Tag Archives: Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Raiding Tombs And Shooting Endangered Animals In The Face, Its 20 Years Of Lara Croft

Back in October of 1996, the world was first introduced to now gaming icon legend – Lara Croft with the release of the original Tomb Raider. So I’m going to spend some time looking back at the main games in the franchise and its ups and downs as well as Lara herself over the last 20 years.

lara-croft-evolution

The Original Trilogy

Tomb Raider was the game that started it all. Developed by Core Design while being published by Eidos Interactive. Tomb Raider was a melding of action, platforming, puzzles and exploration. Borrowing gameplay elements from the 1989 classic Prince of Persia. You play as Lara Croft who sets out to recover a mysterious artefact called the Scion. The first part of which she finds in the lost tomb of Qualopec in Peru.

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Lara is then send around the globe to seek out the rest of the Scion in locations such as; Greece Egypt and the lost city of Atlantis. Lara was a nimble character as she could run, jump, flip, climb, dive, swim and she also had a small arsenal of weapons too. Pistols, uzis, shotguns and even a magnum. Lara would spend most of her gun skills killing a variety of animals like; wolves, bats, bears and gorillas. There is even a T-Rex battle because… why not?

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The game was a huge success and the inevitable sequel, Tomb Raider II was released in 1997. This time, Lara investigates the legend of the Dagger of Xian a mythical weapon which was said to be used by an Emperor of China. It was pretty much more of the same with a bit more polish. Lara was as nimble as before and was packing even more weapons too like; a speargun, grenade launcher and an M16 rifle to kill even more animals around the globe. Lara’s travels took her to Venice, Tibet and China. She could also use two vehicles in the game a snowmobile while in Tibet and a motorboat in Venice.

tomb-raider-ii

By 1997, Lara Croft had become a pop culture icon as she turned up on the cover of magazines often not associated with games as well as appearing in TV adverts for SEAT cars, Lucozade energy drink and even showing up at U2’s Popmart live tour in 1997.

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The last game in the original trilogy, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft was released in 1998. Lara’s move set had yet again been improved as she could now sprint and even ‘monkey swing’ on overhead bars and vines. This time, Lara’s globetrotting takes her to India, the South Pacific, Nevada, London and Antarctica as she searches for meteorite stones. This marked the end of the original numbered trilogy, but there was plenty more Lara to come.

The No More Numbers Trilogy

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was the fourth entry in the series, the start of the numberless sequels and was released in 1999. While in Egypt, Lara uncovers an ancient tomb where an Egyptian God was once imprisoned. She accidentally releases the god who threatens to unleash an apocalypse on Earth. So Lara sets out to entrap the god back into its resting place.

tomb-raider-tlr

To be honest, by the time this game was released – the whole Tomb Raider/Lara Croft thing was wearing a little thin. The games were hardly evolving and were little more than just Lara ‘wearing a new hat’. A handful of new features and cosmetics were all that was on offer. Gone is the globetrotting element of the first three games as this one takes place solely in Egypt. Aside from an opening prequel where you get to play as Lara when she was 16 years old set in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Oh and Lara is (supposedly) killed off at the end too.

But Lara didn’t stay dead for long as the release of Tomb Raider: Chronicles in 2000 proved. Set just a few days after Lara’s (supposed) death, a memorial service is held at Croft Manor as friends of Lara gather to reminisce on some of her past adventures… and this is where you get to play as Lara once more. The first story has Lara in Rome searching for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The second tale has Lara exploring the Pacific Ocean for the Spear of Destiny. Story three is set during Lara’s childhood where a 16 year old Lara is exploring the Black Isle of Ireland. In the final yarn – Lara infiltrates Von Croy Industries HQ in New York to gain possession of the Iris, the artefact that began the events of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.

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The game wraps up with an expedition in Egypt where an excavation of the collapsed temple Lara (supposedly) died in from the last game reveals Lara’s iconic backpack and the game ends presuming that Lara has been found alive.

