View Full Version : Objective Analysis of Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness, and Insightful Ideas.

Black Angel
6th Aug 2003, 18:30
For about a month now, animosity has been brewing between those who are satisfied with the latest installment of Tomb Raider, and between those who felt underwhelmed with the finished product. I will start off by leaving the argument for Core Design or Crystal Dynamics to generate the next game out of my posting. However, I shall also strive to represent both sides of the more pressing issue at hand. Specifically, the features that many generally liked about the new Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness game, as well as those aspects of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness which could be improved upon next time. At the conclusion of this synopsis I will also explore possible courses of action for those designing the next game.

Positive Aspects of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness

I am an Tomb Raider afficianado, I have traversed every Tomb Raider game that has ever come to the Playstation and Playstation 2 console. Since the game first came out in 1996, I have watched Lara evolve from a character with what would now be considered an arcane and obsolete control system, into the character that we know today. Lara has come a long way from the Peruvian mountains where we first saw her, but now there is dischord with the latest phase of her evolution. Let us look beyond her faults and shortcomings for a moment as we consider what has been noticeably improved since we last saw Lara. First, Lara has rebuilt with 5000 polygons of definition, which is approximately 4500 more than she had previously. Second, Lara doesn't move like a chess piece anymore, and this is an improvement over her fairly restrictive control system in the last game. This of course became apparent when I went back to Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Third, Lara can also fight hand-to-hand in this latest installment. This is very useful when a stealth attack fails, and one does not have the time to draw a weapon, or is low on ammo. In a previous installment Lara might have been seriously damaged before she could take any action. Fourth, Lara had five options to resore her health bar as opposed to the two options in her previous games. Fifth, Lara utilized money in this game, which was unprecedented from her earlier versions. Sixth, Lara also had the ability to pawn items for quick cash. Seventh, the user now could control the camera and take a thorough look around an area, even on many narrow and dangerous ledges. Eighth, with the addition of the sprint jump toward the end of the game, Lara could now engage in almost matrix-style jumping. Ninth, during the cutscenes the lips of the characters now move phonetically and in real time in many cases. Tenth, Lara now has the commando crawl in her arsenal, which allow her to access areas and avoid traps that a regular crawl couldn't execute. Eleventh, the sprint meter is gone, now Lara can sprint through an area without rest. Twelfth, the addition of Von Croy's Notebook was an especially nice touch, as it provided some guidance when it was vague or unclear what to do next. Finally, we come to Kurtis Trent, a completely original character with an amazing backstory and other superhuman abilities as well. Though there are many rough edges in the game, which I will discuss next, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness has a solid and compelling story line with well placed cinematic elements. Then again, Isn't that what drew us all to her in the place?

The Negative Aspects of Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness

As I stated earlier, I have had the pleasure of joining Lara through many of her quests and adventures. During that time, I can't help having developed a critical eye to temper my optimism. Many aspects of the game need to be improved as well. First, the lack in experience of certain individuals with the new control system, particularly the use of the analog joystick, has caused much frustration. I used to be one of those people, and I too made many errors at first, but gradually my skill increased until I was then comfortable using such controls. Second, Lara has lost some of her special talents as well. Namely the Jump+Twist, which had been a staple since Tomb Raider II. She also lost her Rope swinging and tightrope walking abilities, but this is to be expected since such action with the new control system would require a high degree of control from the user. In other words, there would be much less room for error. Third, Lara needs to get back her Twin Vector R35 handguns, because Lara has had those as a staple from the very beginning in that Peruvian mountain. Fourth, the camera should be refined so that it doesn't pass through Lara's head. Fifth, if Lara's weapons are lost in the next game, it should be designed so that the player can reaquire their lost weaponry by the end of the game. Sixth, the sound of a fired weapon should not mysteriously vanish, particularly the sound of the Mag Vega during the Eckhardt's Lab level of the game. Seventh, Lara should be given some sort of a run up feature, to take some of the guesswork out of the distances (I personally don't care, but some of the lesser experienced players might). Eighth, The "Story so far..." feature should be returned, and many of us did notice when it was pulled out of the game after Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft. Although, after reading through the instruction manual, it became clear to me that the finished product was intended to have that feature. Personally, ever since that feature was taken out of the game, I have used the extra slots in my memory cards trying to replicate it (Being more or less successful in doing so). Ninth, in the next game the designers should be a little more careful, in order to minimize the slowdowns which detracted from certain cutscenes. Tenth, Kurtis Trent should be able to sprint in the next game. If Lara can sprint, then Kurtis should be able to sprint too. Eleventh, Lara is somewhat compromised by the grip meter, although I personally like the idea that Lara can't hold on to a surface forever. Finally, we come to the issue that certain parties have clamoured for ever since Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, which is the resurrection of Lara's Mansion. The Tomb Raider Series originally did away with the mansion because many players had long since made themselves accustomed to the finer points of Lara's control system. However, now that the control function has had a decisive overhaul, I think that the time has come to return us to that safe environment in which Lara can practice her moves without any real danger of bodily harm (More secrets would be nice too). In any event, flaws and shortcomings like these detracted from the overall enjoyment of the game, however not so much so that it totally decimated it.

Ideas for the Next Tomb Raider Game

1. Kurtis Trent should have more than 1 weapon. The Trading Cards enclosed with the PS2 version of the game mentioned a Psychic Energy Bar, perhaps you could make Kurtis Trent's Chirugai a usable variable-ranged weapon, like the Pa Cheng in Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb

2. Perhaps Kurtis could be given the chance to utilize his Farsee ability in real time. Perhaps such and addition could be used to check new areas for danger while this Psychic Energy Bar depletes, instead of just using it in the cutscenes to find code numbers.

3. Kurtis Trent could be given the ability to upgrade his physical and psychic strength throughout the game. (i.e. Using telekinesis to open locked doors after receiving some sort of power up, rather than kicking the door down.)

4. Lara could be given a wider range of weapons. (i.e. Desert Eagle, MP5, Rocket Launcher, Uzis).

5. Lara and Kurtis should be able to utilize manual targeting via a lasersight.

6. Lara and Kurtis should be able to utilize flares in the next game. (some area's of the game can be pretty dark)

7. As stated above, Lara's Mansion and the "Story so far..." feature should be returned. (for the reasons stated above)

8. Personally, I would like to be able to put on and take off those nice looking shades Lara frequently wears during some of the cutscenes. Perhaps, the glasses could fall off after Lara gets shot and retrieved after Lara takes care of business. It would be synonymous the hat in Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb. (But hey, that's just me.)

9. I would also like Eidos with either Core Design or Crystal Dynamics to continue with the trilogy as planned.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post. I hope that you find it was time well spent, and if I'm forgetting anything don't hesitate to add it in yourself. After all, nobody's perfect.