Tomb Raider is a series that has gone through more redesigns than the house of an interior designer with Alzheimer’s. From the game’s humble beginnings at Derby-based Core Design, Lara Croft has seen herself go from the front cover of FHM, to utter irrelevance, to gritty reboot in a matter of console generations.
Now with long-time developer Crystal Dynamics, it’s difficult to see how the people behind Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris are the same folks who bought us the much bleaker Tomb Raider reboot in 2013. However, this is actually a sequel to 2010’s Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light, a spin-off series which is distinguished by the omission of the words “Tomb Raider” in the title. Temple Of Osiris may be a much campier puzzle-infused adventure title, but at least it does have some tombs in it.
Presented in an isometric-view not dissimilar to the likes of Diablo or Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, new players will immediately have a prejudice to overcome. The game is not the loot-driven, hack-and-slash experience it initially appears to be. In fact, this is a much more measured approach that encourages puzzle solving, and gives you a wide range of tools and abilities in order to overcome a myriad of obstacles. The majority of these abilities come very early on in the game, with many being available from the start if you are playing alone. You can light torches, shoot several different guns, drop bombs, place grappling hooks, and wield a staff that can open doors and slow timers on bombs. While the puzzle solving aspects are rewarding whilst not being too difficult in their own right, the sheer amount of abilities you have at your disposal makes the game a slightly daunting prospect for the first hour of play. Temple of Osiris doesn’t do a great job of teaching you these gameplay aspects in a measured way, instead opting to dump extra controls on you rather than allowing you to practice what you’ve already learned. It’s like an over-enthusiastic sales person filling your shopping basket with new goodies, before you’ve even had chance to check your shopping list.
This is a criticism that disappears after a short while, and mainly applies to the single player campaign. However, Temple of Osiris is built as a four player co-op experience from the ground up. Interestingly, the game alters its puzzles slightly depending on how many people are playing co-operatively, and also splits down some of the abilities to different characters. With a group of four, you’ll find that there are puzzles that require teamwork and coordination to traverse, such as firing a grappling hook across a chasm to allow your team to cross safely. Being able to play from start to finish with the same group of people is the best way to experience Temple of Osiris, and is obviously the mode preferred by the developers.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily work in practice. Unless you have three friends online at once ready to start the game from the beginning, you will not be able to experience the game as intended. Online matchmaking is an atrocious experience. On joining an online game, you’ll be connected to the host (who could be at any point of the game, meaning that you can potentially end up in a game that is 99% complete) and then asked to pick a character. While you do this, all of the other players who were happily shooting scarabs before you came along, are immediately thrown back to the character select screen also. The game has to reload every time a person leaves or joins an online session, and then all connected players have to reselect their characters in each instance. Given that people will often join a session in the middle of solving a puzzle, jump around a bit, not understand the puzzle, and then leave again, this means that the game is interrupted every couple of minutes. While Temple Of Osiris is smart enough to cater its puzzles for the amount of available players, having to reload the game every time that number changes is not conducive to a fun experience. At least local co-op and private matches don’t suffer from this problem, but the convenience of matchmaking would have been ideal for those times when gathering a group of friends isn’t an option.
Matchmaking issues aside, this is a very well thought out and rewarding title. As you venture into the Egyptian tomb where the game is set, you’ll go through many well-crafted puzzles and platforming sections that occasionally challenge you, but never seem unfair or cheap. Once you have a decent handle on the controls, most of these said puzzles can be worked out in short order, but Temple of Osiris does offer some rewards for risky gameplay. You’ll collect various forms of currency throughout your travels, which in turn can be used to open particular chests in the hub world. Interestingly, the game features an inventory system (drawing further parallels to Diablo’s ilk), but it is certainly not essential that you acquire the best equipment to advance. This is more of a bonus for players who don’t mind scouring the map for extras.
While fighting off the dusty hordes of skeletons that you’d expect to see in tombs, the game will occasionally throw in a boss fight to liven things up. These confrontations often require teamwork to complete. By distracting a boss while your teammates ping off shots, or raising platforms so that they can escape the onslaught, boss encounters are some of the highlights to be had here. It’s a shame that the main villain is not quite up to this standard.
Story-wise, Temple of Osiris is about on par with your average Saturday morning cartoon show. Your antagonist is the Egyptian god Set, who wants to return to Earth and kill everyone for some unknown reason, and it’s your task to revive Osiris; the only one who can stop him. The setup doesn’t seem to take itself particularly seriously, but at the same time, it isn’t particularly interesting either. Set himself is a massive charisma-void who seems far too assured of his own victory, despite the fact that you thwart him at every turn. The best advice to counter this is to turn your brain off entirely, and instead invest in the moment-to-moment adventuring that’s on offer.
Ultimately, Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris is a mixed bag. It is still an enjoyable and worthwhile experience, even if the game’s unique selling point in its four player co-op is almost unusable. Despite its setbacks, there is a very decent game at its core, and is definitely worth a look on PlayStation Plus if you haven’t downloaded it already.
Not Quite Tomb Raider
In spite of itself, there is definitely some merit in here.