Was the game any good? Well here is what Andy Sandham, a designer for the game stated years after it was made…

Tomb Raider 5 was effectively a load of old shit. That was the most depressing one for us. We were effectively just doing that for a paycheck because no other team wanted to take it on. So we had to do it, basically. By that time it had taken its toll. Three years of hammering it, and we were burnt out. That shows in the product.”

The game wasn’t very good and it looked like the Lara Croft bubble was about to burst. There was just a lack of innovation (again) and the Tomb Raider series was becoming stale – very stale. Core Design had developed every game in the franchise so far. The franchise was in need of some new ideas, but Core Design had one more game up its sleeve.

tomb-raider-taod

The sixth and final game from original Tomb Raider developer Core Design was released in 2003. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness has Lara alive and now in Paris as she is dragged into an investigation of a serial killer known as ‘The Monstrum’. All of which tie into the discovery of some Obscura Paintings linked to black magic. Light RPG elements were added to the game as well as some instances where you could chose replies in conversations such as polite questions, bribery or even threats.

The game was delayed, twice and when finally released it met with average to poor reviews. Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness was the worst selling game of the franchise so far, it was full of bugs and plans for a sequel called; The Lost Dominion were quickly scrapped.

Out With The Old And In With The New… Trilogy

The large criticism that Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness received prompted the Tomb Raider franchise publishers, Eidos Interactive, to replace developer Core Design with Crystal Dynamics. So what did they have planned to breath new life into the dying franchise?

tomb-raider-legend

Tomb Raider: Legend was released in 2006 from developers, Crystal Dynamics. This one was a reboot to the series and disregarded all previous continuity. Lara searches for the mysterious Stone Dais that was responsible for the disappearance of her mother several years ago. Lara was back and Tomb Raider: Legend managed to revive the ‘dead on its legs’ franchise. The new game engine was sublime and allowed Lara to be much more athletic and dynamic. The core gameplay remained largely the same and yet it all felt very fresh at the same time too.

Crystal Dynamics successful reboot meant the future of Lara looked good. But who knew her future lay in her past?

tomb-raider-anni

Tomb Raider: Anniversary hit the shops in 2007. It had been 11 years since the release of the original Tomb Raider so what better way to celebrate than a remake of the very first game? Yes, Crystal Dynamics remade the original game… but did it work?

Well yes it did. It wasn’t just a graphical upgrade. This game used the much improved game engine from Tomb Raider: Legend and all that brought with it. The plot is the same as the original Tomb Raider with Lara travelling around the globe searching out parts of the Scion artefact. All the original’s game locales have been beautifully recreated and yes, that damn T-Rex is back too, only now looking a lot better…

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The third and final game in this trilogy was Tomb Raider: Underworld released in 2008. This one is a direct sequel to the first game in this trilogy, Tomb Raider: Legend. With the second game, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, being a prequel… confused yet? This time around – Lara is tasked with finding the Entrance to Avalon, where she discovers a link between the Saxon Legend and Norse Mythology. As Lara seeks out the Hammer of Thor.

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When it was released, Tomb Raider: Underworld was met with positive reviews and critical praise. Lara was on top once more and the franchise was back on track. The Tomb Raider name then lay dormant in terms of main games in the series for 5 years before yet another reboot was released…

The New, New, New Trilogy

It was all quiet on the Tomb Raider front for half a decade until an all new Lara was reborn in an all new game.

tomb-raider-2013

Tomb Raider was the second reboot the franchise and released in 2013. Lara is back but much more gritty and ‘realistic’ than before. Lara is on an expedition that goes very wrong and leaves the young and inexperienced Lara Croft stranded on an island. An island full of savage animals and bizarre cultists as Lara uncovers the mystery of the Shaman Queen, Himiko.

As previously mentioned, this one is much more grounded and Lara feels like a genuine character with real emotions and a personality. The violence is far more bloody, graphic and visceral then before. In fact, this is the first game in the franchise to be given an M rating in America.

