I’ve never played a full Tomb Raider game before so with this I got to finally say that I’ve entered the series. That said, I can’t say that I was a big fan of it. The dungeon experience wasn’t the best and the way the auto save points worked would actually harm you at times. I think this game could have used a bit more polish which would have helped a great deal. Ultimately it’s not a bad game but it’s not really a good one either.
The story starts with Lara being tasked with finding an ancient Atlantean relic. Little does she realize that this will put her right in the mix of an ancient feud among 3 gods. One of them wants total global annihilation and there’s a whole group of mercenaries after Lara. She will have to outwit all of them if she wants to stay alive here, but that shouldn’t be a big problem for a professional like Lara. She is ready to do whatever it takes in order to win here.
First off I have to say that the story is excellent. It’s considerably better than what I was expecting going in. Battles with gods? Count me in! The story is very engaging whenever the cutscenes show up and it started off on the right foot too with a big T Rex showing up early on. That really set the stage for how this game was not going to be afraid to go supernatural. Things just kept on escalating.
We even got a serious plot point with Lara having to decide if she was willing to take a life in the process of saving the world. The villains were really solid and there were also a lot of quick time events for all of the bosses. Now this was a nice touch and really made the whole game feel a bit more cinematic. I’d give that a full thumbs up all the way, that was really impressive.
Unfortunately a video game cannot survive on the story alone. That may be easier for a movie or a show where it can survive poor effects and graphics if the story is good. Gameplay is the top factor in any video game so if that isn’t good then the rest of the areas will have a very hard time keeping it afloat. That’s exactly what happened here. A lot of areas in the game are good but the gameplay isn’t and that’s the whole point of the title.
On the surface level this is just another classic 3D platformer. You run and jump through the levels as you use your gadgets to get to the end. Each dungeon has a ton of puzzles to solve so you have to get past them in order to get to the end of the game. Once you’ve pulled that off then the sky is the limit. The level endings are really smooth with the transitions so you’ll just be walking when suddenly the level is over. It’s a fairly long game as well so don’t expect to coast through this one. The puzzles are much too difficult for that.
You may jump in the wrong direction once or twice but for the most part there isn’t anything wrong with those mechanics. Lets talk about the first issue which is the auto save feature. It’s as it sounds, when you move somewhere the game will auto save so that you respawn there. Sounds simple enough right? Here’s the catch, lets say you’re going through one of those long platforming sections and you fall? You better hope you die because if Lara clings to the wall and you land safely then it’s going to auto save you from down there since there are almost always checkpoints by the entrances. Now you have to do the whole platforming angle again but if you die for real then you respawn back on the ground.
This made one level take super long because I had to keep running over to where the complicated jumps were and the time added up real quick. This seems like a quick quality of life feature that just didn’t go the way the devs intended. I love auto save but maybe it just shouldn’t work backwards or you should be able to warp to other quick save locations. Those are just two quick ideas I would have on that subject.
Speaking of jumps, some of them can be a bit iffy. There’s a certain jump where you have to swing around on a cable and then do a reverse jump. This is really difficult because the camera angle has to match exactly or Lara won’t jump the way you want her to. This should have been cleaned up since jumping should be based on direction and not the camera work. That just makes a lot more sense.
Finally, a lot of the puzzles are difficult but in an annoying way as opposed to being endearing. So as a result you just feel like the game is grating on you. The combat sections are a lot of fun, I liked fighting off the bad guys and doing the quick time events but the exploration parts were no good. Sometimes you could be playing for an hour or more and nothing would happen because you’d be on the same puzzle for ages. Some of them barely even give you any direction. You just have to go in and hope for the best which is not what you want to see in any kind of puzzle adventure.
The graphics and soundtrack are good at least. Really, the game shines in every area that isn’t the gameplay. That’s an area where I’m sure the modern games have cleaned it up a whole lot. Now if you want to play the game for the story then that’s still not a bad idea because the story is really good. Just brace yourself for the actual gameplay because there will be several sections where it just isn’t fun. You’ll be plugging away at the levels but more automatically as the dungeons break your spirit.
Overall, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is still a nice milestone for me because it was one of the biggest video game series that I hadn’t started yet. Now I can say that I really know how it goes but I would say the Indiana Jones games are winning for now. Those are fairly similar in some ways but it’s a more simple game design so no big quick time events but the puzzles weren’t so bad. I can’t say I would recommend this one too wholeheartedly but you know what you’re getting into. So if you like puzzles then by all means you should jump in.
Glad you finally got to cross a classic off your gaming bucket list! I haven’t played Tomb Raider since the PS1 days, but I did pick this up for PC when I had a coupon to burn.
Definitely, it really took me long enough! Might have been the biggest franchise that I hadn’t started yet