seemed to be a much closer realization of the game’s purpose than the campaign.
Get rid of the idea that any of this stuff needs to be in there, and just focus on allowing the player to feel free. Get rid of the elevators. Limit the use of guns as much as possible.
Make the Mirror’s Edge that should have always existed.