hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts


Jonii's blog

10:41 PM on 03.13.2013

Thoughts on Tomb Raider (2013)

View the better-formatted version of this blog here:

View the better-formatted version of this blog here:

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

I recently got my hands on Tomb Raider, never having played any of the previous games, and I found it to be a thematically solid piece of work, with Lara Croft basically being on the Ripley (Aliens) tier of woman warriors.

The game begins with Lara on a ship called The Endurance, a name which makes the central themes of the game (survival and coming of age) apparent right off the bat. The passengers consist of Lara herself, a quick-tempered archaeologist she is going on an expedition with, a few people around Lara's age who have come to film it, and a small crew of her father's loyal old friends. They are searching for the lost city of Yamatai, which legend says was ruled by the Sun Queen, a woman who ruled fairly, punished ruthlessly, and is said to have been able to call and command powerful storms by her will. All is going well, when a storm appears suddenly, tearing the boat apart and sinking it in no time. Everyone makes it out of the wreckage, but they are stranded on an island off the coast of Japan in the Dragon's Triangle, an area of the Pacific Ocean with as much mystery to it as the Bermuda Triangle once did.

“Sacrifice is a choice you make, loss is a choice made for you.”
--Roth, (Tomb Raider)

Much later in the game, Lara discovers that they have found Yamatai, and that the storms come suddenly as anyone approaches the island, be it by plane or boat, and very deliberately target and wrecks the vehicle, stranding its crew on the island 100% of the time. Afterwards, the storms disappear as quickly as they came. Discovering the Sun Queen's tomb, Lara finds murals painted on the walls that describe a ceremony meant for choosing the Sun Queen's successor. The order of the ceremony is as follows: Pilgrimage to the Island, represented by a picture of a woman arriving by boat to the stormy isle, Trial by Fire, represented by a woman engulfed in flame, and Transfer of Power, which is represented by the Sun Queen pouring a waterfall over the woman. The villain, Mathias, a man who has lived on the island for thirty years, kidnaps many of Lara's friends, believing her friend Sam to be the Successor.

The storm throws Lara into the purgatory that is the island of Yamatai. This storm introduces the first major symbol of the game: water, which symbolizes loss. Crawling onto the beach and ripped from normalcy, Lara is immediately struck on the back of the head and knocked out. Lara Croft has made her pilgrimage to the island.

The pilgrimage is the first step in the Sun Queen's ascension ceremony.

Water represents things that are wildly out of Lara's control. The storm, the unforgiving currents and waterfalls she gets caught up in and falls over, the rain that chills her on her first night... These are all things Lara cannot stop, and it seems nature is constantly out to kill her. Water is a universal dual symbol, however, representing both life and death. When Lara awakes after being knocked unconscious, her whole world has been literally flipped upside-down as she hangs from the ceiling, wrapped in thick tarp and rope in a cave lit with candles. At this point, Lara realizes that the only way to make it out is to swing over to the candles and set herself on fire. This burns the ropes and the tarp and sends Lara falling, finally free, down and through the floor, into darkness. The old Lara Croft dies in fire, and as the game's tag line states, "a survivor is born." While this supernatural force of water the island (and by extension, the Sun Queen) possesses seems to want to kill Lara, we must also remember that the Sun Queen's power is transferred through it, giving new life after trial and death by fire. The island has tested Lara, and discovered that she is willing to do what it takes to survive.

The successor must be engulfed in flame.

Fire is a symbol of of everything Lara does have control over. Lara takes control of her situation and her own survival with fire the same way ancient human beings first fought the cold and storms with it. She survives by setting herself on fire, and builds a campfire to keep warm in the storm that comes after her escape from the cave, starting her fight with the forces trying to kill her.

Lara uses the power of fire throughout the game. She uses torches, campfires, explosive barrels of fuel, flammable gas, firearms, and flaming arrows as tools to aid in her survival. One powerful example of this is the first time she is forced to kill.

Trying to sneak through a fire-lit camp of cultists who would immediately kill or sacrifice her to the spirit of the Sun Queen if they found her, Lara is caught by one of them, who runs his hand down her side. She pushes him away, but he attempts to strangle her. Unable to wrestle him off of her, she pulls the gun from his holster. He struggles to take it back and kill her, and she is forces to shoot him through the forehead.

Burned, battered, and forced to commit murder, Lara begins to cry.

Roth, an adventurer, old friend of Lara's father, and Wise Old Man character (the archetypical guide,) calms her down over a two-way radio and assures her that she has done the right thing. The bulk of the gameplay occurs after this scene, where Lara solves a lot of puzzles, climbs a lot of things, and is forced to kill more would-be murderers until she arrives at the top of the mountain to save her friends.

