Cara Loft: Tomb Raider Concept Raiding

By Cara Ellison on March 18th, 2013 at 2:30 pm.

You aint seen me right
I have pulled on boots and a hat, grabbed my pistols from the drawing room, and I’ve attempted to plait my hair but my fingers got all tangled up and oh how do you do these things anyway you need like six hands ugh.

I always sort of thought that Tomb Raider was survival horror at its heart: in the old Tomb Raiders, the Core Design ones, I became very used to that lull and terror, that exploration and SURPRISE TIGER, that puzzle puzzle puzzle BATS IN YOUR FACE rhythm. It often felt like the Resident Evil rhythm: a suspicious corridor, zombies tapping on the window, and you work up the audacity to run down it. You realise over seven or eight journeys down that corridor that perhaps the zombies aren’t going to break through the windows and gobble Jill’s flesh. And you begin to think you’re safe.

Only one day, when you think everything’s fine, you run down that corridor and twenty zombies twat you one.

That would have been a wonderful Tomb Raider: mummies left right and centre, Lara sighing and being all like, “Oh bugger off you bastards” whilst jump scares exhaust you, the fragile player. When I was playing as Jill Valentine I always got a Lara vibe from her, even if that was mostly because she controlled like a shelled-to-shit fifty-year-old tank through a vat of treacle. But that’s where the terror comes from, right? Your inability to control your character in a hostile environment. Yeah, Tomb Raider was always survival horror. Playing as Lara in the early days was a battle with your keyboard. Sometimes you thought lifting the keyboard up like a Tusken Raider and screeching at the screen would be more effective as a control method.

In any case, it has come to my attention via the orange-powdered fingers of our beloved Dew-slurping Geoff Keighley on the iPad and Steam app The Final Hours of Tomb Raider that the new Tomb Raider went through some real left-field concepts before landing, actiony-soft, at our doors. Here’s a video of the concepts Crystal Dynamics were messing around with before they got prequel Lara on the go:

I guess the takeaway is that the team was pretty heavily influenced by Team Ico’s masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus in the beginning – and you can see in the game that was actually released that they kept the Japanese temple theme. It’s pretty interesting to see all their initial ideas: the horse makes my heart pine for Agro, the Real Protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus, and part of me hopes that Tomb Raider: Horse Adventures is still on its way in some form.

The bow and arrow vs monsters section of the video is interesting too: a real Resident Evil 4 section by section boss battle is in there, though much of that idea was obviously abandoned in the final product we’re playing now. There’s some concept art in there too that shows that a horror element was definitely considered, as well as more art that indicated how big an impact Shadow of the Colossus was having on the team’s thoughts.

Silent Hill type dudes. Creepsville
Silent Hill type dudes. Creepsville
Silent Hill type dudes. Creepsville

Anyway, I’m getting a bit dusty and dirty in these here concept tombs. I’ll get out of here before I lose my hat to a Geoff Keighley boss battle. Remember: fortune and glory, kids. Fortune and glory. And Doritos.

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68 Comments »

  1. Text_Fish says:

    When the first gameplay footage was released I thought I could detect elements of the Descent movies and that first piece of concept art seems to give that away to me as well.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I’d say there are still big chunks of The Descent extant in Tomb Raider. The way my Lara likes to twat people in the face with a climbing axe is *very* reminiscent of a particularly memorable scene in that film.

      Though if anything, Tomb Raider is “The Ascent”, since it’s going upwards that invariably leads our unwilling heroine into trouble. The descent always represents a return to sanctuary, a respite from the traumas that await at the higher points of the island.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Oh, The Descent could’ve been so so good. It starts of so well, peaking around the point they find some writing on the cave wall. But they commit the cardinal sin of revealing the monsters too early, and then it just turns into a dull gorefest. Meh.

        I can definitely see the parallels with Tomb Raider, tho.

        • wererogue says:

          Oh wow, I couldn’t disagree more. The Descent doesn’t go downhill after the reveal at all!

          … Erm, except when it literally does. I mean, it’s in the title and all.

          [!!! SPOILERS !!!]

          Anyway, the monster reveal is tense and surprising, and I’ve never seen it be ineffective. After that, the movie pretty much stops being about the monsters again and picks up its main theme, which is the tension and history between the characters.

      • Doktor Kisses says:

        There’s some pretty blatant visual quotes from The Descent in Tomb Raider. First, the escape from the opening section riffs on the ending, and then later on they copy the shot of the protagonist emerging from a sea of gore.

        • DellyWelly says:

          I always thought that was a nod to Apocalypse Now.

          • KenTWOu says:

            That was The Descent scene shot for shot. But The Descent scene itself was inspired by Apocalypse Now, I think.

