Life hasn’t always been fair to Lara Croft. Brushing aside the fact she’s so woefully built for someone who spends so much time leaping across bottomless pits and fighting dinosaurs, there’s still the turn of the century and what that meant for the franchise (Chronicles). Then came the film adaptations followed by more second-rate games (The Angel of Darkness) and finally Nathan Drake turned up to unceremoniously hammer in the final nail of Ms Croft’s coffin.
Goodbye Tomb Raider, hello Lara Croft, the busty heroine taking centre stage in title as well as game now, this venture into unfamiliar territory heralds what is perhaps the greatest Tomb Raider game released in over a decade. Who’d have thought?
Playing from an isometric viewpoint might sound disastrous for a game built on platforming but in truth it couldn’t be further from it. In fact it’s one of the best things about The Guardian of Light. Controlling Lara, or Totec should you play through the game co-operatively, is slicker than ever; gone are the nasty cameras and awkward controls, replaced by a simplicity that is completely foreign but altogether better.
Make no mistake this is still Tomb Raider though. From the familiar music, life threatening leaps, Lara’s chirpy demeanor and well, the tombs, Guardian of Light still echoes with everything that made Tomb Raider great. But the altered gameplay is a hugely positive change.
The combat is slick and simple; right stick to aim, left to strafe, right trigger to shoot, x to dodge. The isometric viewpoint ensures that the infamous camera issues of old are nowhere to be seen here and whether Lara’s battling magic-hurling warriors or a Tyrannosaurus Rex the combat is constantly rewarding.
Lara can switch between three weapons at any time or change weapons from the inventory. There are over twenty to amass – like everything in The Guardian of Light, Lara can find weapons hidden in the levels and unlock others through the meta-campaign. As well as weapons you have access to Lara’s infinite supply of spears, which are put to use for more than just maiming demons; the spears integral to solving some puzzles and during some of the platforming sections.
And there’s a bit of a Resident Evil vibe in that if you find yourself stuck or fancy a new weapon you can repeat previous levels to find a new one. The story is hokum so revisiting moments earlier in the game and severing the narrative isn’t detrimental to the experience. It’s a constant reward process and it makes GoL extremely addictive whilst adding exponential amounts of replay value.
Inevitably cutbacks have had to be made to accommodate the fact that it’s a downloadable title. The use of comic-book style cut scenes and the infrequent dialogue hint toward the restrictions of Live Arcade. But neither of those things are cause for concern and the voice acting is so laughably bad the lack of dialogue is a blessing in disguise.
A triumphant return for a best-loved heroin then and one that proves Lara Croft remains relevant despite years of having her name dragged through the mud. You’ll have to endure the bunkum story but a fantastic balance between puzzles, exploration, platforming and combat more than makes up for that. Ultimately it’s just refreshing playing a Tomb Raider game that isn’t balls.