Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, Lara Croft, video game, box art, Scion, guns

Review: Tomb Raider: Anniversary

After releasing Tomb Raider: Legend, what did Crystal Dynamics do? Did they go ahead with the sequel to the story? Nope: they took a slight detour and made Tomb Raider: Anniversary.



Kevin, contributor

Contributor overview
Website: The Mental Attic
Description: Kevin a geek who plays Dungeons & Dragons and any role-playing game that pops in his path; as well as a video-gamer who likes anime, reads manga, watches cartoons and buys tens of novels a year. Take a look at his blog where he invites readers to ‘Think Better, Think Bigger!’.


Title overview
Name: Tomb Raider: Anniversary
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Release date: June 2007
PEGI rating: 16
Platforms: Mac, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii
More information: Official website


Title overview   |   Initial impressions   |   Plot   |   Gameplay   |
Visuals and audio   |   Replay and innovation   |
Screenshots and videos   |   Final thoughts   |   Review round-up

Initial impressions

When Eidos Interactive gave Crystal Dynamics the rights to make Tomb Raider, original creators Core Design could still make games in their universe. They had decided on an anniversary edition remake of the first title, with an upgraded engine and new mechanics, but keeping it in line with Tomb Raider: Legend so the titles matched up with each other. Sadly for them, Eidos clarified that Crystal Dynamics would helm too – a the week after they announced the new release. This was the final nail in Core Design’s Tomb Raider coffin and since then they have been legally unable to create any further titles for the franchise.

I loved the original Tomb Raider and Legend is among my favourites, so when Tomb Raider: Anniversary was released I was eager to play a game I remembered with the mechanics I adored from the latest in the series. This was the second title I went through in my Let’s Play series. As I’ve already reviewed the other two, why not complete the trilogy?

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Plot

Anniversary roughly follows the same plot as the original Tomb Raider. Lara Croft is convinced by Jacqueline Natla to go into a tomb and collect a piece of the Scion, an Atlantean relic of immense power; but after taking out the henchman sent to kill her as soon as she retrieves the piece, the archaeologist decides to take them all and cut Natla out of the competition. First she heads to Greece and then to Egypt, finding monstrous creatures guarding each fragment. The moment she assembles the full Scion, she sees the truth of Natla’s plans and this leads to a final confrontation with the Atlantean Queen.

While Anniversary roughly follows the same storyline as the original Tomb Raider, it adds references to the mother-seeking quest that starts in Legend.

While the above is the storyline of the original game, this release adds references to the mother-seeking quest that starts in Legend. It makes it seem as though Richard Croft, Lara’s father, sought the Scion to use its repository of knowledge to find the way to his lost wife — who disappears when she mishandles an ancient relic, as seen during flashback sequences. It’s a loose thread and a tenuous plot point but it does establish Natla as part of the trilogy, without which her participation in the last title, Tomb Raider: Underworld, would have been a bit more questionable.

Legend reintroduced Lara to players, giving her a defined personality and a personal quest that drove her characterisation. Anniversary does very little to advance in this as it tries too hard to be both a sequel to that game and a remake of the original title of the series. As it stands, this is the weakest instalment in terms of plot, storytelling and characterisation.

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Gameplay

As the second part of the LAU trilogy Anniversary keeps the same overall gameplay elements. While climbing and moving across ledges you can press the action button to move faster; this is not only recommended but also required with the inclusion of collapsible structures, a boost in challenge to offset the auto-grab mechanic. Finally, you can push and drag objects in any direction you choose and with how many ‘boxes’ you move – a welcome addition. And of course there’s the zip-cord, but more on that below.

You’re forced to jump without knowing if there is a ledge or if you’re going to end up killing yourself.

It’s a fun experience but there are a few things that drag it down. The first is a recurring issue in this trilogy: leaps of faith, where the camera is just at the right angle where you can’t see behind you. It forces you to jump without knowing if there is a ledge or if you’re going to end up killing yourself.

Anniversary makes constant use of the dodge-counter mechanic, where you dodge an attack at the last moment and crosshairs line up on the target. If you press the fire button then, the damage is critical and will kill most non-boss enemies. The problem is that this mechanic is dodgy at best — no pun intended — leading to failed counters and massive damage on Lara. The T-Rex boss fight during the first segment of the game uses dodge-counter exclusively to deal damage to the creature and if you don’t pull it off correctly, you can waste hours dying to the massive dinosaur.

