When the Tomb Raider series was re-booted in 2006 with Tomb Raider: Legend it was a breath of fresh air and was the first game to take risks by changing the formula around, making Tomb Raider the continued success it is today. I do feel, however, that it is one of those games that is brushed under the carpet so often, especially with the recent re-boot being so successful. I thought I would take a look back at one of my all-time favourite Tomb Raider games and maybe I can give it the credit it deserves!
With Crystal Dynamics at the helm, Legend was the first re-boot of the series, completely reimagining the look of the game, the mechanics and Lara’s backstory. After the critical failure of Angel of Darkness, it was a godsend. Legend follows Lara Croft on a mission to find the legendary sword, Excalibur. Visiting locations such as Bolivia, Tokyo and Cornwall (of all places). The game brought in a much more dynamic range of moves from Lara, swinging on horizontal poles and being able to wall run really transformed the gameplay, making it feel more fluid.
You must understand that I was pretty terrible at playing games, and I don’t think I had ever completed a full game before. I used to play my Dad’s PlayStation constantly, most of the time I would watch him playing the Tomb Raider games, I was fascinated by them. When I actually got around to playing them, I would make a habit of playing the first level over, and over again. I would either get bored, or it would get too hard/scary. Hence why I only played the Manor level Tomb Raider III over and over. I found it so much fun, with the classic locking the butler in the fridge challenge and that epic outside obstacle course. There were times when I would brave the main game, but as soon as that monkey came at me, I was out.
Legend, for me, was so much more accessible as a game; some may call it easy with its lock-on targeting system, but you know what. I don’t care. I actually completed this game, and I was so unbelievably proud of myself. I then went back and completed Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II.
This element of accessibility in Legend is what draws me to the game, one of the best things about it was the constant dialogue between Lara and her two tech guys, Zip and Alister. It was genuinely a life saver for me during the game as I felt a lot safer with two guys chatting away in my ears. The type of enemies you face was another element that really helped. For some reason, I find it a lot easier to fight faceless mercenaries than have a giant bear pop out of nowhere.
I mentioned earlier about the lock-on targeting system, which I will admit, I loved when I played this for the first time. I would say that now, having become a more experienced gamer, it just makes it way too easy, and I do get a little bit bored. Playing it now in comparison to thirteen or so years ago is a completely different experience.
I have experienced games that are very similar but, overall work better. Uncharted for instance. Uncharted understands the need for the narrative to be exemplary. The gameplay and combat aren’t the most engaging; but the story and the characters really drive the game forward, making you want to carry on. Legend, on reflection, doesn’t do this very well, I will admit that I often forget what half the stories entail in earlier Tomb Raider games, but the mechanics and environments are engaging, so it doesn’t really matter.
But I will admit, at the time it was so much fun to play, and it only got better with Anniversary, which was a remake of the very first game, with the artistic style and gameplay of Legend. It was a perfect combination of the improved mechanics, but with the atmosphere and incredible levels of the first game. I would genuinely be so happy if a trilogy in the same vein of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro was released, featuring the three original Tomb Raider games, completely remade in HD glory, because some of the environments could look absolutely stunning. Imagine the photo-mode!
For me Legend really was a gateway into gaming, it made Tomb Raider accessible for me and opened my eyes to a whole new world of actually completing games. It was something brand new for the franchise, and although it still had the same basic formula of raiding tombs and finding artefacts it felt so refreshing. Now don’t get me wrong I love what has been done with the franchise since, however, I think so much more credit is given to the 2013 re-boot for reimagining the game, but the very same thing was done back in 2006 that deserves to be remembered.