Reimagining an iconic videogame character is no easy task, reimagining a character that for many marked the dawning of a new era for the medium is surely doubly difficult. And yet, with the new Tomb Raider game, that’s exactly what Crystal Dynamics are trying to do.
One look at the ‘new’ Lara Croft and it’s clear that things are very different from what has come before. She’s younger, grittier and more fragile. If I’m being mean I could say that she looks rather like the female incarnation of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake (a series that owes a lot to Lara’s original adventures) but, hey, I’m not that mean.
The new approach to Ms. Croft is something that the dev team are not taking lightly. Speaking to Edge magazine, art director Brian Horton explains the direction behind the change:
“It was daunting in a lot of ways, because you have to retain some of the iconic nature, but also bring her forward and make her relevant for the modern gamer… We knew we wanted to bring Lara to a more believeable space, not just in terms of wardrobe but in terms of physicality… We also looked at who she is, so her curiosity, her willingness to go into the unknown. All of that came up through the character design.”
Lara’s story for this outing is set-up up as an exploration into her origins, our herione’s first ever expedition which sees her alone on an unknown Japanese island after suffering the shipwreck of the HMS Endurance. Crystal Dynamics have spoken about how the goal of the game is based around keeping Lara alive in this hostile environment; rather than fancy side quests involving snow mobiles and Croft Manor this is a game about defending yourself and making sure you survive to witness another day.
The screenshots (see game tab below) depict a darker, more menacing, more brutal world than those of recent Tomb Raider titles – relying on restricted lighting levels, claustrophobic settings and imposing weather to create a foreboding atmosphere. Supposedly the game runs on a tweaked version of the that used in Tomb Raider: Underworld so seeing the game being played live will be very interesting indeed. Whether it’s interesting for the right or wrong reason remains to be seen.
Tomb Raider seemingly represents a franchise (and a studio and publisher) that has finally come to terms with the fact that it has become stale, its competitors have overtaken it and its fans are jaded with what looked like a complete lack of vision from the publishers/developers involved. Hopefully that representation turns out to be honest.
Plus, it’s Lara Croft and I don’t need a second invitation to watch her in action.