Monday, June 25, 2007

Tomb Raider: Anniversary Update 8

Palace Midas
  • As before, there are three bars of lead which must be converted to gold, each with its own puzzle room.
  • Puzzle Room 1 is a block/movement puzzle. It took a while to figure this out because all the columns appeared to move down when I stepped on the first one. Later, I got the hang of it because the columns were only going down as I stepped on them -- and the columns you hang from never go down. Or something.
  • More than once I missed a jump/catch that seemed close enough that the game's "good magic" should have made it happen.
  • Regardless, not an exciting room.
  • Puzzle Room 2 is like the breaking column and sandpile puzzle from the first game, with added rope use. Pretty run of the mill and uneventful.
  • Puzzle Room 3 is a water/fire column puzzle which is much, much improved from the first game. You might recall that this was three (or four?) flame columns in the first game that required very tight timing of runs, jumps, and catches. This would have been trivial to complete with Lara's new moves and timing wouldn't have mattered.
  • The new puzzle involves a much larger room, more types of movement puzzles, and a few infuriating places where I'm not sure Lara can get by unscathed.
  • Regardless, I count this as distinct improvement over the original, perhaps even a bit too baroque.
  • Lara can still turn to gold. Glad that still made it.
  • I did not find this new version of Palace Midas to have the charm of the original. The original actually felt larger and more interesting, if I'm remembering everything correctly
Tomb of Tihocan (and Cistern)
  • So Cistern from the original gets folded into Tomb of Tihocan. I'm not sure I agree with that design choice. I hope I'll learn something about the decision to make the change if I play through with commentary turned on.
  • The puzzles here really are a bit more three dimensional. The main room is essentially a cube with niches along the walls and some platforms in the open space in the middle, all of which must be navigated at some point.
  • The real 3D part is realizing that you need to move a floating platform from one place to another and then to another and this requires different water levels in the room. It is similar to the puzzle in the Posiedon Room from St. Francis Folly.
  • While not mind-busting, it is a welcome innovation over the usual push-a-block-open-a-door puzzle.
  • Tihocan's tomb itself is pretty spare.
  • The showdown with Pierre was only two QTE moves. Weak.
  • Also, Lara's now been relieved of killing Pierre. I am a bit alarmed at that move.
  • Perhaps it is ironic that after all these years of talking about Lara being a mass murderer (see: Tomb Raider II, III) I don't like that she doesn't kill someone. But I think this could be an important point: Lara from TR1 was a more complicated figure precisely because she appeared a bit mercenary at times. She killed Pierre both because she had to (he was trying to kill her) and out of pride. Now he just gets trampled looking like a fool.
  • She's become a less interesting character because she's doing what she's doing to prove that her dad wasn't crazy, to complete the quest he left unfinished. You'll pardon me if I find that a bit trite. I think a case could be made that the backstory was more interesting in, of all things, Angel of Darkness. In that respect, I think that Core understood the original Lara and Crystal Dynamics has now rewritten her.
  • It's not just that Angel of Darkness is being ignored -- the story's being rewritten to make it less likely to ever be accepted as canon. The Lara in AoD simply seems like a different person from the Lara in TRA. At least, that's where I think this is headed.
  • Flashback cut scene explaining a bit about the Scion and its history was less impressive than the original. I think CD is faltering on capturing some of the drama of the original.
Addendum: I just watched a speedrun of the original Tomb of Tihocan to see what it was like. I can see someone saying "this was just a mess of puzzles", let's cut right to the chase. On the other hand, I think it is a pretty good precursor for the kind of devious puzzles that the followed in Egypt and Atlantis. If they fundamentally changed the puzzles in the upcoming levels, then that lead-in isn't necessary any more, I suppose. I'll know more soon.

That finishes the Greek levels. I'm now at the Egypt levels. Some of the most dramatic parts of the original are at hand, but we'll see if the remade versions work as well.

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