Review: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

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In August of 2010, Crystal Dynamics broke the status quo with the release of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, purposefully not branding it as an official Tomb Raider game. Tomb Raider had up until then been a third-person platforming adventure with puzzles and shooty bits, but Guardian of Light brought a fresh perspective on an established character by setting the game in an isometric view with clever co-op mechanics that saw Lara and a Mayan warrior named Totec working together to solve environmental puzzles and overcome traps while battling various bad guys. The game was a blast and proved to very successful. Maybe not as well recognized as the core Tomb Raider series it was spinning off, but popular enough to give Crystal Dynamics the opportunity to follow up with a proper successor in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

This time around the co-op mechanics are beefed up to allow up to four players to puzzle through chambers and battle scarabs and mummies and other ancient Egyptian nasties. The start of the game opens with Croft racing to get to an ancient artifact only to have rival Carter Bell reach it first, setting them both in a time warp of sorts in which the evil deity Set has awoken and is plotting to overtake the world unless Croft and Bell (with the assistance of Horus and Isis) can collect enough pieces to revive Osiris in time. The plot is a bit thin and is more or less a means to put players into different tombs filled with puzzles and traps so that Osiris’ statue can be rebuilt.

Like the previous outing, Temple of Osiris plays like a twin-stick shooter where the left stick moves the character and the right stick aims the currently selected weapon. The D-pad cycles weapons between a variety of handguns, shotguns, machineguns, and flamethrowers, as well as a staff which can be used as an environmental trigger to do things like raise platforms by holding down the L2 button, or to fire a laser beam, both as a weapon and as a puzzle-solving device, by holding down R2. Lara is also armed with bombs to explode groups of pursuing enemies or destroy parts of the environment, and for nonviolent purposes, a torch to light braziers, and a grappling line to climb or swing from gold rings mounted on walls.

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In addition to firearms, Lara can find magical rings and amulets imbued with modifiers by completing bonus objectives or spending collected gems to unlock treasure chests found throughout the main hub overworld or in reward rooms at the end of each tomb which contain common, rare, and exotic items. These pieces of jewelry may add resistances to elemental effects like fire or ice, increased weapon damage, elemental properties to weapons, poison gas to bombs, or even cause guns to fire bullets in a spread shot. Collecting gems and shooting enemies in succession increases a point multiplier, and once the multiplier gauge maxes out the power of the current amulet is activated until Lara takes damage, at which point the multiplier is reset. Finding the right loadout balance of artifacts and weapons to complement your individual play style is a large part of the enjoyment.

Another thing about the game that I enjoyed is the abundance of overworld challenges and bonus objectives that add replay and are fairly easy to knock out with a little patience. Each tomb offers Bronze, Silver, and Gold high score point challenges to shoot for, as well as speedrun times to beat, hidden Red Skulls to find, and various skill-based objectives which require killing a certain number of enemies in a single bomb blast, luring creatures into spike traps, or breaking open a large quantity of vases. Accomplishing any of these optional goals is rewarded with unlocks of new artifacts, guns, and stat upgrades. Even the hub environment has hidden treasures and access to challenge tombs containing extra tricky puzzles and traps to overcome. Being a bit OCD, I enjoyed taking my time combing through each level and area to find every item and complete the challenges. Plus the game looks fantastic, so it was easy to get lost in the moment and just drink in the visual beauty.

Co-op is a big draw, but the game is equally enjoyable for a single player. On the initial story pass I played most of the game by myself. In a solo setting, I found the puzzles to be very satisfying, if not a little too easy. Figuring out ways to reach pressure plates, roll boulders onto switches, and redirect lasers off of mirrors to hit multiple triggers doesn’t take a lot of brain power. Only once I got to the final stage of the last boss did I find that I needed the aid of other people, which was a frustrating imbalance to suddenly have to contend with.

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While I played the game mostly by myself, eventually I did brave the PSN wilds to try some random co-op. Dropping in was easy and I quickly found that the game performed without any real issue. (There was a bit of laggy jitter if the other player jumped around too much, but I’d blame my own ISP connection for that.) A random other player and I managed to complete two levels on our own (the final boss encounter was one of them), and as we were working through a third challenge room a third player dropped into our session. My only complaint with how the game dealt with a new person joining is based on the fact that me and the other player were almost completely done with the challenge level and yet the game started over from the beginning when the third person joined us. 

What was interesting to see, however, was how much the environmental puzzles and tomb layouts changed up based on the number of players in the party. Previously only one floor plate needed to be stood upon to trigger a trap. Now, with a 3rd person in the mix, there were two floor plates that needed to be pressed. In co-op, the grappling line also becomes a crucial tool not just for climbing a wall alone, but also for allowing other players to traverse wide gaps and spike pits like walking across a tightrope. Coordinating among a group of random people proved to be difficult though. I had a microphone on and was chatting, but I couldn’t tell if either of the other players could hear me. Of course, playing online with friends or getting a couch game going is the best way to get the most fun out of the co-op. With Party Chat available this issue also could easily be corrected.

Overall, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a fantastic follow up to Guardian of Light. Visually the game looks even more impressive, and the fact that the tombs now compensate for up to four players is a treat (although having so many random players on one level can be similar to herding cats). The story isn’t the greatest, but it does at least provide a floor plan for tying a bunch of puzzle and trap-filled tombs together. Combat is a lot of fun and can be mixed up quite a bit with the large variety of weapons and modifying artifacts. It isn’t the standard third-person action adventure game Lara Croft typically stars in, but it is a highly polished isometric combat puzzler that Tomb Raider fans and fans of tomb raiding should not miss.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Smart puzzle design that ramps up with more players
+ Large variety of weapons and artifacts adds fun boost to combat
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Up to 4-player co-op

Cons:
– Levels restart when a new online co-op member joins
– Final encounter seems a bit unbalanced for solo play

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also available on PC and Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: 12/9/2014
Genre: Action/Adventure
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4 (local and online)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.