Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light starts of in a way not unbecoming a Tomb Raider action flick. Lara is approached by a band of mercenaries to help recover an ancient treasure, called the mirror of smoke. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the mercenaries turn on Miss Croft just as they are about to take the prize from its pedestal. An expert tomb raider would know that there is always a last baddy to deal with, something mercenaries are not. As they grab the mirror, the Aztec god Xolotl turns up out of nowhere, hell-bent on killing everyone in sight and turning Lara into Princess Leia, to which Lara replies that he can stuff it.
Essentially Xolotl isnít a very nice god. Once upon a time man bested Xolotl and Totec, Guardian of Light, volunteered to stand watch over Xolotlís prison to ensure he would never break free. While the story is hardly anything groundbreaking, it does explain why the Aztecís went extinct. No one in their right minds would go through the trouble of trapping an evil god and then place his prison on top of a pedestal and have the only safeguard, a Guardian of Light, kick into action Ė after Ė he broke free. Granted, itís a fictional story so we will let the creators of the game get away with it, this time.
Getting to grips
The moment you gain control of Lara it becomes clear that this game is a port from the console version. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, but the controls do take some getting used to. Controlling the game with the WASD buttons feels a bit off and because of this, some of the challenges posed by the game can be somewhat difficult to overcome. Performing complex actions such as grappling, running and jumping whilst dropping a mine are doable but feel unnatural. An analog controller would work wonders here, but most PCís Ė mine included Ė donít come equipped with one.
As you progress through the game, strangely glowing crypt entrances holding special challenges and rewards will cross your path. Some of these crypts are as easy to access as walking into them while others require some puzzling and jumping to get inside. Once inside, the crypt challenges vary in difficulty and it is a definite must to familiarize yourself with all your tomb-raiding-tools-of-the-trade. Once you do, some challenges are pretty darn ingenious and solving them will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Better yet, the diversity in challenges will keep you entertained with fresh strategies and traps right up to the very last second of the single player campaign.
Hair-raising, action-packed sequences mean that the odds of dying yet another gruesome death are fairly high. Fortunately, the only penalty for dying is the loss of a chunk of your score points as you have unlimited lives to work with along with a large number of save points to fall back on. As such, scoring as many points as you can is ultimately the only real challenge in The Guardian of Light and you will be awarded for taking out rats, spiders, lizards and any other creatures. Stringing together multiple kills without taking any damage yourself activates a score modifier that will award you up to triple the amount of points per kill. As soon as you get hurt, the modifier resets itself to the base amount.
No multi, yet
Neither AI or human co-op has been implemented at this time but has been promised to become available at a later date. Playing alone often made me feel like I was missing out on a great deal, keeping me from seeing the real strength of the game. Totec shows up in cutscenes but does not take part in the gameplay at all, so just as you think he will join you, you realize that you will continue to fly solo. Sure, the game is called Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, making the game primarily about Lara, but being able to play with Totec would have added a whole new dimension.
Youíd be hard pressed to call Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light spectacular in the graphics department but everything looks nice enough and the game has a good vibe to it. The new isometric view does its mojo like it should and the game subtly pauses when a different perspective would come in handy, changing the focus to important objects. It is a great way to discover rings to grapple onto, doors getting unlocked or bad guys entering the scene. Itís quite cleverly done really.
The audio score is okay. I quite liked the voice for Lara but that of Xolotl felt really out of place. Maybe this was because I didnít even expect him to speak English at all. The music is rather fitting to the often action packed sequences. It is really amusing how the music comes to a stop whenever you die, even if it wonít prevent frustration kicking in after having died repeatedly. Both cutscenes and in-game comments from Lara and Xolotl are too scarce, making the story feel flimsy and at some point it didnít even make sense at all to see Totec in those cut-scenes while I plowed through the game by my lonesome.
As mentioned before, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an obvious port and will simply work better on a console. It confuses me to no end that game makers continue to make the same mistake over and over again, porting games to different platforms without making it fit with the destination. The Guardian of Light isnít a bad attempt though, working well enough despite feeling a bit unnatural at times. The game can be bought at reasonable rates, making the lack of co-op and multiplayer features easier to swallow. Personally I think the switch from adventure to arcade worked out well for Lara, but a more careful port would have contributed to a better score.
Conversion from third person to isometric worked out well. Very diverse challenges.
Seeing your savegame end up in a loop where respawning means instant death is not fun.