      • stele says:

        The way my Lara likes to twat people in the face…

        I think I’d prefer it the other way round.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    That picture is a good start, but to be a real Tomb Raider you have to be caked in dirt and blood, having fallen down a mountain and hit every jagged object between the summit and the base.

    • RedViv says:

      Follow Lara’s next adventure, in which she really treats wounds as if it were really real.

      Tomb Raider 2 – Daggers and Antibiotics

    • Cara Ellison says:

      My technology has not reached the heights of dirt simulation yet!

      • Shockeh says:

        With AMD SmutFX™, you’ll be able to render all the…. oh, wait, that’s not the trademark we wanted at ALL.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I guess I was too harsh – you clearly have the complicated hair physics down.

    • jezcentral says:

      Gap Gen: ” …caked in dirt and blood, having fallen down a mountain and hit every jagged object between the summit and the base.”

      Ending up with a skateboard to the back of her head at the end of it, yes?

  3. RedViv says:

    I’m equal amounts curious about what they had planned with all their grimdark versions of the weirdest Japanese folklore monsters, and glad that they knew when to throw that out and go with a more traditional approach. As it is now, the moment when the player realises that, aye, this is indeed a Tomb Raider game in a Tomb Raider world, is still really glorious. As is the game.
    But I would love to see what they could do with an actual open world approach. Let’s see if they get back to that later.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Clearly Tomb Raider is not intended to stand alone, but the first in a new series and new era of Tomb Raider, and that’s great news. Crystal Dynamics are still full of new ideas, and it’s good to know there’s life in the young girl yet.

      • karry says:

        “Crystal Dynamics are still full of new ideas”

        Why didnt they put any in this new Tomb Raider ?

  4. rapchee says:

    agro is, to this day afaik, the most realistically moving horse in games, so yeah i like it too a lot

    • Gap Gen says:

      If Tomb Raider were to feature less-than-realistic horses, it would be because they appear to be entirely made of crows.

    • rockman29 says:

      100%. Hear hear for Agro… the beautiful, but beaten up horse.

  5. rei says:

    You said ‘twat’.

  6. trjp says:

    I’m not sure how you can go through so many ideas (and indeed make several Tomb Raider games before) and end-up making a Tomb Raider game which is a cover-based manshoot!?!?

    Almost everything you’d expect to find in a TR game is missing here

    Movable boxes
    Epic structures to scale whilst solving interestingly complex puzzles
    Things to balance on – usually infeasibily
    Lots of hacked-together real-world mythos
    Animals who are hostile (6 wolves aside, the animals in this TR are moving achievement get’s)
    Main character who does handstands and gymnastic floor routines

    What we have instead is

    Shooting
    More Shooting
    Some hand-to-hand combat
    Explosives
    Planks it’s almost impossible to fall off
    Lots of tat to find which unlocks…
    a stack of upgrades all related to the above!

    If you changed the main characters name, you’d have a completely new game here…

    • Meat Circus says:

      The problem here, of course, is that the last game, Tomb Raider Underworld, had all of these things. And it was, to coin a phrase, a bit wank.

      • Vandelay says:

        This is an opinion I see a lot since we have all been aware of the new direction the latest Tomb Raider was taking, but I’m sure wasn’t the general consensus when it was released. Have we all suddenly re-evaluated it?

        Personally, I thought it was great. It might not have been quite as good as Anniversary and the plot was appalling, but it maintained that great sense of exploration and scale that the Tomb Raider series excels at.

        Not played the new one, but I’m sure I will get hold of it during a sale. It does look like it is trying hard to ape a lot of other things on the market though, rather than being a Tomb Raider sequel. I’m sure there are many that were tired of the old formula, but I still have to wonder why the game even has the Tomb Raider branding.

      • Meat Circus says:

        It’s not a terrible game. It has terrible elements: story, swimming, characters and camera.

        But the core environments I scrambled across are still very impressive in scale, if all a touch seen-it-all-before in execution.

      • Xocrates says:

        The problems with Underworld can be summed in one sentence: “It wasn’t finished”.

        The game was visibly rushed in order to hit shelves in time for christmas, and it very much showed, which affected early reviews immensely.

        That said, it ended up outselling both Legend and Anniversary in the long run, and, I would argue, remains the best of Crystal Dynamics original trilogy.

    • Artista says:

      I’m one of those who didn’t want to touch this new game at first, but my curiosity eventually made me buy it, and now that I have beaten it, the only thing I really miss from past TR games is this: “Epic structures to scale whilst solving interestingly complex puzzles” and this “Animals who are hostile” kind of.

      • Meat Circus says:

        Oh come on, Tomb Raider has plenty of massive structures.

