Wot I Think: Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris

Four years after the surprise twist in the Tomb Raider franchise that was Lara Croft And The Guardian Of The Light, Crystal Dynamics have punctuated the releases of their reinvented Lara with its sequel, Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris. The review code we received did not yet have multiplayer switched on, so here’s wot I thought of playing it through on my own.

Lara Croft And The Guardian Of The Light was such a lovely surprise. Crystal Dynamics, fresh from revitalising the Tomb Raider franchise with their splendid trilogy of action games, revealed a top-down third-person action adventure modelled more on arcade gaming. And it was a treat. While still combining the running, gunning and puzzling that defined the series, it offered a very different experience. And best of all, it had that spear.

Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris offers absolutely no surprises whatsoever. It’s Crystal Dynamics, trundling on from their tiresome reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, producing almost exactly the same game again. Except without the spear.

Which is also to say, it’s a decent amount of fun. In fact, it streamlines the experience of GotL, expands level sizes considerably, and presents it all with an awful lot less loading. However, the result is an incredibly brief game, bewilderingly laid out, and missing a fresh, new spark to make the outing feel essential.

This time out Lara and a new chum are piddling about in Egypt, getting themselves muddled up with the curse of Set. Up pop a couple of olden Egyptian deities, and with their endless nagging help, you attempt to gather all the broken pieces of a statue of Osiris to raise him from the dead.

Set, meanwhile, has some sort of magical machine that allows him to control the weather. Except he sort of doesn’t. But you do. But he’s going to use it to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. So every now and then, to open up a new chamber from the sprawling, confusing central hub, you rotate a section of it to change the weather. Once the game’s over, this is supposed to be the pivotal point upon which replay value is added, letting you open chests that are only available in particular conditions, but we’ll get to why that doesn’t work in a bit.

Each new section is a twisty corridor to reach the lump of statue, filled with traps and puzzles, giant rolly balls, and furious Set-aligned enemies. And for some reason, a giant crocodile who annoys you everywhere you go. And each is a fun, if achingly easy, sequence to pootle through.

And there lies ToS’s rub. It’s so incredibly easy. Even the boss fights rarely take more than one attempt, while the puzzles never get close to taxing. This means you have a game that’s nearly always pleasant to be playing, but in a sort of background, while-you’re-thinking-about-something-else sort of way.

Well, that’s not strictly true. The game was actually desperate for attention, such that it embraced the ever-worsening trend for taking over controls to shout its nothing-nothing story at me. It’s great to have Keeley Hawes back voicing Lara, but wow, they didn’t give her a single word worth saying. None of the humour of the CD trilogy, nor GoL, makes an appearance, instead replaced with droning severity from the omnipotent godly gang. So rather than just letting me enjoy the jaunt, it kept grabbing the camera off me to show me where I was about to go, or bark at me how cross Set was about my pulling levers and rolling orbs around his dungeons. And worst in this regard was Lara’s incessant spoilering every puzzle, declaring what I needed to do before I’d had time to wonder. I looked in the options to find a way to stop this, but there was none.

Rather than the spear, this time Lara has a magic staff that sends out a beam of light. It’s the ammo-less weapon, and deliberately underpowered such that using guns is always a faster way to dispense with enemies. But it’s not underpowered enough to make it worth worrying. It’s also used to remove golden glowing spheres from levels, through which Set’s bads can appear. Except enemies appear anyway, and the game’s best moments – figuring out how to simultaneously destroy lots of spheres at once by bouncing the beam around – are almost forgotten by halfway through. And replaced with, really, nothing.

There are some definite highlights. A labyrinth puzzle with walls made of spikes that only appear when you get near may not be original, but it’s superbly delivered. And the specific challenges for each level definitely inspire a second run through, to at least collect all the often tricky-to-reach skull collectibles. But there’s nothing that stands out, nothing that makes it superior to its predecessor. And, without the spear, it’s unquestionably poorer.

