Tomb Raider 2013 and Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness...Cousins rather than distant relatives?

11:46 pm HelenLJohnson 0 Comments

As March 5th creeps closer I decided now would be a good time to revisit Lara's previous escapades to remember a time when she was practically part super hero, part archaeologist. Often wearing the most unsuitable attire for the job. You know what I mean... 
"Don't mind me, I'm just finding my way to the bar"(

So I decided to crack out Angel of Darkness, the widely know smelly aunt at the Tomb Raider family gathering. Not a lot of people like her but she is needed to complete the family and it would be rude not to invite her right? I'm going to hold my hands up now and admit that I like AoD, I think the story is fantastic and the cut scenes are tight and well voiced. I even liked Kurtis Trent and his relationship with Lara, apart from that creepy museum scene. Yet with thousands of other AoD players I find the controls shocking and the overall sense of being unfinished is blatantly obvious. "Check the map" Lara tells me in the Louvre; my dear I would if selecting it showed something other than the inventory screen and a piece of paper. I suppose for all its faults it does make YouTube gold as thatnorsechick2 shows:  
Broccoli, coconut, hotdog

Moving on Tomb Raider 2013, we see Lara as the slightly naive twenty-one year old who hates tombs and struggles through the challenges that the dragons triangle throws up. The reboot places Lara far, far away from any previous conceptions of her personality. In Anniversary we see her reactions to her first human kill. While at times verging on melodramatic, there is no doubt that the Lara we see in Anniversary and the rest of the Crystal Dynamics Trilogy is a similar character to the ones in the original raids; just with an additional slightly more humanistic microbe shoved in the back of her head. Nevertheless she can still perform Olympic standard gymnastic feats and has the knowledge and most importantly the resources to protect herself. 

Except for Angel of Darkness.

The first thing that struck me with the reboot are the inclusion of XP and survival skills with some fans saying that there would be too many RPG elements in it. Does this sound familiar? Angel of Darkness was the first in the Tomb Raider franchise to integrate RPG elements; the upper and lower body strength upgrades which one had to find in order to progress through the game, and the dialogue feature which made little difference to the overall storyline. Admittedly it was shoddily integrated with Lara undertaking menial tasks to feel stronger, I felt like throwing her off a building every time she muttered "I feel stronger now", but I get why Core did it. It was to show that after the events in Egypt during Last Revelation that Lara lost quite a bit of her strength and needed to build herself up to the woman we saw in the previous games. 

Remember that AoD was the first part of a new trilogy so such features may have been refined and altered to show the reintroduction of Lara Croft, the ultimate adventurer. That was until it was critically slashed to pieces, and in a way AoD deserved it because it wasn't finished. It was one of those games that stood on a precipice and could have gone either way depending on how well it was constructed. That is the sad thing about AoD, I truly believe that one more year in development would have saved it and perhaps become one of the better Tomb Raiders because it showed Lara being human and getting into trouble.

Again, does this sound familiar? Tomb Raider 2013 has been delayed countless times, but at least it has the privilege of time. Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo suggested that "a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is forever bad" this is especially true with the Tomb Raider franchise. We don't know fully how the new Tomb Raider will play out but if it were rushed out to meet demand would we have seen a similar situation to AoD? I suppose with the RPG elements you can't exactly go wrong with Square Enix, but the addition of extra time does throw an interesting question into the mix. 

Lara 2013 is portrayed as a survivor. A survivor often has to make do with the resources that they find or can muster up. It makes sense then that the new Tomb Raider involves stealth and melee attacks. It also made sense for these elements to be in AoD as Lara was on the run from Werner's office from the start. As much as I'd like to think that Lara frolics around the world with her duel pistols firmly strapped to her thighs, she'd probably run into some trouble at airport security. 

Oh sensible Lara, very sensible
However the stealth in AoD was poor at best. After I stopped laughing at Lara wandering around like a missing link in Darwin's evolutionary theory, I began to realise how forced it was. You could get through the whole of AoD without using stealth which relegates the feature to a nice but dented Christmas bauble. I like it but I'll put to the back so it doesn't spoil the tree. This raises the question if stealth attacks have a place in Tomb Raider? I believe so, especially if it is integrated with AI that has at least half a brain (Mr Louvre guard, I'm looking at you). It also needs to be part of a challenge from getting from A to B, maybe B1 it is Tomb Raider after all, not just for sneaking around corners. From the trailers it appears that Lara 2013 may need to do just that to escape from her initial capture and I pray that it is reflected in the game play as such. What else can provide such a sense of dread as sneaking around hoping not be noticed. AoD let itself down in this respect, yet a similar thread connects the two games in why Lara must not/should not go in all guns blazing as she is a wanted woman. It is the integration that proved to be AoD's failure rather than the theory itself.
Finally lets look at the aesthetics, picky perhaps I know but how many times has Lara been critiqued on her attire! I have done it twice already. It is just such a part of her personality. In Tomb Raider 2013 we see Lara donning a rather suitable looking cargo trousers and vest top combination. "Finally" came the cries of the realist Tomb Raider observers, she is wearing trousers. Except this isn't the first time that Lara has worn trousers, or even the most environmentally suitable clothing. Sure she wears trousers in Tomb Raider III and Underworld among a few other small examples, yet in AoD she spends nearly all the game time wandering around Paris and Prague in clothing that suits the situation. 


As much as the double denim was god awful, it places Lara in an everyday position and only changes into something more 'Tomb Raidery' after her meeting with no neck Bouchard. The new Tomb Raider has done something similar by placing Lara in clothes that someone on an archaeological trip would probably wear, all additional items are scavenged rather like in AoD. I do have a slight desire that the rip on the back of the trousers seen in the concept art becomes a Lara ripping shorts moment; but even if they don't I believe that Tomb Raider 2013 and AoD put Lara in the most suitable and credible attire in the entire series. This shouldn't be ignored as frivolous details as part of the immersion with gaming is being able to project yourself onto the character. If an outfit looks extremely unsuitable (Don't get me wrong I love a bit of unsuitable clothing if it looks amazing) then often your attention is directed towards the clothing flaws rather than the character's personality. That however is for another post...

So now I have finally finished my little rant, if you have got to this point well done! Shotgun is under that ledge for you, drop down off the ledge, grab the next, shimmy right and mind the tigers. What I hope to show is the similarities that the two Tomb Raiders' have in regards to game play mechanism and overall dark and gritty theme. One had time spent on it, the other rushed out to meeting marketing demands. It begs the question that if Angel of Darkness would have been released full with similar attributes to Tomb Raider 2013, where would the franchise be now? While we must remember technical and audience development, the underlying game and theme elements, which I hope I have illustrated here, are closely linked between the two games. So this post is not saying that AoD would or should have been better but rather to illustrate the potential the game could have had.