        And as for puzzles? The puzzles in Tomb Raider aren’t that many, but at least they’re not the same recycled cliche ‘pressure pads and switch’ yawnfests that the series has been recycling since Tomb Raider 3.

    • faelnor says:

      Don’t forget underwater caves with lots of swimming and swan diving vs. waddling in chin-high muddy water with a torch before squeezing through a crack for the fifth time.

      • Meat Circus says:

        No, FORGET swimming. Forever.

        It’s a scientific fact that there’s no game that hasn’t been made measurably worse by the addition of swimming. And that includes Tomb Raider games.

        In fact, it was the original Tomb Raider that stood as one of the best arguments for why swimming in games is a terrible idea.

        • faelnor says:

          I’m afraid that your personal vision of Tomb Raider without complicated puzzles or swimming might not exactly be in harmony with what most other people liked in the original games.

          • Meat Circus says:

            Hey, I love puzzles. Good, interesting, new puzzles. Which Tomb Raider has studiously avoided for a long time in favour of tired old weight-on-a-pressure-pad time and time again.

          • trjp says:

            How is “removing all the fucking puzzles entirely” a better thing tho?

            I mean there’s one “puzzle” in this game which is “pull 2 levers and stand on a box” – how the fuck is that even a puzzle?

            I’ve been replaying the ‘noughties remake trilogy”, not gotten to Underworld yet but I enjoyed Legend and Anniversary enormously – they’re unidentifiable in terms of what this game delivers tho, completely and totally different games.

            It’s their franchise, they can fuck-it-up however they like, I’m just amazed all the reviewers didn’t actually notice the removal of all the “Tomb Raider” bits from a Tomb Raider game – really.

            If we replaced the shooting in the next CoD with a match-3 game – d’ya think they’d notice? :)

        • Mman says:

          “In fact, it was the original Tomb Raider that stood as one of the best arguments for why swimming in games is a terrible idea.”

          Yeah, no. The sequels have some real “fuck you” stuff in them but swimming in the original game is mostly kept quite sedate and forgiving and is also used for a few great set-piece moments.

          Hell the original TR swimming controls is the one part of them that still holds up today without any caveats (beyond a few engine bugs and no option to invert them anyway), and is ironically more intuitive than a lot of newer swimming control schemes.

        • rockman29 says:

          Metal Gear Solid 2 has a great swimming sequence. One of my favourite parts in the whole game.

  7. trjp says:

    p.s. you’re not a real girl if you can’t plait your hair surely? It’s like understanding all those underwear options, it’s just someone girls can do and men cannot! :)

    I never fail to be amazed how my other half can plait her hair for work whilst eating a quick meal and, quite often, talking on the phone at the same time – it’s genetic surely? :)

  8. Kaira- says:

    Those pictures gave me some serious Cursed Mountain-vibes.

    • strangeloup says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s heard of that. I’d thought previously that some of the more esoteric Buddhist stuff could make for a genuinely creepy game, especially to those (i.e. most people) who weren’t familiar with it.

      I’ve got it on the Wii, but it looks like there’s a PC version as well. Dunno if it’s any good, mind, though the Wii version was hardly the most reliant on motion control.

  9. Sardukar says:

    First shot? Angkor Wat?

    • Cara Ellison says:

      Yes, an amazing place. Somewhere everyone should go.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Somewhere everyone should go.

        No.

        • Meat Circus says:

          If there’s one thing Tomb Raider IV taught me, it’s that BAD SHIT STARTS IN ANGKOR WAT.

        • Makariel says:

          Boring!

          Angkor Wat is amazing, only downside is that pretty much every temple seen afterwards is pale in comparison.

        • mondomau says:

          Yes. I’ve been twice and it still hasn’t got old. Dooo iiitttt.

      • eclipse mattaru says:

        I’m going off on a tangent a bit here, but: How come you still don’t have your Official Plus-Sized Avatar & Pink Commenting Blanket Combo certifying your hivemind membership? Are these rascals even paying you for these pieces? They do make a lot of money with this site, you know? They made me turn off my Adblock and all! Don’t let the British oppressor walk all over you like this! I mean, seriously, you’re just about the best thing there is to read in this site lately, demand your rights!!

        Granted, you’re pretty much the *only* thing there is to read in this site lately that is not John Walker bitching about Sim City, BUT STILL! :P

    • Oozo says:

      I thought it was Holy Money Temple Quinns wrote about in “Journey of Saga” — I do endorse the idea of Cara undertaking her personal quest in search of her very own Citizen Kane of games, getting hammered and wasted and drugged, and finally emerging victoriously as the new member of the RPS pantheon.

