Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review
Before the Tomb Raider reboot, the series was sort of in limbo. The big-budget blockbusters that defined the ‘90s were starting to fade in terms of quality and popularity. To shake things up, developer Crystal Dynamics delivers Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a top-down dungeon-crawler with a hefty emphasis on combat and puzzle-solving. This refreshing adventure gave Lara fans a new perspective on the standard Tomb Raider structure and style and you know, it worked exceedingly well.
Now, one could argue that the follow-up effort, The Temple of Osiris, is a little late. Guardian first launched in 2010 and here we are at the end of 2014. Unfortunately, the sequel kinda feels late. The visuals are definitely outdated, for instance, as the level of detail and overall graphical display isn’t much advanced beyond the first game. This is a little disappointing, especially when playing on a new piece of hardware. Still, there are plenty of great set pieces (even more than in the last adventure), and the fantastical atmosphere won’t let you down. You just have to accept that this looks like a PS3 game.
The sound is basically in the same boat, but I still enjoy the fitting, often haunting soundtrack that accompanies your perilous journey. The effects are sweet, too, as combat and even certain puzzles offer crisp, spot-on audio that enhances the experience. These are the standard basics of any sound presentation and for the most part, they’re solid. Again, though, one feels age in the bones of the game; there’s no good reason to slap on a great headset, for instance. Of course, this is all about the gameplay but even so, an exceptional set of technical elements always increases our enjoyment and immersion. It’s just a little dated here, that’s all.
If you’ve always enjoyed the isometric Diablo-esque view and you’ve got a penchant for history and creep underground tombs, you’ll love the environment in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. If you can’t get into the highly creative and imaginative backdrop, you probably won’t have much fun. This is about as atmospheric as an isometric adventure can be, in my estimation, but this also means that your appreciation is an absolute requirement. You’ll spend a lot of time exploring and solving puzzles, so it’s not like you’re constantly slaying hundreds of oncoming enemies, ala last year’s Diablo III. This is more about the adventure itself, and not so much the action.
I’m good with that. However, what disappoints me is the narrative that goes along with this great environment. It’s a big letdown because it’s obviously an afterthought and not really designed to question and intrigue. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem (it’s why I couldn’t possibly care less about the plot in Diablo III, and it didn’t matter in the slightest). But Crystal Dynamics presented the player with such an interesting and remarkable otherworldly ambiance that it’s just begging for a decent tale. I don’t need an epic novel but at the very least, I could use some interesting characters and a dose of drama and suspense.
I don’t get it with this story and that’s annoying. Your primary foe, the ancient Egyptian God named Set, isn’t much more than an old-school villain who mocks you from afar. When you beat a boss, the screen fades and Set informs you that your accomplishment isn’t anything special. You’re trying to find the scattered pieces of a certain statue, which, once completed, will bring the good God Osiris back to life. The implication is obvious; Osiris will eliminate Set and everything will be fine. It’s just so clichéd and boring and you never really care about any of it and that’s a shame. Even a little more effort would’ve made a big difference.
But anyway, the focus really is on the gameplay and in Temple of Osiris, four adventurers can embark on the quest. You can also play by your lonesome and if you do, the game changes to support the solo effort. For instance, while your buddies would help you with various challenges and obstacles, you’re given a magical staff that replaces the need for that AI. This is a great development technique but at the same time, you know you’re missing out by not playing with friends. It’s true, too: While the single-player experience isn’t bad at all, it’s clear that this game was designed with multiplayer in mind.
There are numerous puzzles to conquer and nasty enemies to defeat, and playing with a group of determined allies really opens things up. It’s also cool to see each person use tools to help others; for instance, the grappling hook can become a rope ladder of sorts, and one character can give other players a boost by generating a shining bubble. You can help each other reach treasures and other goodies as well, and fighting tough bosses becomes that much easier. But above all else, the game’s overarching design and pacing stands out as huge positives, because you’re always interested in tackling the next dungeon. There’s an excellent diversity of challenges and you always have to change your thinking and your approach.
For some reason, though, I found the control to be looser and less stable when compared to Guardian of Light. Maybe I’m not remembering it correctly, but I don’t recall having any significant control issues in the last game while here, I encountered a few irritating issues. Then there are the problems associated with the online portion, which do exist. This has always bugged me about games that put any emphasis on multiplayer; they’re just never free of technical mishaps. The good news is that you can play this adventure via local multiplayer, which I find to be vastly more satisfying.
The game will only last you four hours and the puzzles aren’t overly difficult, but it’s still fun. With a wide variety of weapons, equipment and tools, and a well-paced adventure that delivers some quality dungeon-crawling entertainment, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is probably worth playing. There are a few glitches and hang-ups, the story isn’t what it could’ve been, the control isn’t perfect, and sometimes, four players can bog things down. But otherwise, it’s a nicely conceived and designed sequel that’s especially enticing if you’ve got a few willing friends. Even if you don’t, you should give it a go if you enjoyed Guardian of Light.
The Good: Some good music. Nicely paced, continuously interesting adventure. Four-player co-op is a great addition that usually works very well. Solid combination of puzzle-solving, combat and exploration. A few really cool boss battles.
The Bad: Technical elements are outdated. Story falls well shy of expectations. Control seems a little loose and finicky. Online multiplayer can be glitchy and unreliable.
The Ugly: “A few bugs can indeed be pretty ugly.”
12/23/2014 Ben Dutka