Let me preface this article by saying this: I have not liked or enjoyed a Tomb Raider/Lara Croft game since Tomb Raider 2 for the PS1. For the most part, all of the Tomb Raider games after the second were sub par, and seemed to be rushed out just because Eidos knew that they would sell, mostly on Sex Appeal and just the Tomb Raider name. Hell, pop a big busty Lara Croft on the front of anything (Angelina Jolie or not), and you’re guaranteed to get at least a few hundred thousand sales without issue. This carried over to the movies as well, which largely left much to be desired, with a few action scenes really being the only thing that carried the silver screen interpretations anywhere. With that being said though, Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light leaves a slightly different, and fresh, taste in my mouth.
It’s safe to say that I didn’t have high expectations for this game. In fact, I was more excited for being able to write my first review than I was for actually firing up this game in Steam. As stated earlier, I really have not had a good experience with any Lara Croft games in 10+ years, and I’ve played almost all of them except the newest two or three incarnations. But part of me really wanted to give this new game, which comes backed by a new development studio (Crystal Dynamics), and new publisher (one of my favorites, Square Enix). Boy, am I glad I did. Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light has renewed my faith in this again franchise.
If you’ve ever played a Tomb Raider game at all, you know that the major draw — beyond the mascot — is the fact that you need to solve puzzles in order to progress through the storyline. Crystal Dynamics did an amazing job of keeping this aspect of the game intact. And it’s really the only gameplay mechanic that they kept. The control scheme has been completely reworked, and for the better. You use the W, A, S, and D keys to move, so any current PC gamers will feel right at home. Mouse controls are also what you would expect, with the game being a shooter as well. The most welcome change, though, is the progression as a whole. Instead of taking on Lara Croft in a third person behind-the-back view, the camera is now in more of an isometric down-from-the-top angle. The game is better off for it.
Now, while the voice acting may be related to b-movie acting at best, the storyline in Guardian is also a major selling point. Here is how Crystal Dynamics describes the story, which I feel is dead on:
The game begins with Lara discovering the lost Temple of Light, a resting place for an ancient artifact called the Mirror of Smoke. When she finally reaches the mirror, she is ambushed by an army led by a devious mercenary named Vasco. Vasco steals the mirror and releases Xolotl, an evil entity imprisoned in the mirror. Xolotl proceeds to kill Vasco and escapes with the Mirror of Smoke. Totec, The Guardian of Light, is awakened by the incident and confronts Lara, explaining the evil that has just been unleashed. With this, Totec and Lara must join forces to track down Xolotl, defeat him and retrieve the mirror before the world is plunged into a never-ending age of darkness.
It may sound kind of cheesy, but I felt immediately pulled into the world around me, and before I knew it almost four hours had passed since I had started playing. The game is very immersive, and there are plenty of moments that will have you almost jumping out of your seat. The music and ambient sounds are timed very well, and really help add to the immersion factor.
Games that are available only through DLC are becoming more and more of the norm, as digital distribution spreads throughout the industry. Because of this there are quite a few crappy games out there that are only put out to make a quick buck. Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light is not one of those games. It is a well put together, high quality, and action packed game that is just down right fun. I definitely put it on my list of must have DLC games, right along with Castle Crashers, Trine, and Braid. Crystal Dynamics deserves a huge pat on the back for breathing new life into an otherwise dead franchise. Guardian of the Light is a must buy if you’re looking for a new casual game to play, especially one that makes you think instead of mindlessly shooting your way through levels.
While the game is not without its minor faults — see earlier note on voice acting — they are easily overlooked when you get into the gameplay and overall story arc. Anyone with an XBox, PS3, or PC should give Lara another chance to right the wrongs of the past, you won’t be disappointed.
Overall, I give Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light 4.5 out of 5.