Tomb Raider at Gamescom

I’m at Gamescom, and apparently the wait for SimCity is two hours. I’m going to use them to write down my thoughts on the Tomb Raider presentation I’ve seen here.

The thing is divided in two parts: First a 45-Minutes presentation, where a Crystal Dynamics employee plays the game for us, and then a section where we can okay the game ourselves. The part we could play was a subset of the things shown in the presentation.

I’ve already said it on Twitter: It’s a nice movie, but the playable parts in between seem a bit pointless. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but the cutscene density in the first part is beyond good and evil. The happen every few hundred meters. Whenever someone radios something in, or something interesting is visible, or Lara defeated a deer, every time there is a cutscene so we know what’s going on. This is less pronounced in a later part of the game that was also shown, but still, the game takes great pain to ensure that anything interesting happens exactly one way and is shown properly.

The most important thing should be the gameplay, but I have nothing to say here, because the demo was very uninteresting. It seems to play exactly like Underworld for the most part, including the clearly marked climb-here points. The bow is easier to use than one might be used to from e.g. Skyrim, which can be confusing - there we quite a few shots that I instinctively didn’t take, even tough they would have probably hit here.

One part I really liked was in the wreck of an American bomber. Lara has barely made it inside, and now it’s about to fall down a cliff. What to do? Lara takes a parachute and jumps out, then glides a bit over the landscape. It’s cool, silly and entirely logical. This is similar to the last action you do in Portal 2, which has the same properties. But in Portal 2, you do it yourself, while in Tomb Rider, Lara makes the decision. That’s disappointing.

There are only bits and pieces of the story, glimpses into a thing whose interesting parts weren’t shown yet. Lara doesn’t like adventures, but then one happens to her, and it changes. This is a clear case where we have to wait for the full game, though.

Speaking about Lara: She sure is noisy. Whenever something new is on screen, she provides a running commentary, so that the voices in her head (I.e. me) know exactly what is going on. And if not that, then it’s sighs and “uffs” and vague expressions of pain. The game does not allow our own character interpretation: All of Lara’s thoughts are clearly announced by her. I’m not too fond of that, but a great story might justify it. Again: Wait and see.

But what really annoys me is how incompetent and whiny Lara is. Sure, she isn’t the hero yet, but a bit more courage and confidence wouldn’t hurt. As it is, I guess it’s supposed to be sympathetic, but she sure puts the pathetic in there. It does not help that she frequently uses the cutscenes to hurt herself by doing something stupid that a player would have prevented. Yes, it is an origin story and reboot, but neither Batman, James Bond nor Captain Kirk where cowards before they became heroes.

In conclusion: I’ve bought all Tomb Raider games and this has given me no reason to break with the tradition. But I’m not too excited about it.

Written on August 17th, 2012 at 04:19 pm

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