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Tomb Raider was critically acclaimed and met with very positive reviews. Which all meant a sequel would be coming soon and in 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider was released.

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This one was pretty much more of the same as before, but with several refinements… which was not a bad thing at all as the previous game was great. This time around, Lara continues her late father’s research into myths of immortality. As her travels take her to the Siberian tundra where she crosses paths with a ruthless shadow organisation called Trinity.

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Once again, this title met with high critical praise. This sequel just built on what was already great about the the first Tomb Raider game… the second reboot first game from 2013 and not the original first Tomb Raider from 1996… confused again yet? The combat had been improved as well as the upgrade/crafting system. Even the acting and story was much better this time around too. Everything just felt much more fluid and natural which led to a more organic gameplay experience.

20-years

And that just about wraps up Tomb Raider’s 20 year legacy in games. Yeah there were a few spin offs and other titles I didn’t mention, but as I said at the start, I just wanted to concentrate on the main games in the franchise. But wait a second, didn’t I imply this was a new trilogy but only mentioned 2 games? Yes I believe I did. Well back in August of 2015, Square Enix of America CEO, Phil Rogers let slip that this new Tomb Raider reboot would be a trilogy. Then more recently, an image popped up claiming to reveal the title of the new game as being Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Its all rumour and speculation right now. But I don’t think a third game in this reboot would be a big surprise to anyone would it?

Well there you go – 20 years of Tomb Raider and I now feel old. I can’t believe it was two decades ago when I was first introduced to Lara Croft and her tomb raiding adventures. But just to finish, I’s like to take a quick look at the star of the show itself…

Lara Croft

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Well, Lara certainly has changed over the years and I don’t just mean graphically. Her breasts have gotten less pointy and smaller as she has grown from a sexual gaming icon of the mid 90s that late teen early 20 somethings like myself drooled over, to a genuine and honest character with a real personality and emotions in more recent years. But did you know she was never originally intended to be female at all?

When Core Design first came up with the idea to create a game with an Indiana Jones inspired archaeologist that travelled the globe in search for artefacts. Lead graphic artist, Toby Gard originally pitched the idea for a male character complete with a fedora hat, bullwhip and everything. The original character design was Indiana Jones in all but the name. It was Core Design co-founder, Jeremy Smith who asked for more originality and that was when Toby Gard changed the character to female and created the Latino sociopath named Laura Cruz. Yes, the first idea for the now iconic Lara Croft was going to be muscle bound cold blooded killer called Laura Cruz.

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It didn’t take too long before that idea was dropped in favour of a more erudite character we have now, but where did they get the name from? Well, a phone book. Seriously, they wanted something that sounded like Laura Cruz but more ‘English’. It was publisher Eidos who pushed for the English angle and it was someone there who picked up a phone book for Derby, England and found the name Lara Croft. So technically, Lara Croft is named after a real person and there is/was someone living in Derby with a now very famous moniker.

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The original Lara from Tomb Raider 1996 only consisted of around 540 polygons and the Lara from Tomb Raider 2013? Over 40,000. It was due to the tight polygon count for the original game the lead to Lara not having a ponytail in-game, though she did in the cut-scenes and promotional marital. It has also been said that Lara’s unnatural pointy and large breasts came about because lead graphic artist, Toby Gard was just ‘messing around with Lara’s model one day and accidentally made her breasts 150% larger’. He intended to reset it back to how it was, but others on the team saw the model and decided to keep it as it was.

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Not only has Lara changed in-game, she has been played by numerous actresses over the years too. Starting with Shelly Bond in the original Tomb Raider from 1996, Lara has been portrayed in the games by Judith Gibbins (1997-2000), Jonell Elliott (2001-2006), Keeley Hawes (2007-2012) and finally, Camilla Luddington (2013 – present). As well as being played by a number of models outside of the games and of course Angelina Jolie in two live action movies.

