elcome back to another exciting segment where we take a glimpse into some of the most exciting and iconic games that have made a mark in history, and some of the hidden gems of the retro era.
One of the most popular and influential action adventures, Tomb Raider was released in 1996 for the PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and PC to much critical and commercial success. Its success spawned countless sequels, merchandise, and even 2 action movies, but at the end of the day just how good is the original and how well does it stand up.
In Tomb Raider, you play as Lara Croft - relic hunter extortionary and bad ass action lady. In the intro, we see Lara receiving an offer she can’t refuse as the highly influential Jacqueline Natla kindly asks Lara to retrieve the Scion an ancient mystical artefact. It soon turns out that Natla desperately wants the full artefact for herself alone, as her goons start hunting Lara down not long into the adventure. The story is fairly thin and primitive and one has to take into account that the game was released in 1996, back when walls of text and loose plots ruled the day. It's not bad by any means but there is so little of it, and the delivery is so awkward that it becomes clear that story was never a priority, thankfully gameplay is the focus here and in that regard, the game definately delivers.
Tomb raider can best be described as an action adventure where you will spend most of your time exploring the environment, collecting items, and defending yourself against various foes. In regards to exploration Lara can jump twice her height and three times her length and can also grab onto the ledge of any platform and climb up by pressing the action key menu jump or under an elevated position allowing Lara to fully navigate any environment. However, while platforming is realistically primitive, fall damage still applies making any miscalculation of distance potentially lethal.
Compounding this issue is the games input delay, it takes two seconds for Lara to register the jump key which makes for countless incidences where her retard costs her neck. The camera follows Lara quite well, typically though whenever he back is against the wall the camera tends to show Lara's side, this means that whenever faced with multiple and consecutive jumps you literally need to plan and press ahead of time, unless you want Lara to just die again and again.
Combat isn't that much better either, initially you only carry dual pistols which get the job done but all be it a bit slowly, they do have unlimited ammunition so they are a great back up just encase you run out of ammo for the other weapons. The other weapons are the shotgun, dual magnums, and dual uzi's, though the uzi's are only acquired in the last third of the game, the shotgun can take out early enemies in one hit and in later ones no more than three making it an excellent choice for quickly dispatching foes. The magnums are twice as effective as the regular pistols, though they require ammo pickups which are thankfully plentiful. The uzi's simply obliterate any enemies in your way, making it essential against late game enemies.
However, Lara has limited health and med packs can only be activated from the inventory menu, and as good as the weapons are most enemies hit hard and while Lara can jump and roll like no other, evasive manoeuvre gradually lose their effectiveness particularly against the Atlanteans. The best strategy is to reach an elevated platform and shoot from there as the clear majority of enemies can only attack Lara if she is near.
So far tomb raider sounds like a troubled game and whilst in some ways it is the games exceptional level design doesn't just redeem the game it turns it into a classic, sure the controls have a learning curve and the camera can be a bit fiddley but upon playing the game you realise that the levels were made with the games weaknesses in mind making every encounter and tricky platforming section feel just rightly tuned. Tomb raider large levels and strong enemies may seem daunting at first but once you overcome that dread, the levels feel inviting and the challenge feels just right. The large open ended levels and the subtle soundtrack creates a sense of place that few games achieve including some of its own sequels, and the secrets you find by scrutinising the environment make the experience more satisfying.
The game give you plenty of ammo and med kits by default, not to mention it allows you to save at any time but discovering the hidden areas rewards you with some additional pickups which are quite useful given trial and error.
Visually tomb raider is the clear example of early 3D, the environments while big aren’t particularly detailed and Lara is so blocky you can literally see the segments that she is made up of, not to mention that her tits are so sharp you can cut yourself badly with them. It brings up the question of why she doesn't use them for close combat since they could probably do some serious damage. The enemies aren’t much blockier either they are made up of dozens of polygons at best and the jaguars look retarded as they have been cursed with human teeth. Core designs valiant attempt at putting in as much detail as possible is admirable, but they are not always successful. Still together with quake tomb raider helped to popularise 3D cards and for one of the earliest attempts of 3D spaces it’s not bad at all, though it's age is showing.
Audio is also ok if a bit sparse, the music only gets going in critical moments, the sound effects are ok and the dialogues are rare but thankfully fully voice acted. The writing however feels like a rough draft that hasn't seen any enhancements and the audio quality and the horrible cut scenes in compression can make this story a bit hard to follow, though the end experience is still a good one. One thing to keep in mind no matter which version you have tomb raider requires extra work for full playability, first the original PC version was released without the complete soundtrack from the very beginning, but thankfully this has been fixed by dedicated fans with a complete guide on how to do it available on both Steam and GOG forms. The game is also far too bright by default but it is easily fixed by tweaking the gamma correction, despite the headaches it provides for full playability and clear old aged tomb raider is a must play for anyone interested in genuine adventuring.
Once you become accustomed to the delayed control and fiddly camera, the exceptional level design and stiff challenge will provide you with at least 15 hours of satisfying fun, don't let its antiqueted graphics discourage you.