“Lara Croft’s brave new adventure is certainly one of her best.”
First off, I’ve never been a huge Tomb Raider fan. While the Tomb Raider games are fun to play, I’ve never really considered them to be really noteworthy games that deserve high amounts of praise. If anything, I think that the Tomb Raider games have worked best as diversions for gamers while waiting for more high profile games to be released. Because of my stance Tomb Raider, the fact that I think Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a stellar game says something.
Released this year by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos (as well as publishers Square-Enix), Guardian of Light features everyone’s favourite female Indiana Jones in a brand new adventure that is told from a perspective that’s the furthest thing from the standard Tomb Raider formula. Rather than being a third person puzzle game with a bit of endangered animal slaughtering on the side, Guardian of Light is played from an isometric camera angle and is overflowing with intense action. This is not the Lara Croft that we grew up with! A lot of series have received reboots or reimaginings lately, and they’ve worked brilliantly in all cases. Guardian of Light is no exception as Lara fits comfortably into this new action oriented platformer.
First off, there’s the story. In all honesty, there’s not a lot here that is worth talking about. Lara is checking out a temple when some bad guys storm in and accidentally awaken an evil demon who quickly lays waste to the invaders. Lara on the other hand teams up with Totec, a guardian who is tasked with sealing away the evil demon once more. That is the gist of the story so, like I said, there’s not a lot worth mentioning there. It’s basically the sort of story you’d expect to find in a cheesy Hollywood adventure film.
The gameplay is what is strongest in this game, and it certainly does not disappoint. Guardian of Light plays a like a mix between Diablo and Tomb Raider. While the puzzle solving is pretty much all standard stuff for Tomb Raider veterans and isn’t much of a surprise, the constant action is. The Diablo vibe that I get comes from the isometric camera and the constant barrage of demons who are out for Lara’s blood. Lara is frequently confronted by a dozen creatures all at once, but fortunately most of them are easy to dispatch. There are a few larger demons who are pretty tough to take down, and they bring a lot of excitement and tension to the fast paced action. The boss fights are even better, especially the one with a firebreathing dinosaur. I won’t spoil the fight, but it’s really awesome and stands out as one of my favourite boss fights in recent memory.
The puzzles are pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tomb Raider. Lots of rooms that cave in on you, falling platforms, spike traps, and tons of “fetch item A to unlock to door A, then proceed to find item B for door B” scenarios. That’s the great thing about this game, the puzzle aspect of the game will feel very familiar to many players.
The controls work pretty well in Guardian of Light. Combat is a breeze with a keyboard and mouse combination and I had no troubles fighting anything in this game. Puzzles were a little different though, as I found that the game is little stubborn and does not like to register a lot of actions if you are pressing too many keys at once. For example, you cannot run diagonally and jump at the same time on the keyboard. Lara will run and the jump will not register. Because of this, I had to remap my controls frequently to get around that problem.
Guardian of Light has some fantastic level design. Each stage is brimming with exceptional detail, and there are many side quests and achievements to unlock in every stage. Some of them are fairly easy and just involve navigating Lara through an obstacle course, while others are so challenging that you will question whether or not they are even possible. Some achievements ask you to beat the levels in five or ten minutes each, which blows my mind because I had trouble completing some in under half an hour! There is a lot to do in this game in terms of optional content like that. Each level will have about four side objectives to complete, and there’s no way that you’ll be able to finish more than two (and that’s if you’re lucky) in a single run through a level. Finishing a level’s objectives will award Lara with new weapons, relics, and so forth. This makes replaying levels and completing the objectives very beneficial to the player.
Speaking of relics and weapons, Lara is now able to hold four weapons at a time. They can be assigned to the 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys. The weapon I found myself using the most was Totec’s spear, which not only kills foes easily, but can stick in walls and allow Lara to jump up to higher ground. Relics are interesting as well, as they provide Lara with interesting combat bonuses when equipped.
Online play has been promised and should be available soon, so I can’t comment on that. The only multiplayer available at the moment is local co-op, and I don’t think that I’m going to bring a friend over so that we can both play the game on the same computer, especially since my friends have already played the more multiplayer-friendly PS3 version. I have heard great things about the co-op though, with many professional reviewers claiming that it is absolutely essential that both players work together.
Overall, this is a pretty great game. It looks and sounds great, and the gameplay is possibly the best ever featuring Lara. This game is fantastic for fans of platformers and puzzle games. Tomb Raider fans should also find a lot to enjoy here. The big surprise, however, is that this game also should appeal to hack n’ slash fanatics. Like Diablo or Sacred? Despite this not being an open world RPG, I still recommend it as the combat system is very similar. In short, this game should have mass appeal and it’s very well made. Possibly Lara Croft’s best game ever. For about $15 on the Playstation Network, Steam, or XBox Live, you really can’t go wrong with this high quality game.