Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Why doesn’t the new Tomb Raider game have ‘Tomb Raider’ in the title? It’s a reasonable question with a perfectly straightforward answer, but for those unfamiliar with the recently announced Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the choice of title displays a level of marketing nous akin to Activison labelling it’s next Call of Duty title ‘Soap Mctavish Investigates’.
Fortunately, brand recognition for raider of tombs and possessor of pneumatic assets, Lara Croft, is particularly strong thanks to a long – and mostly distinguished – line in games and movies. Besides, Guardian of Light isn’t strictly a Tomb Raider game anyway, at least not part of the same canon as the main series – the most recent of which was the underrated Tomb Raider: Underworld.
No, as far as Square Enix, Eidos and developer Crystal Dynamics is concerned this new download-only, isometric action-adventure is a completely separate affair, and built around a somewhat different philosophy to the games bearing the ‘Tomb Raider’ name, which will no doubt return in all their 3rd person glory at some point down the line.
So, Guardian of Light. There’s the usual back-story about some ancient terror, which involves mirrors, a smoke weapon and the temple of light – the upshot is that Lara is joined in her adventures by Totek, a tribal warrior that enables you and a chum to play the game co-operatively on and offline. According to Square the gameplay itself is designed to comprise equal parts combat, exploration and puzzling – although we recoiled in horror as a Squenix PR called the game a twin-stick shooter.
However, as we picked ourselves up off the floor to watch the game being demoed, we realised it was actually a fairly accurate description after all. The large environment features areas of frantic action which see Lara and Totek fight waves of enemies, including a swarm of giant spiders; guns blaze, and bullets fly, but both players can also drop grenades to cause more extensive damage – to enemies and each other – at least at this point in development.
There’ll be other weapons on offer too (we caught a quick glimpse of a flamethrower) but more interesting were the co-op puzzles, which will require you to work together to navigate particular terrain, and access certain areas. Totek is equipped with a shield that Lara can double jump off of, and he can also throw spears into walls for her to swing and jump on. Meanwhile, Lara has a grappling rope with which she can swing across ravines or catch Totek before he plummets to a certain death. We were only given a small look at the types of puzzles you might face co-operatively, but they generally seem to involve platforming and fatal drops. Square confirmed that if you tackle Guardian of Light on your own you won’t get an AI partner, instead the game will be slightly different with puzzles redesigned for Lara to solve by herself.
And there should be plenty. The developers are promising around 6-7 hours of gameplay – bringing up the map showed an expansive environment to explore, and you’ll be able to tackle it however you like. We’re sure there’ll be a fair amount of re-treading old ground, moving to and fro between points as you collect keys to unlock doors and the like, but we also saw a number of non-critical tombs (read: dungeons) full of enemies and collectables. It should also be noted that Crystal Dynamic’s engine – the same one that powered Tomb Raider: Underworld – looks fantastic, bringing dynamic lighting, realistic physics and a real sense of depth to the proceedings.
In fact Guardian of Light could well be a class apart from the casual time-killing titles we’ve come to see dominate the downloadable market, with a proper story, expansive design and glorious production values. Just don’t call it Tomb Raider, yeah?