I think it best to end this article now as its dragging on a bit. But I’d like to finish up by just wishing Lara and Tomb Raider a happy 20th anniversary… and end with a sexy shot of Lara just to remind me of when I was 20…

lara-sexy

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Game Of The Year 2015

Its been a strange year for games this year, many of the big hitters have actually left me disappointed if I’m honest. But there have been a couple of games I was not expecting much from that have really impressed me.

GotY

So what is my game of 2015?
Well before I get to that, I want to recognise the elephant in the room…well two of them actually.
Two big games this year that I liked, but still left me feeling disappointed overall.
Just as a side note, possible spoilers ahead. Though I’ll try to avoid as much as I can.

Batman

Batman: Arkham Knight: I loved…sorry LOVE Batman: Arkham Asylum and I will stand by my opinion of it being the best of the franchise so far. I have felt the series has declined as it has progressed though, but that didn’t make them bad games, just not a great as the original was.
Still, I held out hope that Rocksteady would deliver an opus especially seeing as this was to be their final Arkham game in the franchise.

After completing the game, I just felt “empty” and to be honest found while playing the game it was mostly a chore rather then a pleasure.
Those Batmobile Vs tank battles dragged on and on. It was interesting the first time, not so much the second time, the third time they were tiresome and by the time you get to the final part of the game with 70 tanks to take down…it was just tedious and dull.
The big reveal of the Arkham Knight’s true identity was so obvious and telegraphed I fail to see how it was meant to be a surprise. I’m not the world’s biggest Batman fan, I know the basics. But even I called the reveal of the Arkham Knight after not too long.
I was really looking forward to Scarecrow being the main villain, but he is not due to the overbearing, overuse of a certain other villain…The Joker. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Joker as much as the next man. but he has been the focal villain in all the games so far and I so desperately yearned for a change. The whole Joker’s blood being in Batman was a nice idea and a great way to bring Joker back I admit. But it was just over done and too “in your face”. Climb a building and JOKER!. Crawl trough a vent and JOKER! Open a door and JOKER! He was just everywhere and I feel that concept of Joker being part of Batman would have been so much better if it was more subtle and used more on a subconscious level, tricking and misleading not only Batman but also the player.
The overall plot was so hackneyed and trite I quite honestly lost interest about halfway through.

The gameplay itself just didn’t feel as if it had evolved. Rocksteady claimed the game HAD to be next gen as the game was too ambitious for the previous gen…I saw none of that. Graphically far more impressive yes, but gameplay wise it had not evolved at all.

Bad game? Not at all. great game? Not even close.
Batman: Arkham Knight was just an average game at best.

Onto my second elephant in the room and this is a BIG one.

MSG V

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Just forgetting about the whole Konami Vs Kojima controversy for a while. This game got old fast. Now I think the shift to an open world styled map was a great one, just a shame the development team didn’t bother to make these open world maps interesting or engaging.

I constantly found myself repeating the same handful of missions over and over in the same locales over and over. This game offered very little in variation. The open world maps were mostly empty and barren as well as being such a pain to navigate.
The plot was paper thin and the voice acting was flat. It has none of the humour that made the MGS games stand out and none of the inventive or creative boss battles that were a staple of the MGS franchise.

I wish I had more to say about this game, but it really has very little worth talking about. There had been a lot of rumours about Konami cutting a fair bit of content from the game. For that, I am grateful as I don’t think I could stand any more of the banal, redundant and repetitive gameplay.
It is probably best that Kojima has no more ties to Konami and hopefully in the future we will see a truly great MGS game once more.

It was okay, but just lacking so much depth and variety. I can only assume the high praise this game got was due to drug educed reviewing…or being paid off.

So those were my two big disappointments of 2015. They were okay, but nothing great.
Lets move onto the games I really enjoyed before I get to my Game Of The Year.

