Game-A-Week: Tomb Raider: Legend

Title: Tomb Raider: Legend (PC)

The Gist: Tomb Raider: Legend is the 7th Tomb Raider game in the series and takes Lara on another adventure in which you’ll learn about Lara’s past (specifically regarding her mother), and seek out an artifact. The game requires you to solve puzzles such as placing boxes on tiles in order to open doors as well as navigating dangerous traps such as pits or Star Wars-like crushing walls. You’ll occasionally be greeted by the baddies who open fire on you for simply being you, under orders from the big baddie who is after an artifact that you want all for yourself.

Pros: The game starts off with an interesting title sequence reminiscent of a Bond film, this was fairly amusing to watch and made me wonder if many of the Tomb Raider games feature an intro like this one. The game is fairly straight forward in its mechanics, requiring Lara to jump up to ledges, jump off ledges, swim and swing on conveniently placed poles. I played the game using an Xbox 360 controller and found that the dual analogue was a lot nicer to control the character with as opposed to my keyboard. I recommend anyone with a 360 controller to hand to use it!

The environments are well designed; I especially liked the backdrop showing off a skyline in the starting area. It was nice being able to explore Lara’s mansion separately from the main game, and that it was virtually identical to my memories of the mansion in the Tomb Raider movie. The puzzles aren’t too difficult but do require a little thinking in order to solve them and at times reminded me of my beloved Portal. If only Lara had a portal gun…maybe we’ll see a mod somewhere down the line! I really liked the binoculars that allowed me to literally scan my surroundings, revealing what my environment was. I was able to scan a box and identify it as a moveable object, and a large gear as a mechanism.

Cons: The AI seems a little basic; I think the developers were more interested in creating puzzles than interesting combat. It’s fairly easy to just constantly jump around your opponent whilst firing your dual pistols, dodging their bullets and chipping away at their health. This tactic even worked at the end of the first level where I was fighting against at least 8 enemies, which felt a little unchallenging. I guess I could turn up the difficulty and find them to be Terminators but I doubt I’d find much difference.

Musical Note: The soundtrack for the game is very appropriate for a Tomb Raider game, echoing adventure films such as Indiana Jones, Bond, and even Star Wars at times. There’s cultural music for each country Lara visits, although this is only done lightly. The tracks blend well together keeping an overall theme and feel for the game, culture mixed with action and adventure.

Hunger Level: It was nice playing an original style Tomb Raider game in a third person perspective again as I’ve not played one since a Tomb Raider and the Last Revelation demo many years ago. I definitely enjoyed the classic Tomb Raider concept and look forward to not only playing more of the game but trying out the other games in the series as well.

Conclusion: Definitely had a nice time playing this one even though I was a bit apprehensive about playing a game that seems to have been done to death over the years. It’s got some good content and some bonus content such as time trials, extra costumes and such that allow replayability. I always like a game that lets me revisit it rather than something that’ll stay locked away for eternity once it’s been played.

If anything I played this game because of the recently released concept art (left) for the upcoming Tomb Raider game titled erm…’Tomb Raider’ which reboots the series.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-A-Week’ @ Black Vinculum

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Game-A-Week: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Game Title: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (PC)

The Gist: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a break away from the typical Tomb Raider adventure, trading its third person perspective for a fixed camera isometric view at a distance. Designed for both solo and co-operative play, (both local and online) players find themselves adventuring through multiple environments each with their own puzzles to solve and enemies to beat. You fight alongside the character Totec who was brought back to life the same time as the game’s antagonist Xolotl. The ultimate goal of the game is to stop Xolotl from causing chaos and probably ruling the world. Each level houses a few ‘challenges’ found in two forms. The first takes place within the level itself such as jumping on each platform without falling off or getting a boulder on top of a platform with a skull on it. The second type of challenge is housed within specialised rooms accessible in the main game via a red lined door; the room will house a puzzle to solve. These challenges reward characters with weapons, artefacts and relics (artefacts/weapons upgrade your abilities such as speed, bomb strength, and weapon power).

Pros: The graphics on this game are beautiful that show off the environment well. The co-op feature, (which I played through local co-op using 360 controllers), brings life to the party and although you’ll no doubt be the cause of each other’s death numerous times it ends up being a laugh. The puzzles are fun to solve, don’t take up too much time but allow for the occasional stumble. Boss fights are the best bit of the game, whilst tactics aren’t really required to kill a boss it usually speeds up the killing processes and ends up being quite enjoyable.

Cons: The voice over for the character Totec/Xolotl is done by the same actor, Jim Cummings. Whilst he seems to be an accredited voice over artist (Dragon Age/Kingdom Hearts) I strongly disagree with his use for the game. Totec would have been best paired with a Native American voice over artist. The steam achievements for this game are quite dull; instead of finding anything too challenging you’ll be rewarded for simply playing co-op or killing a boss. Both artefacts and relics acquired through challenges upgrade your characters stats but they don’t seem to affect game play enough to notice which makes me wonder if they should have bothered. Ammo never really seems to run out as there are ammo boxes everywhere, I’d appreciate a few more moments where I’m dependant on using mines or merely staying alive till I find an ammo crate/cache.

During my first play through I ended abseiling down the edge of a map onto a lower platform…little did I know this area wasn’t designed to be explored and I ended up having to start the level from scratch as merely killing myself to re-spawn resulted in me simply spawning in the inescapable area. This doesn’t seem to be a constant problem through the rest of the game however and is probably just something missed during testing.

Musical: The music seems appropriate to an adventure game of this type and recycles music from two previous Tomb Raider games, Legend and Anniversary.

Hunger: This game was actually highly addictive, resulting in my one hour gaming session turning into a six hour one night, two hours the next day co-op fest with my girlfriend. Even though I’ve finished the game I’ve still some extra challenges purchased as DLC. You can earn additional costumes in the game so that replaying levels won’t be as dull and retaining any previous weapons/items earned on your last play through mirroring the Resident Evil games.

You can also play as another character entirely through the use of the DLC character packs. Currently you can play as either Kane or Lynch from the Kane and Lynch games (free DLC), or Kain and Raziel from the Legacy of Kain games (small fee). As well as playing them in game you’ll be treated to revamped cut scenes with these characters and their official voice over artists from their corresponding games. How many times can Kane swear during the first cut scene ^.^

Conclusion: The game ends up being a brilliant deal even at standard price, even better during a sale (currently on sale on Steam). I’ve had 8 hours of solid co-op play that reminds me at times of the indie game Trine. Whilst the story remains a little dull this wasn’t designed to tell a tale, rather be home to a series of puzzles and some basic combat using a range of weaponry. If you’re playing this game’s co-op you’ll no doubt find annoyance as one character gets too far away from the other that usual costs a player his life, I can however understand how a split screen might be worse especially if playing with someone online as you may find it difficult to find each other on the map. Levels are vast and whilst you may find yourself running around in circles wondering where to go you’ll be rewarded by a chime sound effect once you find your way. I’d highly recommend getting this even if you’re not a Tomb Raider fan and hope that we get a sequel or more games done in this style. You can try out a demo for the game here (requires Steam). Thanks to Pen for playing the game with me this week and repeatedly bathing herself in lava to my amusement.

One Hour, One Review, One ‘Game-a-Week’ @ Black Vinculum