Since yesterday's preview embargo lifted, there's been a lot of talk online about the unlock system in Mirror's Edge Catalyst. NeoGAF user A-V-B posted an image of the movement skill tree, replying to a comment from another user who said: "If rolling, and swinging from poles, and 90-degree turns, are locked behind XP upgrades, I am pissed."
In short, A-V-B isn't wrong. Rolling, swinging from poles and 90-degree turns are locked behind XP upgrades.
This has come as something of a shock to Mirror's Edge fans, for whom these techniques are an integral part of the experience. The idea of having to grind through an XP system with a limited skillset is, seemingly, an unappealing one. In the first Mirror's Edge, every ability Faith had at her disposal was available from the off. Indeed, the tutorial was comprehensive and for some punishing as a result.
Here's a summary of the current mood:
wait, apparently stuff like quick turns and raising your legs are now xp unlocks??? what the FUCK pic.twitter.com/iVX2aEvpHU— Crushed (@silenttakedown) April 14, 2016
It's not something that especially bothered me during my hands-on time with Mirror's Edge Catalyst, but then I was playing a build in which a number of upgrades were already available. So, in the interests of clarity, here's how Mirror's Edge Catalyst's unlocks work.
Faith has three different trees available for upgrade; combat, gear and movement. Combat unlocks are fairly standard, giving you damage boosts over certain types of enemies. Gear upgrades allow you to things such as disrupt AI drones and gain access to the magline - a grappling hook that allows Faith to swing across specific gaps in the city. Movement upgrades, as you might expect, give you access to some of the more advanced parkour techniques such as quick turns, roll landings and - yes - tucking your feet up.
This is all tied into a fairly straightforward XP system. Pretty much every action you complete in the city, from side missions to gathering collectibles like Gridleaks, will grant you XP. Each time you level up, you gain an upgrade point, letting you chip away at another block in the upgrade tree.
The good news is that during my time with Mirror's Edge Catalyst - about three hours, all told - I found myself levelling up fairly quickly. Catalyst pretty much hurls XP at you and, while I can't speak for DICE, my feeling was very much that these unlocks are implemented in order to introduce the more nuanced elements of Mirror's Edge Catalyst gradually. It felt more like a tutorial than a straight up grind, in other words.
That said, I was playing a carefully crafted preview build - the same one that will go live in the closed beta next weekend. In this build, 11 of the 19 movement skills were unlocked. The real question is how many of these skills will be automatically available when Mirror's Edge Catalyst launches.
Abilities such as light, heavy and directional attacks all feature in the combat skill tree, for instance, but I can't imagine these abilities will be walled off from the start of the game. I started playing Catalyst from the very beginning, which launches you into your first fight in about three minutes. Not knowing how to throw a punch would be fairly catastrophic for Faith at this point, so it's safe to assume at least some of the combat tree will be available from the get go. Gear, meanwhile, will be mostly unavailable. If my experiences are anything to go by, you'll start with runner's vision and the map and not much else.
The movement tree, I'm sorry to say, is a bit more of a mystery. I've reached out to EA for more details, but I can at least confirm that you'll have to earn some XP before you're able to tuck your feet up. Personally I didn't mind the more RPG-heavy build of Mirror's Edge Catalyst, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.