Since its debut back in 1996, the Tomb Raider franchise has gone through several major phases. From the original series of releases on the PlayStation, to the recent 2013 reboot, Lara Croft has managed to evolve and remain a popular face in gaming, despite some truly awful titles.
One of the more radical shifts in the franchise’s formula came in 2010 with the release of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. With a heavy emphasis on co-operative gameplay, the game was both a critical and commercial success. Now, after four years of waiting, Crystal Dynamics has finally released an official sequel to Guardian of Light in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.
Unlike the recent reboot, Temple of Osiris focuses on when Lara Croft is in the prime of her tomb raiding life. During a confrontation with fellow treasure hunter Carter Bell, Croft and her male counterpart unwittingly awaken an ancient Egyptian evil. With the two marked for death, they must work together in order to defeat the god known as Set. However, they are not alone in their mission, as two other imprisoned gods, Horus and Isis, also seek to stop Set.
While I did enjoy the plot found in the most recent Tomb Raider title, the series’ main storyline has always been more of an enjoyable piece of fluff for me. That’s certainly the case here, as the battle between gods and humans is far from a deeply serious affair. That doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable, though, as I definitely dug the over-the-top nature of the story. It’s not often you find yourself battling a giant evil snake or collecting the body parts of another Egyptian god, after all.
Retaining the same basic gameplay from Guardian of Light, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is an isometric platformer. While the game may have little in common with the main outings in the franchise, it does feature a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving, like its brethren. Instead of being forced to handle these puzzles by herself, though, Croft must rely on her allies in order to solve these challenges, which is where the fun of co-operative action comes into play.
The main attraction this go-around is the excellent four player co-op action that Crystal Dynamics has introduced. While the main goal of the game is to work together in order to stop Set, there are also plenty of opportunities for players to compete against each other. Fighting your “allies” for treasure is both integral to success and a blast to do, mostly because I enjoy screwing my friends over at every possible opportunity. We’re only allies by force here, and if Lara has to screw some gods over in order to save herself, by golly she’s going to.
Speaking of Lara and her god friends, each of the two different groups of characters (humans and gods) features their own unique skills. Lara and Carter use pistols to dispatch foes, and can also use a grappling hook in order to scale walls or create a bridge for fellow players. Horus and Isis, on the other hand, can blast enemies with their magical staffs. The duo can also raise specifically marked platforms and coat themselves in a magic ball, which comes in handy for reaching certain sections. All four characters can also plant bombs, as well as use bonus weapons such as shotguns and machine guns.
One of the more interesting features of the co-op, though, is the fact that it allows players to seamlessly drop-in and drop-out. And while there are several multiplayer titles that also have the same feature, Crystal Dynamics also changes the levels depending on how many people are playing. Now, obviously the level won’t drastically change just because three people are playing instead of four, but it’s interesting to see how certain puzzles and sections vary between play-throughs. It’s a neat feature that I hope future co-op based titles learn to integrate.
For a game that does have a heavy emphasis on combat, I was a little annoyed by the aiming mechanics. Most isometric-based titles tend to feature a loose aiming system, and that’s generally the case here. However, there are certain enemies, specifically ones with a higher elevation than you, that can be extremely frustrating to target. When it comes to these foes, for some reason, Crystal Dynamics wants you to aim at a very specific location in order to hit them. Not only is this a small window, but when you are surrounded by a handful of enemies, it’s annoying to have to stop and focus on one specific baddie.
Luckily, the actual platforming and puzzle sections of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris are executed much better. I know that may sound rather silly of me to point out, but you would be surprised at how many other similar titles botch these sections. The isometric camera did little to hinder Ms. Croft and company as they jumped, climbed and rolled through the assortment of traps that Set had set for them. The puzzles are also challenging, but I rarely felt annoyed at the game for them. Rather, I felt annoyed at myself and my friends for not figuring out the solutions faster, which is something I can live with.
Despite the addition of four player co-op, I found myself experiencing a feeling of deja vu during my time with Temple of Osiris. A lot of the action and puzzles will feel instantly familiar to anyone who played Guardian of Light, which I suppose is to be expected. I do wish that some of same style of puzzles weren’t reused here, though. Puzzles such as having to wheel around a giant ball from one area to another weren’t particularly memorable the first go-around, let alone the fifth. The majority of the game remains a blast despite this issue, but its repetition is a little disappointing.
Considering the zoomed-out camera doesn’t really necessitate it, I was mostly impressed by the sequel’s colorful visuals. The neon lasers that blast from the staffs of Isis and Horus pop on the screen, as do the numerous explosions our heroes tend to trigger. Each environment also seems fully fleshed out, and they are all littered with small details that really give each of them some much-needed life. The character models could have used a little more detail, but I did enjoy the designs for the Egyptian characters, particularly Set.
As the old adage goes, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken,” and that’s exactly what Crystal Dynamics chose to do. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is not going to win any awards for originality, but when it comes to pure fun and adventure, it’s not often you get this type of experience at this time of the year. If you are itching for a solid multiplayer title to get you through the winter months, you can’t do much better than Ms. Croft’s latest outing.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title, which was provided to us.
While it may not be the most original title around, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is an excellent and incredibly fun multiplayer experience.