Developers: Crystal Dynamics
Publishers: Eidos Interactive
Plot: Lara is contacted by the mysterious Natla to track down the Scion and perhaps uncover the lost city of Atlantis.
Tomb Raider had been bad for a long time. After five great games on the Playstation 1, the PS2 brought us ‘Angel of Darkness’, which saw Lara return from the dead, as an… well, Angel of darkness, I presume. No one is too sure what happened. Thankfully, the franchise was saved with the truly phenomenal Tomb Raider: Legends. Finally, Lara was back and it wasn’t long, before the creators started reworking the original with the rebooted Legends game engine for the ten year anniversary.
And this is pretty much what this game is. It isn’t an exact reworking of the first game, but it is near enough identical. For some reason though, this never becomes a problem. In fact, the real charm of this game is hacking into that nostalgia and using it to draw gamers in. For all of the Tomb Raider fans that have grown cynical of the gaming world, Anniversary may just be the saving grace you have been waiting for all these years. There is something truly wonderful about emerging into a room and being transported back to the first game, only this time with breath-taking graphics that simply knock you back. On the downside, newcomers to the franchise might be left scratching their heads at why this game gets so much attention.
I also enjoyed how the writers improve the story device of the original. In the first game, you would be running around a tomb, when a rival raider would appear and begin taking pot-shots at you. It was never really explained who they were, yet here the bad guys all have characteristics and faces you can remember. In particular, the character of Larson is now a firm staple in the canon. There is really a sense that the guy is merely the other side of the coin. Sure, he isn’t as talented as Lara, but he is working towards the same goal, only he happens to be employed by the game’s villain. The final showdown between the two characters is heart-breaking in its own way. As for the lead villain, even people who aren’t in the know-how, won’t be too surprised that the shady employer, Natla, isn’t the most honest character in the game. She is a much more interesting character than Legends’ two antagonists and the direction the story takes is an intriguing one. If you have no idea who Natla is before coming into this game, you will learn how she is one of the greater corners of the Tomb Raider canon (this leaves the big question: will she make it into the rebooted series?).
Sadly, Anniversary is let down by the fact that it is mimicking the vehicle of the original game. Video games have come a long way since the Playstation One and when the levels are near enough reincarnations, the creators can only do too much to improve it. You might find yourself getting annoyed at the repetition of the game. Most of the levels revolve around a room, where you need three keys/lead bars/cogs to get to next part of the game. Each item is behind some sort of trap. It is fun at first, but no one will blame you if you didn’t get a little annoyed at this system, when you hit the Egypt levels. You might also be disheartened by the lack of companions Lara has. Sure, she used to be alone, but there was something amusing about the radio banter in Legends. Here, the levels are juxtaposed with almost complete silence, which hurts the experience. Even the addition of Lara’s journal, where you can choose to hear what Lara’s thinking at any time, seems like a gimmick to get some more of Keeley Hawes’ faultless voice acting into the game.
This is also probably the hardest game yet. Some might relish the challenge, but I found that at times, it crossed over to being more frustrating than enjoyable. Some of the jumps are a little too precise, meaning that when you are in a rush, Lara is likely to throw herself off a large fall (or worse a short one, meaning that rather than dying, you are sentenced to restarting a climbing sequence from the very beginning). Puzzles are just a little too long. You might find yourself entering a three-storeyed tomb and realising you are spending the next hour, trying to figure out which order to pull some levers in. If you are waiting for this game to arrive in the post, maybe have a quick play of Legends to make sure you are totally comfortable with the game engine, before attempting Anniversary.
Quibbles aside, this remains a solid experience from the Tomb Raider franchise. The series shows no sign of slowing down at this point. Hopefully, the addition of Midas’ hand is actually a metaphor: everything Lara touches turns to pure gold.
Final verdict: While a little too frustrating to be as good as Legends, Anniversary is everything Tomb Raider fans want from the franchise. A great addition to the series.