Mirror's Edge 2D/3D: Reflection, Review, & Repair pt.3
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 5:14PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Action, Level Design, Mechanics, Review & Repair

Part 1. Part 2.

Like with all of my repairs, I try to maintain the original spirit of the game with all of my suggestions. Faith is a runner. She's not a secret agent like Bond, nor is she a trained soldier. Her best skill is moving through complex urban environments. Before she got drawn into the plot concerning her sister, Faith was a message carrier. For my repair of Mirror's Edge, I want to preserve and enhance the spirit of momentum, flow, and mobility. First, I will address 3DME and then make a bridge into possible repairs for the 2D version.

For this repair, I think it will work best to start from outermost design layers and then move inward considering that the core of 3DME is the strongest part (ie. will need the least attention). The order is level design, enemy design, level elements, and core mechanic. Keep in mind that this repair only offers suggestions on how 3DME could have been a better Mirror's Edge.



Before addressing any other part of 3DME's design, I want to remove/address all the design features that function as game design crutches with its level design. With these features at play, the developers were free to design levels filled with clutter, trial and error, and an overall lack of well balanced challenges.


  1. Use the time to figure a way out of the building from the floor that you're on.
  2. Decrease your available time by going down the stairs and taking the soldiers head on.
  3. Increase your time by platforming down to the first floor forcing the soldiers to double back down the stairs.




With all the changes mentioned above the gameplay of 3DME is more focused on what it does best. At this point, it is up to the enemies to create organic timers, and provide enough contrary motion and interplay to keep things interesting. The problem is that in 3DME, most of the enemies use guns. In general, guns in first person games can put a great stress on the design. They're powerful, can be fired remotely, and when you're hit it can be very difficult to tell where the bullets came from. Guns are also hard to design interplay around. Once someone has you in their sights, there's typically nothing you can do to dodge the bullet. Furthermore, for a game like 3DME, the fiction is stressed by guns. After all, how many bullets are we supposed to assume a thin, Asian girl can take before falling? I say one bullet. The game tells me otherwise.

There are a few ways to address the issue of gun wielding enemy elements in 3DME.




Many have commented on the barren world of Mirror's Edge. Pedestrians don't walk the streets and they can't be found in the malls or the subways. The office rooms are furnished but they exude a sense of unuse. Even the graphic style has a hospital like sterility to it. The white are ultra clean, and the colors are flat and sharp. Though I'm a big fan of the look of Mirror's Edge, I do think that the game world should respond to player's actions/mechanics more.

If the clean look to the world matches the cold, impersonal control of information that exists in the oppressive world of Mirror's Edge, then Faith is the opposite of such things. So, if Faith represents freedom and disorder in an ordered world, then I think it's only fitting that her effect on the environment should match as well. To some degree, Faith should smug up the pristine rooftops with her footprints, knock over office furniture with her vaults, and send bricks careening to the earth after jumping onto scaffolding. 

It shouldn't just be cosmetic effects either. More elements need to respond to the player's primary mechanics. There should be many types of glass. Some you can kick through. Some you can smash through with enough momentum. And still some you must shoot with a gun to weaken before smashing through it. Faith needs to be able to kick open doors, kick over tables, and knock over people. Perhaps players would even be able to create vaults or steps by knocking over the right item. At this point, a little level transformation would go a long way.



As I've said before, the core mechanics of 3DME are pretty well designed. A few changes I would make are...



So what can I say about repairing the 2D Mirror's Edge? Aside from the issues I have with the forms and interactions in the game, 2DME is not a good candidate for repair. The core mechanics of 2DME are much more limited than in 3DME. In fact, everything is much smaller in scope and scale from the level design, enemy elements, to level elements. Though the 2D version captures a similar feel of momentum and parkour action of the 3D game, it's ultimately held back by the 2D perspective. Exploring the space in 2DME isn't as engaging or interesting as in 3DME. Also, the 2D visuals naturally create more abstract environments, while in 3D, the buildings and spaces are more representational/realistic. Furthermore, the 3D first person perspective gives players a wide view of the environment that stretches as far as the eye can see. In a 2D space, the player can only see what can fit on the screen. Comparatively the 2D vision range is much less.

Both Brad Borne and DICE did a great job kicking off the entire Mirror's Edge IP. Now, only solid, Classical game design can help Mirror's Edge reach its potential.

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (http://critical-gaming.com/).
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