Game Review: Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light
Release: August 18th (XBL) September 28th (Steam, PSN)
Genre: Isometric platform and shooter
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Available Platforms: 360, PS3 and PC (Sept 28th)
Players: 1-2 offline, 1-2 online (patched in to XBL version on September 28th)
MSRP: 1200 MSpoints, pricing for PS3/PC to be announced
ESRB Rating: T
It’s been a long while since Lara had a good outing. After a stagnation in the franchise, I think we can all agree, Lara needed a new take on the old genes of what made her so great. I can fondly remember Tomb Raider on the PS1, and certain sections of this title helped my nostalgia goggles fit properly. The Guardian of Light throws the 3D platforming out of the window in favour of an isometric point of view, and her body figure is slightly toned down. I can hear teenagers all over the world screaming in disgust at the thought of perhaps never seeing Lara’s bits in 3D. The good news is; we can only hope we never do, because The Guardian of Light nails Lara in every possible way. I just realised what ‘nail’ can mean aside from pinpoint success…
The game doesn’t exactly have a distinct Tomb Raider feel to it at all. Thank god. The repetition of enemies, puzzle elements and generally the worst controls known to man made the Tomb Raider franchise stagnate into hell. Along comes this little downloadable gem to soothe the soul and breathe life into the old girl. You operate the game from an isometric point of view. Don’t open Google up just yet, because I can try and articulate it. It’s a bit like a bird’s eye view, except the bird always flies a little slanted. It’s perfectly fine and the camera troubles of the 3D games have pretty much been thrown out of the window. There are a variety of gameplay elements to keep you on your toes, too.
In the story way of things, thing aren’t exactly as strong as they may have appeared in some 3D Lara games. I doubt anyone would check any Lara game out for the story or the mysticism; in fact most teenagers would be looking at other parts of her body during cut-scenes. The relationship between Totec and Lara is never intrusive and it’s generally a story that’s designed to not be seen, so I don’t really see the point of animating cutscenes. The characters even look away from the screen when they speak, because of the small development time they didn’t get to add lipsync. Not disappointing in the slightest because there’s a button for skipping cutscenes.
The 3D Tomb Raiders operated in a linear structure that made itself completely redundant around half-way through. This time, there are elements of an RPG, Geometry Wars (you rotate Lara’s aiming with the right stick, shoot with the right trigger) and even a whiff of an old classic called Smash TV. You can mix in four weapons at once, and these vary from rocket launcher to grenade launcher to a freakin’ spear. The spear can be thrown at walls and climbed. I’m pretty sure in co-op mode, only your partner (the titular Guardian of Light, whose real name is Totec) can wield the spear. Although, Lara can shoot a grapple and allow your friend to tightrope across it. Along with mixing and matching weapons, you can match up item boosters that are billed as relics and artefacts.
What’s great about The Guardian of Light is that it works. In fact, it works damn well. It’s the first time in years that I’ve played a Tomb Raider game and actually found myself enjoying it. Totec’s spear is all yours in single-player (could not play co-op at this time of the review, pretty sure it’s even more awesome) and it works brilliantly in many of the puzzles. There are barely any repeated enemy types and the environments are as varied as a double rainbow. Crystal Dynamics have finally knocked it out of the park, there is never really a moment in which you’re not having even the tiniest bit of fun. There is only one instance where a puzzle is repeated, but that’s okay because that level also involves a tyrannosaurus-Rex made out of lava.
The only problems that come to mind when thinking of this game is the general fact that it can get monotonous at times. It can get incredible frustrating when you know exactly what you’re doing but the Geometry Wars style aiming (which is usually more than fine) sometimes just gets very shaky. Some puzzle or platforming elements require precise aiming, and when that section of the puzzle is timed, then it can get very frustrating. I also have a major problem with the loading times. They’re not long, but whenever the loading screen flashes up it just kills the action. That’s partly due to the fact that Guardian of Light is so damn awesome when it’s damn good. Another complaint I may have is that it may outstay its welcome at my over seven hours of playtime (and counting).
Nath’s final say: This is more than well worth the 1200 MSpoints. I am on the penultimate mission, and it’s taken be around 7 hours to reach the stage. It’s a massive game, there are challenges and collectables everywhere. I think they’ve done it, they’ve finally made not just a good Tomb Raider game but a damn good one. Iron out the frustration and maybe get rid of the plot altogether. Which, by the way, isn’t exactly intrusive but it can get in the way of enjoyment. Don’t attempt what you can’t do. Online co-op will be patched in next month, and I can’t wait to team up and do it all over again.