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.