by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Looking behind the façade
Lara Croft. Show me a gamer who doesn’t know that name, and I’ll show you a liar. Even if you have never played the games, you’ll still have heard the name and probably also know what the games are about. The first love of many male gamers, Lara Croft, has gone through many transformations over the course of the Tomb Raider game series that began in 1996. However, in all of these titles, she’s been a competent, self-confident athlete pro-actively solving any problems that she faced, while looking digitally well-endowed and sexy in the process.
However, after nine games (in the main series), three latest ones of them made by Crystal Dynamics, the developers felt that it was time for something different. At E3 this year, Crystal Dynamics stole the attention of many of us with their presentation at the Microsoft platform and the gameplay trailers that they showed to the journalists. Our man on the scene, Ryan D. Lowe, was given a closed viewing of Tomb Raider and, in the following, we will share with you the best bits that we were able to garner from his incoherent ramblings.
Before she came to her own
The upcoming Tomb Raider game, simply called Tomb Raider, shows us something that we have never seen before. Even though some earlier games in the series have shown us various glimpses of Lara Croft’s past, we have never seen how she actually became the self-confident and strong hero that we know her as.
Tomb Raider shows us Lara Croft as she was when she was only 21 years old and setting out to her first adventure to find the lost fleet of Kubla Khan. We’re shown an innocent young woman whose fate is suddenly changed by a violent storm and the destruction of the ship that she was travelling on. After almost being killed several times, she washes up on the coast of a mysterious island.
The first bits of gameplay show us Lara in even more dire situations, chased and captured by mysterious people, hanging upside down far above ground in a cave, escaping collapsing tunnels... Enough dangerous and deadly situations to either make or break a soul. And Lara Croft doesn’t go through all of this with a perfect hair-do: she gets dirty, she’s wounded and she’s very obviously scared... Everything that we are shown tells us that Crystal Dynamics is really attempting to deliver us an emotional story of how Lara Croft became what she is in all of the previous games.
What is adventure without exploration?
Crystal Dynamics told us that everything that we saw in the distance during the gameplay was also explorable. However, they were careful to point out that it is not a completely open world to explore, but that there are large pockets of areas, or “hub areas”, around the island that can be explored. These areas are non-linear and you have to go back through some of these sections, for example after you have collected a new item (like an ice pick to allow you to climb) that allows you to access new areas that you had to leave unexplored earlier. Or, Lara may have to build up her athletic skills before she is able to jump over a challenging chasm.
There will also be a fast travel system to allow player to move more quickly from one known area to another. This will make travelling back and forth on the island more tolerable to those with short attention spans.
Each of the above-mentioned areas will have their own base camp where you can upgrade Lara’s skills, equipment and weapons. This is done through the spending of some sort of collectible/accumulating points that are yet to be designed. Lara will also find other people on the island, as well as items that will reveal her more and more about the mystery behind the derelict ships that have landed on the island and the people who inhabit it.