Speaking of the T-Rex fight, it and many other bosses include quick-time event (QTE) cutscenes before or after the fight, usually with deadly consequences should you fail. There are some segments you feel should be boss fights but are just QTEs instead; the henchmen fights being the most notable ones. The Tomb Raider series is about danger and adventure and these sequences kill the mood and any momentum you might have.

The zip-cord is a constant source of frustration, as it fails more often than it works.

The zip-cord — a grappling hook hanging on Lara’s belt first introduced in Legend — is a constant source of frustration, as it fails more often than it works and usually in situations where failure means death and reload at the checkpoint. The climb of the Atlantean pyramid near the end is a particular sore spot. The jumps become trickier and time-sensitive, and you still need to cord; only it fails to grab on and you plummet to your next reload.

Weapon fire is another point of frustration. While in most games and indeed, in the other titles in the LAU trilogy, you need just to hold the fire button to keep firing, in Anniversary you need to press the button for each ‘attack’. This turns even minor encounters into button-mashes.

As a reboot, this release remixed and redesigned most – if not all – environments or stages. But the greatest change came with the redesigned aqueduct, now a single massive room where you must lower and raise the water while avoiding enemies and getting a raft into place. In the original 1996 release this was a very confusing level, but here it’s a streamlined and more exciting room where you perform the same overall steps while making perfect use of the new gameplay mechanics.

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Visuals and audio

Music ramps up in line with what’s happening onscreen and the final scores are downright epic.

As this is an anniversary edition, there was the need to celebrate the series and as such composer Troels Brun Folmann went with an orchestral backing and chorus. He remade some of the more famous songs and jingles from the original release (composed by Nathan McCree) and combined these tunes with his own music. The result is a soundtrack that is both familiar and completely fresh: a perfect union of the old and the new. What makes Folmann’s scores so good is how they evolve as you play, with one tune seamlessly leading to the next. It ramps up in line with what’s happening onscreen and the final pieces are downright epic.

Voice-acting is strong and Keeley Hawes’s version of Lara Croft is flawless. While there aren’t many chances in the script for her to show some of the character’s vulnerabilities, she still makes the the archaeologist feel human and real. Natla’s voice actress is superb and every word out of her mouth drips with venom and condescension: she keeps this outlandish villain grounded, never letting her become over the top. The henchmen on the other hand are a forgettable lot. Every single one a different stereotype with the matching overacted accent: the dumb Texan, the arrogant French, the psychotic bloodthirsty criminal, and the white trash skater kid that looks remarkably like Vanilla Ice.

Anniversary uses an upgraded engine from the utilised for Legend. Lara looks great and the environments are breathtaking; and Natla’s upgraded design is fantastic, making her look regal in her first form and downright demonic in her final one. The best bit about it is that it doesn’t suffer from the texture-popping issues its predecessor did. In fact, the ruins are gorgeous and full of intricate and appropriate designs such as hieroglyphic murals in Egypt, sculptures and a giant statue of King Midas in Greece and an impossible dam and waterfall contraption in Peru. These details add to the experience and make it all seem more wondrous. The last segment, the pyramid, manages to look both ancient and alien; not so much a remnant from a bygone civilisation but a crashed spaceship full of wonders and horrors.

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Replay and innovation

This is perhaps the most derivative of all Tomb Raider games, adding nothing to innovation. It keeps the same mechanics from Legend and doesn’t introduce anything new to gaming or the series.

Unlockables and different difficulty levels will most likely bring players back for a few runs.

Much like every other title in the LAU trilogy, Anniversary has quite a number of relics to collect to unlock artwork and other extra goodies. It also features another Croft Manor run, and time trials which you’ll need to complete in order to access cheat codes. These together, combined with different difficulty levels will most likely bring players back for a few runs – though if you’re planning to play on ‘hard’, my advice is to be patient. Lara’s weapons deal a ridiculously low amount of damage on harder difficulties.

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Screenshots and videos

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Final thoughts

Tomb Raider: Anniversary is a phenomenal reboot to a highly-influential game. But as a sequel in a new trilogy meant to revitalise the franchise and take it new heights, it falters. I guess that’s the price of trying to keep true to both the original title and the new ones. If you’re looking to play through the entire LAU trilogy, then you have to pick up this release; but if that’s not your thing, then move along to another game.

Play the original Tomb Raider in all of its blocky glory.

As for the big question: should it be part of future 1001 lists? The answer is a definite no. It doesn’t add much to the experience and if you’re looking to play the original Tomb Raider, then play that one in all of its blocky glory.

