Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris Hands On Preview: Clunky But Enjoyable Co-Op Experience Features Not A Single Trace Of Realism
Last week before NYCC, Square Enix showed off Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, the new four player "co-opetition" game developed by Crystal Dynamics. We got our hands on the anticipated sequel to Guardian of Light and though we probably shouldn't mention the raiding of any tombs, that is precisely what we did.
The Lara Croft series is pure video games. They are not gritty, dark, haunting trials into the depravity of the human soul; they're goofy old timey serials where Egyptian gods not only speak perfect English, but also run around wielding semi-automatic weapons. They're the Sleepy Hollow of the gaming world.
As far as i can tell, the story of The Temple Of Osiris is essentially like all pre-reboot Tomb Raider games: Lara goes to investigate some mystical artifact, awakens something that should not have been left sleeping, and then she has to shoot her way out. This time, she is joined by rival treasure hunter Carter and also the physical embodiments of the goddess Isis (awkward timing) and Horus. Because why not? The story is just a skeleton to hang the gameplay on.
The demo was played on the PS4 on a very, very large screen. Myself and another journalist were led through the depths of the ludicrously complicated Egyptian tombs by members of the dev team.
I was previously unfamiliar with the Lara Croft series beforehand, so I was at a bit of a loss as to how the controls worked. The tutorial given was a bit long and did not sink in right away. The game plays much like Avengers: Ultimate Alliance, a franchise I enjoy entirely far too much. The left stick moves, the right stick and right trigger together fire. Still, it did not come across as intuitive, though after some time I was able to remember it while dashing around. Later, with the devs not around, explaining the control scheme to others was a bit tricky. The lack of precision and targeting system was irksome at times; I felt less like a badass tomb raider than I did some shmuck with a gun firing wildly in all directions.
The most fun, however, comes from the Y button, which is mapped with 'bombs'. Again, no need to ask why the Egyptian characters have bombs, they simply do. Press Y to drop the bomb, then press Y to blow it up. The bombs can be used to blow up obstacles, floors (which reveal loot and gems), enemies and, perhaps most fun, the other players. Make no mistake, each player is working with one another to complete the mission, but that doesn't mean they have to like each other. There is a heavy competitive element to Temple of Osiris, and the highest score wins.
The four characters are divided into two classes: archaeologist and Egyptian. You'll need both to progress through the temple. The archaeologists, in addition to starting out with guns, come equipped with a grappling hook that they can use to access high areas, rappel up and down and hoist up members of your party. The other characters can also jump onto the line and tight-rope walk across it.
The Egyptians, meanwhile, can manipulate the runes spread around the temple, which activate switches and platforms and their staff weapons can fire a continuous beam of energy which is needed for several puzzles and bosses in the game. They can also utilize a shield, which not only defends them from attacks but also allows other players to jump on top of them. These moments, both the rappelling and the Egyptian rune magic can kill the momentum of the game if you're playing with a new group of players. Not the biggest complaint, because I was able to talk to my team; but online, it could be very tricky trying to navigate total strangers onto the rope or platform.
Each class, of course, is well equipped to deal out death and judgment to the supernatural baddies (scarabs, mummies, skeletons, etc) that infest the tombs. And nary a graphic assault scene in sight!
Additionally, players can collect rings and other trinkets that can upgrade certain abilities or weapons, while downgrading certain others. We ended up with FIRE BULLETS, which are just as awesome as they sound. Speaking of fire, when the fire beetles set you on fire, and they will (oh god, they will), you have to stop, drop and roll. The roll mechanic, utilized by hitting the Left bumper, will be your new best friend. Not only does it put out the fire, it gives you a little speed boost, too and you're definitely going to need that for some of the 'chase' scenes, in which you simply have to run through an ever increasing labyrinth of traps in order to avoid getting eaten by a giant crocodile.
Needless to say, our guy from Crystal Dynamics stated that the members of that other Lara Croft game really wish they could do stuff with a giant 30 foot beetle. But it's all doom and gloom over there.
The game will feature a drop in/drop component and the level, enemies and puzzles will adjust difficulty for however many characters are currently in the game, similar to Diablo III's system. One of the most promising mechanics of the game is the ability to influence the environment, such as weather and time, via a Temple level. Certain areas and even creatures can only be accessed at certain times of the day, or during a flood period. Crystal Dynamics has put a lot of time into ensuring that the game will have some replayability factor.
The word I would use to describe Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is 'clunky'. The movement is twitchy and again, the lack of targeting system can make combat less 'combat' and more 'running around'. The new weapons and upgrade skills splash a new coat of paint on it, but the game will always play the same way for the most part. It was, at times, frustrating. There came a point when it stopped being fun and became work.
Yet, I still continued to play it. I even came back to the game over and over again. The real joy of the game was sniping with my fellow players. If you're playing an archaeologist, you can "accidentally" let the rope drop while another player is walking across it and send them to their doom. These were some of my fondest memories during my time with the game, the 'hey! stop killing me!' giggles and it has the potential to be a fun, if slight, co-op game.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is not an unsaveable wreck, the structure is there for a very smooth gameplay experience. It just needs some gameplay adjustments. The game releases digitally on December 9 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC- plenty of time to course correct.