Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – Review
PC version review by Ben Tyrer
Right now, this game is on offer over at Steam as part of the Square Enix week promotion. What better time to share my thoughts on the latest escapade of beloved raider of tombs, Lara Croft?
Okay, okay. I have to admit. I didn’t play many Tomb Raider games- none to completion at least- so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was in for when I booted up Guardian of Light. Hopefully some antiquated runes to be explored, ancient artifacts so prized and mysterious Indiana Jones would be green with envy and (if the films are any indication) a strip tease or two were to be thrown my way. To this end, Guardian of Light didn’t disappoint. Well, there were no strip teases, but read on anyway for my thoughts.
Note: For the sake of this review, and my fears of not being able to find a suitable companion, I stuck with the single player campaign, and so this review will concern only that.
One thing that was clear from my hazy recollection of the past Tomb Raider games was how different they are to this title. In fact, as you keen-minded and observant readers have no doubt realized, this isn’t a Tomb Raider game. It’s a Lara Croft game. Goody! Perhaps this change of title reflects a stronger focus on character and narrative, an intriguing insight into what makes the long loved British heroine tick? Well, no. If you were hoping for a detailed narrative, you’re out of luck, because the story definitely took a back-seat to game design when Crystal Dynamics cobbled the thing together. Thankfully, it rarely interrupts your shenanigans, and the things you’ll get up to in the mean time are really quite something. Guardian of Light plays in a fashion not dissimilar to the likes of Diablo II, Shadowgrounds and more recently Alien Breed and Torchlight. It has the same isometric viewpoint and simple click-to-kill combat, but manages to pull off the latter in a way arguably more satisfying than most of the other games mentioned. It’s nice to see the isometric camera angle being adopted, and pleasant as it was to have our screens obscured by Lara’s sumptuous behind in earlier Tomb Raider games, this fresh perspective definitely results in less frustration when it comes to platforming and puzzle solving. And in true Lara Croft style, there are plenty of both to be found. The puzzles are clever enough to warrant some pondering, but never ridiculous or farfetched to the point of feeling unfair. Likewise, while you’ll be spending the majority of your time throwing Lara from pillar to post, and while some segments may be subject to good old trial-and-error, you’ll never find yourself overwhelmed by the difficulty of this element. The whole platforming business has been made drastically more interesting by enabling Lara to essentially craft her own way through the levels by way of throwing a spear into any surface that will allow it, acting as a make-shift ledge.
And what of the combat? Well, you see an enemy, you click an enemy, and you kill an enemy. While it’s as simple as that on paper (and usually in practice), it doesn’t stop it being bloody good fun. Enemies will explode into fleshy chunks as you rampage around with a variety of weapons ranging from pistols to shotguns and machineguns, all of which manage to pack a satisfyingly beefy punch. Some element of strategy is added in the form of artifacts unlocked by completing particularly fiddly puzzles, and these augment weapons and abilities giving them extra damage or speed. Lara is able to roll about too, and this is an extremely effective (if not overpowered) way of avoiding a lot of damage.
Visually, Lara Croft is a treat overall. There are plenty of dazzling effects and set pieces, with smoke and water looking particularly delicious. Great atmospheric lighting really makes the Aztec setting pop, especially in the many damp tunnels and temples you’ll undoubtedly be exploring.
There’s not much else to say about Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light. I hesitate to call it shallow, though it’s possible to plough through it in an evening if you feel compelled enough to do so (and you probably will). The bulk of the game comes from the challenges in collecting hidden skulls and gems, as well as perfecting your timing for certain levels. If you’re not a big completionist, you might very well finish this game and never return, though co-op makes all games vastly more replayable.
As it stands, it’s a great little game. It doesn’t push the boundaries of its genre, nor does it offer quite the same level of depth that you might be expecting, but what it does offer is done incredibly well. You could do far worse than this tidy package of adventure, especially at its current reduced cost.