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Review round-up
Reviewed: PC
Source: We purchased the game from Steam for £6.99
Positive: An amazing soundtrack that combines old tunes with new scores
Negative: Frustrating gameplay elements and dull quick-time events (QTEs)
Score: 30 out of 60
Grade: Worth a look
Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, video game, review, graph, Worth a look

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14 thoughts on “Review: Tomb Raider: Anniversary

    1. If you haven’t played Tomb Raider: Legend, I would say give it a shot. It’s fantastic. My review of it is up here as well.

      Personally, as an old Tomb Raider fan (both old as in the old series and old because I am getting older), I felt the reboot focused too much on hurting Lara, trying to force character growth through traumatic experiences. Also there was perhaps too much focus on combat and killing and very little adventuring and exploration. For a game called Tomb Raider, tombs were scarce and completely optional.

      Another point, for me, is theme and atmosphere. Whereas the old ones had the Indiana Jones adventuring style, where even Lara herself had fun doing her stuff, almost drooling in fascination at some random ruin, the new one was a by the numbers tense gritty survival game of the type we’ve seen way too many.

      I do hope they make good on their promise and build up Lara’s character over the course of these titles, because in the reboot there are so few opportunities for her personality to come through and it’s difficult to see who she is as a person, whereas the Old Lara was a very cool character, especially in the LAU trilogy.

      Crystal Dynamics has made both ‘series’ so maybe I just have to wait and see. You have no idea how much I hope I can one day say the same thing as you just did. “I’ll take the new series over the old one any day.” I want that, so much.

      Thanks for the comment, and seriously, play Tomb Raider: Legend…and make sure you avoid Chronicles and Angel of Darkness. I played through them (again) recently and it was painful.

      Sorry for making this a rant, but one of the major issues with the old Tomb Raider series is how repetitive they became under Core Design, their original creators. Tomb Raider 1 and 2 were very good, but 3, Last Revelation, Chronicles and Angel of Darkness’s quality ranged from mixed to amazingly poor. If you came into the series during those, I can understand your thoughts on the series perfectly.

      Sorry for the rant!

      And thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have played Legend and I didn’t like it :].

        The Tomb Raider reboot was really good imo. It’s not fantastic like most people think it is, but it’s solid and I honestly can’t wait for the sequel.

        I might go back and try getting into the older games, but I’m not sure yet. I can tell you really love this franchise :].

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh I do. I won’t go into (more) detail so I don’t go into another rant haha. I’m prone to those 😛

          If you do give the older titles a try, steer clear of the last of the Core Design games, as I said, they put off even fans!

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh man, XCOM is fantastic. I’ve played a few campaigns of it. Started streaming my attempts with Ironman mode and it was painful!

              Rise looks impressive. I’ve had my concerns with it, still do as you might imagine, but I’m hopeful.

              Fallout on the other hand doesn’t appeal to me that much. I played 3 and couldn’t get into it.

              Wanted to ask though, what is it about the Tomb Raider reboot that you found so appealing? I realised I ranted but never asked 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Xcom is one of my favorite games to play. I can’t wait for Xcom 2 :].

                Rise, I’m assuming Son of Rome, is a great game imo. I actually reviewed it a while back. You might find it interesting. You can read it if you want – http://drakulus.com/2014/03/22/ryse-son-of-rome-review/.

                I’ve been a fan of Fallout since Fallout 3 . I love that game so much. I’ve been wanting part 4 since I completed part 3.

                I think the best way for me to answer any questions you have about Tomb Raider is to recommend that you read my review on it – http://drakulus.com/2013/09/09/tomb-raider-review/

                I didn’t love this game, but I thought it had a lot of potential to be something great and Rise of The Tomb Raider looks like a really great game. It’s too bad it’s coming out with Fallout 4 :].

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Sorry, when I said Rise I meant “of the Tomb Raider.” I leave it at “Rise” because it’s a long long title.

                  We’re both waiting on XCOM 2!! So sad it got pushed back to next year…even though the Preorders are already there. I’m not planning on buying it until we get close to that date. It’s already been pushed back once, nothing says it can’t be pushed further back!

                  With Fallout 3 my issue was I couldn’t connect to the world, couldn’t immerse myself in it, but I might give it another shot at some point. I’ve also been told New Vegas is ‘better’.

                  Like

                1. Well, the review is up here as well, in case you’d like to read my full analysis on it.

                  Overall it’s a good game, the 2nd best in the trilogy for me and the best looking Classic Lara (I call the new one NuLara). Fun game but has a few issues in narrative and pacing. Also, feels rather anticlimactic for the end of a trilogy, without proper boss fights and bad guys going out in cutscenes. The Thor puzzles, using the gauntlets or just wielding the hammer, are pretty damn fun though!

                  Liked by 1 person

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