Tomb

Rise Of The Tomb Raider: After the more gritty and adult reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise in 2013 I was really looking forward to this one. Lara is back doing what she does best, jumping around in tombs and shooting endangered animals in the face.

This game has everything the previous game had, but brings with it a few new additions and also builds on what made the last game so enjoyable. With more weapon variety and even more upgrades and an improved stealth mechanic to help you deal with enemies quietly, coupled with new skills for Lara to learn. The game gives the player a lot to work with while you explore the semi-open world map, trying to find relics, treasures and even learn new languages along the way.
The crafting and upgrade system has also been improved as well as the addition an interesting weather system and time of the day which affects the type of animals you will encounter.

This really is more of the same, only with plenty of spit and polish to help improve the whole experience a hell of a lot.

Witcher

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: This almost made my GotY…almost. A beautifully detailed open world to explore melded with the impressive combat and variety from the previous game. This game is amazing and well deserving of the high praise it receives.

With you playing as Geralt of Rivia the monster hunter trying to track down the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg. Along the way you get to explore and interact with this impressive game world the developers have crafted. With so much to see and do from finding abandoned villages, caves and even haunted forests. Then having the pleasure of drawing your sword and using your magic to take down the many, many monsters you’ll encounter along the way. With some monsters only appearing in specific locations or even only at certain times of day.

Each village you find even has its own economic and social conditions and depending on which village you are in and their personal beliefs or social conditions, you will find this affects they way they welcome, talk to and even interact with Geralt.

A wonderful action/RPG with so much to see and do, you’ll never get it all in one play through.

MM

Mad Max: This is one of the games that I really didn’t expect too much of this year. Yet I have put in well over 40 hours into the game and still not bored of it. Its another open world style game all set in the world of Mad Max.

With you playing as Max, the game is not directly based on any of the films but it is inspired by the film series as a whole. It feels a lot like Mad Max 2, but has the aesthetic and style of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The hand to hand combat is similar to the Batman: Arkham series, however it feels much more brutal like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. But the game also features a really impressive car combat mechanic with you being able to use your car as a battering ram or even sit in the driver seat blasting away with your shotgun. You can even target individual parts of vehicles to weaken armour or take out the driver. Your car is fully upgradeable from improving the engine, armour, tires to even attaching weapons like a sniper rifle, flame-throwers and even a harpoon you can use to remove parts from enemy cars or tear down structures and gates to open new areas to explore.

Max himself is also upgradeable. With you being able to change cosmetics like how Max looks to more important upgrades that will improve Max’s personal armour, hand to hand combat and even learn new skills.

The game offers a hell of a lot, despite the really simple plot (a staple of Mad Max) which is your car being stolen and dismantled and you have to build a new car…or Magnum Opus as the game calls it and try to get hold of a V8 engine.

One thing that really surprised me was how interesting the world map is, seeing as it is just a desolate wasteland. It still has a lot of variation with plenty of places to find and explore. The game as a whole really puts me in mind of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (a game that almost made this list too) only with much more to see and do.

Cracking game and one that is often overlooked with reviews being very mixed. Yet a game I have found to be amazing and rewarding.

So, what is my Game Of The Year then?
Well if you have read this blog for the last few months, or if you are a friend/family member. Then you’d know that Fallout 4 has been my big game this year, the one game that got me to finally go next gen and the only game I have ever pre-ordered.
So lets get this out of the way then…

F4

Fallout 4: Is not my GotY….shocker! I have to admit, it was a close call. A VERY close call indeed.
Fallout 4 is a wonderful game, no doubt about it. It is deep, engaging, funny (at times), emotional and offers a tonne of variety and gameplay. There is so much to see and do here its simply impossible to sum it all up in the short space I have allowed myself here.

Fallout 4 is a work of genius and a game you can put days and days into and still only just scratch the surface. Create your very own character with a very deep and intuitive character creation tool and go out into the post nuclear war Boston wastelands. Shape and create your character however you see fit. Be a pillar of the community and help out those less fortunate. Or break the law, steal, murder and become feared.
Learn from a plethora of skills and talents to help create and shape your persona.

