Gaming Updates – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
It is quite remarkable that Crystal Dynamics was able to create a game designed for both solo play and coop. On my first run through the studio-only download Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the mix of action, puzzles, and platforms seemed built around the game alone-but once I’d played with a friend on the same levels, it was hard to imagine how the game had worked as a single-player experience. This is just one of the reasons why Guardian of Light is one of the best designed downloadable titles released this year.
Played from a fairly old third-person perspective, Guardian of Light is completely different from all the Tomb Raider games that preceded it. The 14 chapters here are large sprawling environments with many areas to explore, all viewed from an isometric point of view. They also look good, as well as the many enemies you will meet during the decent adventure. It is without a doubt one of the most visually impressive downloadable titles on the market.
The controls are also not your usual Tomb Raider rate, with the left stick manipulation movement and the right aim, similar to how retro marksman like Geometry Wars work. If you hold the button on the right shoulder, Lara will strike or throw her weapon, and the left stick will then punish her. The speed of movement here is enough to dodge enemy fire (a rolling motion also helps), but Lara does not move at a silly fast pace.
Weapons come in all shapes and sizes, but only the standard pistol and spears are unlimited. The other tools in your arsenal, which include machine guns and a flamethrower, rely on an ammo meter, which is scattered around and dropped by defeated enemies by collecting objects. Lara can also crash blow up and make them explode from a safe distance; these are unlimited, and ideal for eliminating large groups of small enemies like, but there is a small recharge period to prevent them from abusing their explosive power.
When you play alone, the puzzles are smartly designed, often with Lara’s grippers and her ability to stand on spears she threw into the walls, but when you play with a friend, things get really interesting. A second player follows in the footsteps of Totec, a former Amazon warrior awakened by an army of men trying to get their hands on cursed treasure. Instead of just being a re-hulled Lara, Totec has his own set of skills that make Guardian of Light one of the best coop experiences.
Instead of simply running through the same levels together, action more enemies and sharing loot, the puzzles thrown at you in collaboration require intelligent use of both characters ‘ abilities. In the coop, it’s Totec who can throw spears into the walls, which Lara can then run on (the massive warrior is too heavy for that), while the busty adventurer’s grapple can be used to create rope walks for her partner. Totec can also use a shield to protect himself and his companion, and this cleverly doubles as a makeshift platform that Lara can use to access out-of-reach ledges. The duo can also help each other walk through large rooms and climb walls.
The levels that seemed to be built around the single player game are different if you tackle them with a friend. The puzzles are completely changed, so they require close coordination and cooperation with your friend. In the past, Tomb Raider never seemed ideally designed for a cooperative experience, but Guardian of Light’s new mechanics, combined with a clever level and puzzle design, make it a two-in-one game-so different is the feeling when played alongside someone else.
Whether you play alone or in cooperation, you will come across challenge rooms. These optional areas, marked with fiery red skulls above the entrance, represent trials that must be completed to obtain new weapons or artifacts. Weapons are pretty self-explanatory, but artifacts can be used to change your stats. An early discovery, for example, increases Lara’s speed, but also makes her blow up less deadly. There are also relics that you can find and equip by granting additional weapon powers (scattershot, regenerating ammo), which are activated once you’ve completed an on-screen counter by striking multiple consecutive enemies; in this Powered mode, Lara also gets a score bonus for each opponent she kills-an advantage that helps high score races unlock new weapons to play with, and there’s also ranked glory to compete with. The game also allows you to compare scores with friends who have the game, and if you are competitive, you can find yourself to surpass the old stages to surpass your friends.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is light in terms of storytelling-the only area seemingly saved to cut costs – but everything else here is worthy of a full retail version. Visually, it’s excellent, the campaign is as long as the last full-price titles I’ve played and is different when played in cooperation, and the gameplay also tests your brain and trigger finger. Even if you have completed the story, the score-based competitive game should always make you back. The promised online cooperative is not yet available, but don’t let that stop you from choosing Guardian of Light. It’s a nice example of how to take a popular franchise and make it work for the downloadable budget market.
It is quite remarkable that Crystal Dynamics was able to create a game designed for both solo play and coop. On my first run through the studio-only download Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, the mix of action, puzzles, and platforms seemed built around the game alone-but once I’d played with a friend on…