Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review: One Fish, Tomb Fish

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Sometimes all a game has to do is make you forget. For all the lofty goals we’ve attached to the medium as we elevate it to artistic discourse and social commentary and eSports careers, there’s still that very necessary niche that needs filling, the one that we dip into when we just want to have some a good time. That’s where Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris steps up. It is, quite simply, just fun.

Very notably, this once again lacks the epithet Tomb Raider despite the fact you’ll actually be raiding quite a few tombs. It follows in the steps of its Raider-less predecessor Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. You’ll play as Lara (or one of her three other cohorts including competitor archaeologist Carter Bell and Egyptians gods Horus and Isis), exploring pyramids and tombs while shooting a bunch of bad guys and solving some puzzles.

Temple of Osiris matches the blueprint for Guardian of Light pretty much one-to-one. Fixed perspective, co-operative play, dual joystick shooting, and engaging with ancient spirits on a personal level. Osiris’ brother Set has come back to take the world as his own, but Osiris’ wife and son have roped both Carter and Lara into helping them combat Set’s nefarious schemes.

The story is classically outrageous in true Tomb Raider fashion. It doesn’t really do much, though, other than set up the mismatched quartet to go to a bunch of underground and cavernous catacombs as you attempt to collect the parts of Osiris to resurrect the dispensed god. The plot is told through some nicely voiced and good-looking comic-style freeze-frames but mostly just stays out of the way.

Which is a good thing, considering how fun it is. From the outset, it seems exceptionally simple. You move with the left stick and aim and shoot with the right stick and right trigger. You can jump, drop bombs, light torches, and, most importantly, dodge. It feels a lot like Bastion in that way. Inclusive of the fixed perspective and dual joystick controls, the dodging feels as paramount here as it does in Supergiant Games’ title.

It certainly lends an appropriately and engaging chaos and speed to the combat. The dodge roll allows you to move faster and avoid attacks, and as a consequence, allows you to control the spacing, which is your greatest asset in this game. If you’re not paying attention, you will go down in the blink of an eye, irrespective of the health upgrades you gather.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

That material consequence makes the action much more engrossing. Especially once you get to enemies like flaming scarab beetles that scorch the ground and crocodiles that fire lightning at the ground and golden balls that spew out more enemies until you zap them with your magic staff, you’ll find it that much more important that you never blink and you keep moving. It’s impressive how well the game deftly spreads out your attention while you try to reconcile it back together.

To wit, it is imperative you find an appropriate distance to place yourself from the screen. The game has a tendency to scope out the camera at a frame where it’s hard to tell a vase from a lamp let alone the exact proximity of those ornery crocs. Similarly, it’s hard to attach any affection or personality to the characters. I didn’t do any co-op play, but I can’t imagine that adding more people would improve the situation.

This especially holds true in scenarios involving spiked floor panels that activate with pressure. Either one person goes and everyone stays behind (boring for everyone else) or everyone tries to coordinate the ambulation (frustrating for everyone). The combat seems like it would be fun in a Gauntlet kind of way with more people, but a lot of the layouts deep in the tombs feel far more geared towards solo play. (I’m told, though, that the puzzles scale up around the number of players.)

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

The puzzles themselves, however, are pretty good. Many of them involve at least some modicum of intermediate problem solving followed by two scoops of dexterity, satisfying both parts of your gameplay needs. This includes the portions where you have to accomplish certain tasks (or “challenges” in the game’s vernacular) like collecting skulls or pushing enemies into a pit or forcing a boss to eat one of his own minions.

From this and scripted portions of the game, there is some great variety. At one point, you have a boss fight on a giant flaming, rolling stone ball, forcing you to dodge falling meteors and rising lava pits while keeping a grip on your place on the sphere. And in another, you will fight a humongous, underwater crocodile while only managing to jump between floating planks of wood. The game switches gears and changes pace often enough that you never truly get bored with its rudimentary mechanics.

A problem, though, is, on occasion, the controls. While most of it feels fantastic from the moving to the dodging to the shooting, it becomes inconsistent with the platforming. Sometimes you can mantle up after catching a ledge by just pressing on the stick and other times you need to press jump, a confusion that has cost me my success on several challenges. And some ledges have stickiness to them to prevent rampant suicide. Others don’t. You don’t know what you can rely on.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

And then a lot of the puzzles and some of the combat rely on using Osiris’ staff, which is swapped to and fro like any other weapon while locked to down on the D-pad. You never want to stop moving to switch weapons, but having the staff out is always far handier. Up until, that is, you have to shoot things with bullets and shells. This led me to stumbling out of the starting gates in many battles by using the staff (which has unlimited and very weak ammo) and percolating with frustration rather than relishing in the surprise of battle.

A cool part of the weapons system is that you can spend all the gems you collect on opening chests, which will give you rarity-graded pieces of equipment like rings and amulets, both of which have a serious impact on your strategies. Amulets allow you to do especially power maneuvers once you fill a gauge that goes up when you dish out damage without taking any. This might mean you start spewing powerful scattershot or drop fire bombs or regenerate health and ammo. And the rings give you increased weapon damage or speed or reduce your bomb radius or reduce your resistance to poison.

They’re more or less randomized as you open these chests and get them from finishing challenges, so how you adapt to the gifts you’re given will determine how well you do in combat. With a greater bomb radius, I wanted my bombs to reload faster so I could drop more of them. With an amulet that refills ammo, I was free to use the more ammo-intensive and more powerful weapons. They’re meaningful and interesting wrinkles to an otherwise straightforward fighting system.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

I do mean it, though, when I say this is a fun game. It only took me about five hours to blow through the entire story, but I also did it in one sitting. It’s a rare game that hooks me that hard. Even though Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris does nothing new in the genre or even in its series with its limited aspirations for greatness or originality, it does what it needs to do. And what it does it something you would probably enjoy.

+ Moving and fighting is snappy
+ Spectacular lighting and overall great graphics
+ Rings and amulets are meaningful pieces of loot for a simplistic system
+ Puzzles are nicely demanding in just the right ways
– Inconsistencies and inconveniences in controls are frustrating

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Game Review: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris
Release: December 9, 2014
Genre: Action adventure
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Available Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Players: Single-player, co-op, online co-op
MSRP: $19.99
Website: http://www.laracroft.com/

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