With a huge open world map to explore, hundreds of individual locations to find and loot. Craft weapons, armour and even build settlements with plenty of more options to play around with. Want to build a farmland? You can by planting food and getting your settlers to look after the crops. You can build defences like turrets and guard platforms. You can even build entire structures and decorate/furnish them. Create stalls to bring in trade, build generators to provide your settlement with electricity. The list goes on and on…
Fallout 4 is one of the most in depth crafting games outside of Minecraft and the really amazing thing about all that is…its not even a main part of the game. You can play through the whole story not having to craft a single thing (after the opening tutorials). But that is the kind of game Fallout 4 is, so much of what you can do is simply not necessary. It is just there for you to play around with and enjoy if you want to and the more you do play around, the more you will find to play around with.

Fallout 4 was almost my Game Of The Year, but the reason it didn’t quite make it was simply because as great as it is…its not a major leap forward from the previous games. It just didn’t grab me as I hoped it would.
My actual Game Of the Year is my second surprising game this year (after Mad Max).

DL

Dying Light: A spiritual successor to the Dead Island franchise with it being made by the same team, only without the licence. Dying Light is the game Techland wanted to make with Dead Island, but were held back by budget restrictions and other problems.

With this game, Techland took everything that was restrictive and cumbersome about Dead Island and threw it all out. They then took everything that worked with Dead Island and turned it up to eleven.
Its (yet) another open world game with you playing as Kyle Crane. Crane works for The Global Relief Effort (GRE) and is dropped into the fictional city of Harran, where a mysterious viral outbreak has turned most of the population into flesh hungry zombies. Crane is tasked to getting hold of a sensitive file stolen from the GRE by somebody called Kadir Suleiman, which he is using as leverage to blackmail the GRE.

This is an all action first person game with some really interesting and well implemented game mechanics. Crane is an expert at parkour and can run, jump, slide and climb pretty much any and everything in the game. This give you a real sense of freedom as you climb buildings and other structures. There is also a levelling and upgrade system that is split between three main skills. Strength helps you with your attacks and basic hand to hand combat/melee attacks. Stamina is where you can improve your parkour skills and basic cardio. Then there is survival which is where you learn any and everything that can help you survive the day to day life in Harran.
The game is very melee weapon based, but there are also plenty of guns to find and use too.

The most terrifying part of the game is when the sun goes down and night time comes.
During the day, you can go out quite safely and scavenge for supplies and items, as the zombies are mostly slow and predictable. But when the sun goes down, things get a little more intense as the infected zombies turn much more aggressive and faster, plus the night also brings out a new type of zombie that will actively hunt you down.

You can even craft and create weapons by adding elemental mods such as lightning, fire, etc as well as improving their durability, attack and other stats. Plus the game has an amazing four player co-op mode which is immense fun with a few friends.

I first played this game when my brother let me borrow his copy. I completed that and went out and brought my own copy and the season pass for the game too. The DLC was very, very weak…but coming in February 2016 is Dying Light: The Following. A HUGE expansion to the main game that is said to be just as big as the vanilla version of Dying Light. The DLC brings plenty of new additions aside from a whole new map there is a drivable buggy that can be upgraded, a load of new weapons, all new enemies…and it’s completely free for season pass holders.
I can’t wait for this slice of Dying Light goodness.

As I said, it was a close decision between Fallout 4 and Dying Light. But I feel Dying Light was a massive improvement and several huge steps forward over Dead Island while Fallout 4 was pretty much the same as Fallout 3 (not a bad thing at all) with a few minor tweaks. Plus with Dying Light, I really was not expecting too much and was pleasantly surprised when I did finally play it.

So there you go, my Game Of The Year 2015 all wrapped up.
Please check out my Film Of The Year 2015 too if you haven’t already.

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