Sunday, 14 December 2014

Raucous Reviews: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

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The news that Playstation fans would have to wait a bit longer for Rise of the Tomb Raider to arrive in their hands outraged many: Lara Croft had always been Playstation's darling, an unofficial mascot along with the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Ratchet. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, the sequel to 2010's well-received Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, is in no way a substitute for the next gritty Lara Croft game, but still manages to please and entertain in a way that doesn't rely on nostalgia.

Let's start with the story: Lara (Played by Keeley Hawes doing her best stereotypical British accent) and Carter Bell (A rival explorer with no personality) travel to Egypt and find gods Horus and Isis, who explain that their father, Osiris, was killed by his brother, Set, and his body parts were spread across the land. As you'd expect, the group have to explore tombs and collect them, so just like Guardian of Light, there isn't a compelling story.

Then again, there needn't be. Crystal Dynamics has added so many new features, mechanics and challenges that any player will shift their focus from the story to, say, collecting Red Skulls or completing challenges.

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The most obvious change is that the dynamic and cosmetic customization systems have been bolstered. There are now plenty of weapons rather than Guardian of Light's 4, and they all feel balanced, weighty and powerful, from Lara's classic double pistols to bolt-action rifles and carbines. It makes the game feel more open and personal, just like the ability to equip two rings and an amulet. These items are plentiful in the game, all with their own advantages and disadvantages, and just like the new weapons, it makes the game feel so much more compelling and addictive.

One new addition that doesn't work out, however, is the new staff. This replaces Totec's spear from the Guardian of Light, and it feels a lot more fixed and rigid than the spear ever was. The staff only has fixed uses at fixed points, which is strange considering how open the game is. Still, the mirror puzzles that the staff utilizes are challenging and fun, along with the returning Challenge Tombs and new puzzles involving time bombs.

However, the rewards for completing a level could have been improved. It seems like more gems are found on the journey rather than the destination, because once the level is completed, all you're rewarded with is an arm or a leg, then you're sent off to find the next part of Osiris. The majority of your loot will come from chests, which require a certain number of gems to open, encouraging you to smash every pot you see for any hidden gems.

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The levels are mostly a blend of shooting at the undead enemies that Set throws at you, then solving puzzles, although in many instances it can be both. The new addition of four player co-op both hinders and betters the sequences. Puzzle solving with your friends is fun and feels like more of an accomplishment, but the way the game adapts to the amount of players in combat combined with the fixed camera and isometric view can be confusing, especially when you're being chased by a huge crocodile-like monster.

The graphics are nothing special apart from some weather effects, and the whole overworld sometimes feels a little too much like Guardian of Light. The framerate is steady and solid, however, which is important for a game that requires a lot of twitch-shooting and jumping.

The Temple of Osiris does enough to distance itself from Guardian of Light, with rings, amulets, more weapons and 4 player co-op, and does so in a sentimental yet modern manner. In that process, however, unwanted changes have been made, but at the end of the day, Croft fans will find this little adventure fun, and will look back on the times when Lara was Playstation's gal.

A huge thanks to Premier PR and Square Enix for sending us a PS4 review code.

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