Addictive coop gameplay, great graphics, challenging yet fun puzzles, good balance of action and adventure
Bad voice acting, cheesy dialogues, no online co-op mode
Expert Rating :
If you noticed the title, it's conspicuous by the absence of the Tomb Raider branding. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light turns the Tomb Raider franchise on its head; changing gameplay, graphics and more of what you've come to expect from a Tomb Raider game. However, this is more of a spinoff than a reboot, because the original Tomb Raider games will follow their own course. Since this is a second major shake-up of the popular franchise, a history lesson is in order before we move onto the review.
The Legacy of Tomb Raider
I would call the mid nineties as the cusp of the gaming era. It ushered pivotal changes to the gaming industry - some for the better and some for the worse. Games went from sprite based 2.5D goodness of the Build engine, to full-fledged polygon crunching ability of the Gouraud shaded, lightmapped awe of the Quake engine. It went from a cottage industry involving a couple of geeks coding games from their basement, to comprehensive production houses churning out games, a la Hollywood.
The end of the '90s saw the commoditization of games, and hence the death of its politically incorrect sense of humour. That's why you will never get the same irreverent goodness, which was the hallmark of Build engine based classics like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Shadow Warrior, and Redneck Rampage. That wasn't the only thing that died by the end of the millennium. The advent of 3D put more emphasis on eye-candy than on gameplay, which led to the demise of some of the better gaming genres like Point and Click (PnC) adventures.
The game forces you to combine wits and resources in coop play
However, some institutions survived the corporatisation of gaming and the onslaught of the 3D revolution. Some evolved with the times and tamed the monsters of marketing and big budget 3D development to their advantage. The Tomb Raider series was one of them, and I need not reacquaint you with the might of the franchise. Spilling over to the movie industry, this is one gaming franchise that has leveraged the concept of marketing to the fullest.
The original Tomb Raider was unprecedented in the way it introduced compelling level design and meticulously crafted puzzles to a generation of gamers, who had just warmed up to the three-dimensional complexities of Levelord's Build offerings. For those ruing the death of PnC adventure games, Tomb Raider brought the same puzzle complexity to the 3D era, blending the old world charm of devious brain busters with the sophistication of a new fangled third person perspective. All Tomb Raider titles have essentially always been puzzle games interwoven with intricate level design. They avoided the trifles of combat for a more cerebral experience.
Coordination is a basic survival prerequisite in the coop mode
There was, however, one chink in Tomb Raider's armour. A pioneer of the third person perspective gaming on the PC, it was built ground up for the MS-DOS platform and was one of the first games to support hardware 3D acceleration. It was quite a feat, considering the limited capabilities of the hardware prevalent at the time. However, this wasn't without compromise. Tomb Raider's Grid system divided the 3D world into an array of vertices, and restricted player movement to those points. Tying the player down to those points of reference effectively addressed the clipping and collision detection complexities entailed by a complex 3D world, which wasn't solely restricted to the horizontal plane, like the FPS games of that time.