  10. Radiant says:

    The new Tomb raider had a few influences I think.

    1) STALLONE: Cliffhanger

    2) The bit in the Simpsons where Homer jumps the springfield gorge and joy fails.

    3) The Edge; that film where Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin KILL THE GIANT FUCKING BEAR METAPHOR.

    4) That Sidney Poitier movie Deadly Pursuit. The one where they go off into the woods and Tom Berenger is the only one who hasn’t seen Highlander so everyone else is like “Please. Kill Clancy Brown. He’s clearly the bad guy.”

  11. AlwaysRight says:

    That concept reel looked so brimming with creativity, I can’t believe its even related to the utter pile of trousers we ended up with.

    Disclaimer: I’m not saying the game was ‘bad’ by any stretch. I just personally found the bulk of it as interesting as looking for the end of a roll of cellotape… in a lecture about advanced fluid dynamics… while listening to mumford and sons.

    edit: Oh no, I’ve turned into a cynical internet nob. This is what happens when I don’t get enough sleep. IGNORE ME!!!

  12. Splynter says:

    Are you an official part of RPS now Cara?

  13. I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

    I’ve yet to get my hands on the game, but survivor Lara trapped in Monster Island sounds more appealing than action hero Lara vs angry men. I was hoping for a stronger emphasis on the survival-horror aspect when the game was first announced. Still, it might be fun.

  14. Bhazor says:

    That concept trailer is very telling.

    They had her ass fully modeled while her face was still a blob.

  15. karry says:

    I must be honest, when i see people saying how they love Tomb Raider series, and then praising this new game – its like i’m suddenly in a different universe, the one where people dont love games which have any actual gameplay, and are only attracted by endless barely interactive cutscenes. I’m just baffled how many of you are in love with this thing. Yes, i played it, i finished it, its a great movie that i wouldnt mind seeing in a theater. Shit game, though, which doesnt have anything in common with the actual Tomb Raider series.

    Which is basically the same situation as with that XCOM:The Board Game-The Videogame. Sure, take mechanics, dumb them down, adapt them for use with controllers, whatever. Just THINK OF ANOTHER NAME FOR IT.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      Two words for you: Dark Souls. That’s probably the last proper game-game in existence. It has almost no cutscenes, and at times the gameplay challenges you, it’s crazy! It even features this weird thing that, for lack of existing terms to define it, I’ve taken to call “replayability value”. It’s an intriguing concept that I wish more games explored.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Yes, i played it, i finished it, its a great movie that i wouldnt mind seeing in a theater.

      There is a huge difference between new Tomb Raider and something like Heavy Rain.

  16. zacharygordon703 says:

    as Victoria replied I am dazzled that a single mom able to make $6587 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this site http://www.fly38.com

  17. Tunips says:

    Carrying a child around, flamethrower in a vault.
    Lara as Ripley. I’d be ok with that.

  18. The Random One says:

    OK so am I the only one who was throughly creeped by the bit around 0:41 in which a young girl is stared at by an evil carrot

  19. 0over0 says:

    The giant-horseback-chase scene actually reminded me a lot of Troll Hunter–great flick.
    There’s still a lot of directions in which to take the Tomb Raider series that could be good. So here’s to a long and creatively rich life for Lara.

  20. LTK says:

    I, for one, would like to see Cara Loft team up with Tom Braider in the next game.

  21. buxcador says:

    The console ¡diots only know how to make a single type of game, so they want to turn any other kind of game into a corny, half cooked shooter.

  22. Robbert says:

    This looks like a game I would have bought. There aren’t enough games that look and feel as epic as Shadow of the Colossus.
    The new Tomb Raider might not be a bad game, but it’s so incredibly generic that I didn’t even think about buying it. You’re a generic human hiding behind generic cover using generic weapons that shoot generic bullets at generic humans that hide behind generic covers that use generic weapons that shoot generic bullets at you.

  23. Aardvarkk says:

    That last photo looks ripped from Frank Frazetta’s sketchbook.

  24. Deviija says:

    Some of the concepts I am unsure of (child escort stuff, meh, and Lara’s visual design) but everything else seemed quite interesting. For a game and game-y experience. Most of all, though, that combat was looking mighty awesome. Lara with guns/pickaxe/sword+gun/bow/woo! That’s the kind of Lara I want to play and the kind of Lara I want to see. Maybe we’ll get there in the rebooted franchise, but this first entry certainly didn’t interest me or ‘wow’ me at all. In fact, I was cringing at parts and lost interest in playing any further. Bring back all the tombs and ancient sites of power and puzzles and paranormal entities/mythic guardians/monsters, and a kickass Lara punching her way through obstacles, and I’ll be there.