Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tomb Raider - Evolution

Part 2 of the Tomb Raider (Nextgen) Fan Perspective

  Part 1 covered what I grew up with the series as a whole. But it’s a different story when it comes to game design. The early adventures were notoriously tough, and the graphics were the best either the PC or PSX could deliver. Tough limitations aside, they were challenging working alongside Nintendo’s “Mario” formula. Leap from A to B, pray you make it to the other side. Or in other words, platforming 101, it was also known as the Leap of faith, before Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed took the moniker.

  Tomb Raider from the beginning was all about Lara’s legendary adventures across the world. Seeking wisdom and treasure, and making it through every twist and turn that she came across. It wasn’t about gaining riches, or becoming famous, just the thrill of exploring uncharted territory filled with history. But then comes with the territory a need for change. Throughout the tricky terrain there was a misstep, everyone goes towards Angel of Darkness. And here’s the reasons why:
1) Lara gains a love interest
2) Brooding, and more emo version of the character
3) The game actually ends with a bad plot
4) The controls were a nightmare and cumbersome to even try using
Altogether it was horrible, but thankfully we wouldn’t hit that snag ever again.

Legend – The quest to reunite with Lara’s mom

A new direction, design, and actually solid storytelling. Told through a progressive set of missions across several locales, Lara’s quest actually has meaning, her mom left something behind and she wants to find answers. Whatever the format gamers played this title on, the controls were sublime, and graphics were simply gorgeous to behold. While still retaining some of the past games features, such as the “Time Attack” mode where you get through each mission in a set amount of time, while being humbly rewarded. As progression stands, this game gave us the feeling the series was back on track.

Anniversary = How it all began

Many remember Lara’s adventures in the original game. But what makes this retread unique is that all of those areas are now retouched with the new Legend engine. Its unique how we all recall those singular moments every time we play a game. From the opening sequence to the last mission. Anniversary brings back that “fun” feeling while still keeping us on our toes. Thankfully there are some commentaries that explain how the changes to the original key designs actually were lost due to the limitations of the PSX’s capabilities back then. Plus an art + level gallery that gives players a past and present comparison on how far the series has come since the original game.

Underworld – My Shadow

Continuing where Legend left us, Lara now seeks an ever greater treasure. The pieces of Thor’s battle gear that may exist in far reaches of the world. But her quest is not alone, the doppelganger has returned seeking something far worse. The last part of the current generation’s series. With even more massive areas to traverse, and a hidden skill that Lara has been given thanks to her journey. But what bugs me is how short the story winds up leaving us to take on a DLC chapter that should have been part of the campaign. To be honest, I am all for more content that expands a story. But when the game itself just ends with credits leaving you feeling empty after all is said and done. Although there are hidden treasures to be found, the story feels sort of lost without closure.

Tomb Raider – Reborn
A new version of Lara hits the scene, now a bit younger and not the same adventurer we used to know. During demo glimpses of the game, fans were teased with new perspectives, game engine, and controls. It promised to no longer be locked into focused movement, but fluid instead. Unlike the old days where leaps always meant a pratfall wasn’t far behind. Now its gained composure through the redesigns the team made. It feels like danger is at every turn, in real time any decision you make may change Lara’s experience and behavior.

Now with this new entry on store shelves, some reviews have found it “overkill”. No longer about exploration, but killing every opponent that Lara meets. In the past games, the director and producer were concerned about too much violence, due to the rating system fallout at the time. From what I gather, it is geared more towards how you perceive the environment. There are choices you can make, to be aggressive or defensive. But on the positive side there are good comments about the redesign, character integration, and storyline.

Critics have always been tough on the TR franchise. And with this new chapter, it feels like there is always something out there for them to nitpick. I find it engaging when there is more variety to be explored. And if is there more to find, then let us have fun doing it.

Part 2 of 2 fan tributes – complete
Thanks for reading, and go and enjoy the new Tomb Raider!

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