I am a major fan of the “Tomb Raider” series of video games. Believe me, there have been many of them. Most are true to the originals and some were down right crap almost ruining this ground breaking franchise.
I believe the movies almost ruined the franchise, and coincidentally, the games based on the movies were the ones that sucked. Frankly, Lara was better on her own without some geek sidekick as “support”. Lara always worked alone and was better that way. She used her own smarts (yours in some cases) to figure things out. Sure, Lara carried guns, but the biggest draw to her and the games was the story line and the puzzles you had to complete to continue with the story. There, of course, was the necessary need of overcoming wild animals and the bad guys, but most of this made sense given the story.
The games had Lara as the good “guy” always. She was sort of a female Indiana Jones but didn’t care about the “fortune and glory”. The fact she already had more money than dirt emphasized this. She did what she did for the knowledge and excitement of it. The game “Angel of Darkness” tried very hard to ruin this image of Lara. The game “Angel of Darkness” was to Lara Croft as Star Trek V was to the Star Trek franchise, or the Alien 3 of the Alien franchise. It nearly ruined the character by almost succumbing to the trendy “dark story” that Hollywood had fallen in love with at the time, and actually almost ruined other franchises as well. It coincided with the Hollywood version of Lara Croft in the movies, and frankly that version sucked. The game previous to that they had actually tried to make you think Lara was dead, yet when she “came back” they never explained what happened! What the…?
Lara Croft is a real lady, a lady with guts, strength, brains, and still very feminine with poise and dignity, yet still sexy and beautiful. However, Hollywood chose to use Hollywood’s biggest skank to play her. So, they “skanked up” the character too. They added a side-kick geek and now we had this bizarre Mission Impossible meets Kill Bill sort of character nobody was interested in. They tried to force this change in the game “Angel of Darkness” and nearly ruined the franchise forever.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself when I got the “Angel of Darkness” that they ruined this great character. What happened is that Eidos, the game’s publisher, got greedy and drunk with the potential of Hollywood money and instead almost lost everything. They rescued the franchise and Lara, by bringing back the original creator into the mix. The game “Tomb Raider: Legend” did just that, it rescued the franchise. Lara was saved. It was weird though. They decided to stick with the high-tech side-kick geeks but gave her old personality and dignity back. I suppose it was the best trade off to not look too schizophrenic.
“Tomb Raider: Legend” decided to delve into Lara’s distant past rather than try to explain her jumbled recent past. It focused on her parents and what turned her into the woman she was now. Frankly, it was a good story. It was a good come-back. The latest in the series is “Tomb Raider: Underworld” which is second half of the “Legend” story.
The “Underworld” game had a magnificent panorama of beautiful landscapes and vast ruins. However, the story seemed disjointed and half told. In the earlier games there was an underlying great story to be told. Part of the story was told by the game play itself. You had to figure out why things were and how to get to the next step to figure out the next part of the story. However, in the latest game, you went through these absolutely magnificently designed levels but for no other purpose than to get to the end. There was no explanation as to why you were doing what you were doing and its purpose in the story. You traveled from Thailand, to Mexico, to the Artic and yet not much was explained about why.
It was a terribly sad and depressing story, despite the fact that Lara saved the world again. All you were left with was a great hole in your emotions and a strong feeling of sadness and disappointment with a heavy dose of confusion. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad game. It just had so much potential which it did fall short on. It was a good game that could have easily been a great game.
I suppose someone would make the excuse of saying you could read Lara’s “Journal” in the game for some story filler, but I say that didn’t help either. All the games had some sort of Journal to give a deeper history of where you were. Seriously, there was no rhyme or reason as to why you had to travel all over the world to achieve the eventual goal. On the other hand, it did have something new I have never seen in a video game franchise before. It had a video showing what happened previously in the story to give you perspective on where you are now in the time line. More video games should have this simple catch-up method of telling the back-story.
We had this great foundation for a great game. You had a great character, story with a lot of potential, absolutely beautiful level design, and even great voice acting, and of course a great looking Lara. Unfortunately, it was just pieced together all willy-nilly. There were no real puzzles, as the solution to most was quite obvous when entering the level. It was just a matter of getting the steps done to do it. Where as had it been a REAL puzzle with subtle clues like the older games had, it could have been a lot funner and more satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not disasterous. The game has enough redeeming qualities to make it fun and a worthwhile buy. However, it could have easily been much better. Nevertheless, it is a much better game than some of the recently released Tomb Raider games during the “movie” push. For that simple reason, I give it a 75%.
Want to read up on the series? Go to Tomb Raider Chronicles where everything Tomb Raider is discussed.