This post is part of a series exploring the history of the Tomb Raider series and its entries. Be sure to check out the hub article on NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog for links to all the great retrospectives written by other bloggers, and to find out more about what makes this franchise such a classic.
My other-half and I started playing Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light a few years ago, back when we first started dating. It seemed like the perfect game for a time before we lived together: we could play online co-op together for a few hours after he’d collected his son and put him to bed on a Friday night. But although it was enjoyable enough, we made it to perhaps a third of the way through the title before it was discarded in favour of something newer and shinier.
When Jonez announced his Tomb Raider: Writers’ Raid collaboration, Pete was keen to get involved in some way. He doesn’t write however and therefore needed to come up with an alternative; and when he suggested we return to Guardian of Light together, with a stream of the game and then a follow-up post from me, I thought it was a great idea. Little did we know how wrong we were and how painful those nine hours with the game would turn out to be.
I must say however that this isn’t entirely the game’s fault; it has actually received many positive reviews upon release and is currently sitting at the 92% positive mark on Steam. It’s very different from the main Tomb Raider series and rather than focusing on a third-person Lara Croft adventure, what you’ve got here is an arcade-inspired action game. This obviously won’t be everybody’s cup of tea and it might therefore take a while for lovers of the ‘traditional’ titles to adjust.
When in two-player co-operative mode, players can choose to step into the role of either Lara or an ancient Mayan tribesman named Totec, and must work together using their unique weapons and skills to stop the evil spirit Xolotl and retrieve the Mirror of Smoke. The emphasis here is on teamwork: for example, certain puzzles can only be solved by Lara using Totec’s shield as a portable platform, or the tribesman tightrope-walking across the archaeologist’s grappling rope.
I’ve had a thing for isometric graphics since playing releases like Diablo and Sanitarium when I was younger, and so Guardian of Light’s detailed isometric visuals really appealed to me. I particularly liked the way some of the environments seemed to wrap back on themselves at different levels so you could look back on where you’d come from. As usual, Keely Hawes is awesome and immediately makes you think of our heroine as soon as you hear her voice (it’s just a shame some of her lines were a little cheesy).
Unfortunately for Lara though, it’s always difficult to go back to a title which for whatever reason you’d previously put down – and even harder when that was two years ago. We gamers can be easily distracted by new releases or games recommended to us by friends; and despite telling ourselves that our backlogs aren’t things we should be ashamed of, we don’t like being reminded to them. Returning to Guardian of Light after such a long period of time wasn’t as fun as we’d hoped.
It’s also hard to play something because you know you have to, rather than because you want to play. Pete and I had committed to both the Tomb Raider: Writers’ Raid collaboration and our stream so we had to see the game through to the very end; but it was bloody tough. We’d started to lose interest by the time we’d reached level seven and took heart that there could only be a few more to get through. The realisation that we were only halfway then hit all the harder and tea-breaks became more frequent.
Still, we’re nothing if not determined and we made it to the end credits (with a huge sigh of relief). None of this is Guardian of Light’s fault however and it’s unfair of me to call it a bad game because under the right circumstances, it can be pretty enjoyable. What I will say however that the character development is terrible: not that this is a title where narrative is overly important, but some of the dialogue between Lara and Totec was unbelievable when you consider how little they know each other.
At the time of drafting this post, Pete and I still haven’t mustered the motivation to move onto sequel Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. Although an entire day of playing video games appeals greatly, we’re not looking forward to the game itself and keep putting it off. Time is running out though and it’s something we’ve got to get through so in the spirit of Lara: a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
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Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.