The spear offered so much, letting you create your own paths, rig impromptu ladders up walls, and feel as if you were being creative within the levels. Here the left trigger (or equivalent keyboard command – this felt like a gamepad game to me) will occasionally cause the staff to move elements of the level up, down, around, etc, but these were heavily scripted. There was nothing to touch it.

In the end, and by the end, Temple Of Osiris feels particularly mediocre within its lineage, and distinctly uninspired within itself. I have found the desire to manipulate the weather to replay levels entirely absent, since the bonuses received from unlocking chests made absolutely no meaningful difference to the game. You might get more weapon damage, or bomb radius, at a cost of defence or weakness to lightning, but I never appreciated the difference. With no difficulty options at all, and the whole game a breeze without fiddling too carefully with such equipment, there’s no incentive to see what else could be tweaked. Why would I?

Which is all rather a big shame. Temple Of Osiris needed to be more than Guardian Of The Light, not less. It needed to see where the idea could be taken next, not be a diminishing return. What we’ve got here is a mildly absorbing romp through an extremely generic setting, delivered with no sense of aplomb.

Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris is on Steam for £15.

16 Comments

  1. Renevent says:

    This is disappointing to hear…GoT was a huge surprise and one of my favorite games released that year. Obviously doesn’t sound bad or anything but I considered the first game a breath of fresh air and it sounds like the sequel is a little less inspired. Guess I will find out for myself later tonight :)

  2. clive dunn says:

    Central to the dissemination and reconstruction myth of Osiris was the missing phallus. I’m guessing this game glosses over this rather important aspect. Or is the final boss battle…..?

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      I have heard that you bear us no phallus

      i think the game might really require multiplayer so two can hold the rope with a third to walk on it, the rope carriers are not stuck in place and i think that could be quite useful in a puzzle-platformer

    • Wowbagger says:

      Set has it wedged between his buttocks until the surprise ending where Falcore swoops down and retrieves it before bringing Artax back to live from the swamp and shoots set with a magnum (white choc one). Tru fax.

    • Bugamn says:

      Why did you think the game was spearless?

  3. The First Door says:

    I’d be interested to hear how this game is when playing with other people, because from what I remember GoL’s puzzles rearranged themselves rather nicely for two people. I’m wondering whether the puzzles get better/change in interesting ways for 2 – 4 people, or if having to design for 4 people was the problem.

    • Jamesworkshop says:

      having puzzles scale in four different cases i think must have harmed them, i don’t think that can really work well

    • funkstar says:

      well in multiplayer lara doesn’t have the pew pew laser staff, and there’s traversal puzzles needing multiple characters working together

  4. KenTWOu says:

    The review code we received did not yet have multiplayer switched on, so here’s wot I thought of playing it through on my own.

    But what about local co-op? You should play it with someone else locally, John.

  5. CMaster says:

    Dissapointing in a few ways.

    I want to hear from somebody who has played coop before judging though – GoL’s puzzles were much more interesting in coop than solo.

  6. Banks says:

    It’s sad to hear that this is not as good as GoL. I think that if Temple of Osiris had stayed a two player co-op the single player would’ve been a lot stronger.

  7. MortyDice says:

    I finally registered thanks to this article. I had such high hopes for this one, and you crushed my soul with only one sentence: “Except without the spear.” The spear was everything to my coop sessions : aim right and one or two shots later the bad guys were done. I could not stand the weapons. I tried to cancel my preorder (the only one I had this year – lesson learned) but Amazon would not so I will return my package once it gets there.

  8. bill says:

    I always thought these games were designed for co-op, so shipping review code without co-op seems like a supremely dumb idea.

    Infact, I never picked up the first one because I got the impression it wasn’t really playable/fun for one player. And I have no friends…

    • strangeloup says:

      The first one is actually completely fine in singleplayer, balance is no problem. It has a different feel to it though, because you’re left trying to figure out puzzles by yourself rather than butting heads/working together (delete as appropriate) with a co-op partner.

  9. guygodbois00 says:

    “…a giant crocodile who annoys you everywhere you go.” is it tick-tocking perchance?