Eventually, Lara discovers the tomb of the Sun Queen, as I mentioned earlier. It is on a part of the mountain where the weather is completely nuts. There's snow, which shouldn't happen according to her, and wild sandstorms just outside of the tomb itself. She makes her way through the winds to another building, where she tries to reason with the cultists who find her, but they refuse to negotiate. All of them believe that if she dies and Sam is taken as the new Sun Queen, they will all escape. In order to escape the building, Lara finds a way to destroy the support beams holding up a large bell so that it can fall through the floor and create a way out. With these beams damaged, the wind rips the building apart and blows Lara over the edge of the new hole in the floor. She lands on a small island in an underground lake.

The ceremony is complete.

Note the parallels between the camera shot and the painting. The sun rays representing the Sun Queen, the water that pours from the light, the water surrounding the woman in each, and the darkness in the background. This is some really great stuff, here. It's rare that we see direction like this in a game, especially one that's part of a franchise, where the "art" of a game is usually sacrificed for the sake of gameplay. As I've said, though, I find this game to be very solid in terms of its narrative and its themes.

There's still another quarter of the game left to wrap things up, with more fire and more water and more survival, but now Lara knows who she is, and that is a warrior, a survivor. She follows the hero's journey very closely, and I've referenced it a few times. She even falls into a true Underworld, an underground prison with plenty of bones and meat and rivers of red and men driven mad by their time on the island, who are locked in cells. The entire place is damp and dripping with water, and of course Lara is required to use the power of fire in order to set off explosions and escape it. This chapter of the game is even titled "The Pit." There is a lot of debate among players, though, about whether or not Lara Croft is a hero.


She saved her friends and was tested over and over again, but whether or not the cultists were unmerciful and unwilling to negotiate, could anyone who has killed so many be called a hero? I'd say if you're comparing her to the kinds of heroes you'd study in an English class, like Beowulf or Gilgamesh or those other old models, then you'd have to say yes.

This debate marks a really important movement in video games these past few years.

Games are making us question our own actions now. Games like the first Bioshock in 2007 were on the right track, putting scripted choices in the game that led to different endings. In Tomb Raider, you can play the game sticking your climbing ax into every enemy's face because you think it's fun and exciting. You can play by setting enemies on fire or trying to sneak by and shooting only when they shoot first. No matter what you do, it always leads to the same ending. The game doesn't tell you anymore if you were "good" or "bad," a "paragon" or a "renegade..." You have to question how your influence on this narrative reflects on you as a person.

There's clearly a lot to talk about, and to be honest I can't cover it all and keep your attention. Congrats on getting this far! I hope this gets you to think more seriously about the games you play, and recognize just how far some have come to push the medium further towards reaching its potential as a method of storytelling.   read

8:36 PM on 12.13.2012

ALIENS Killing Floor

Tripwire Interactive's Killing Floor is a wave-based shooting game where you shoot zombies with a lot of weapons as a cast of interesting and funny characters. Since it's been connected to Steam Workshop, a way to collect player-created content and modifications (mods,) a group named the Wolf Pack Clan has released the ALIENS Killing Floor collection. Instructions on how and where to download it will be at the bottom of this post.

A lot of work's been put into this mod, and we can tell. The audio is spot on, with the aliens, weapons, and characters' voices and sounds coming straight out of the movies. You can choose between different characters from the Aliens, like Apone, Hudson, Vasquez, and Ripley herself. The mod features its own unique weapons, character models and classes, and enemies. You can choose to be a Medic, Rifleman, or Specialist, each with their own perks, much like their Killing Floor counter-parts. The aliens themselves come in a few flavors, too. Facehuggers, chestbursters, adult drones, leaping runners, and acid-spitting stalkers.

Another notable thing about this mod is its difficulty. Holy crap is it difficult. Playing on beginner is frantic, but easy to keep control of. Especially with a group, it's not tough to handle the waves. Even if you are in a group, though, the Alien Queen is ridiculous. She has no less than two or three times the health of the Patriarch (the normal boss for vanilla Killing Floor,) an instant kill melee attack (or maybe it's a two-shot kill... it happens so fast that no one's sure,) a Siren's scream, and to top it all off, she's huge and way faster than you. Good luck running away. The second I saw her, I began searching the levels for an airlock I could shoot her out of. No such luck. I shutter to think what it would take to kill her on the higher difficulties. The difficulty of the waves themselves spikes significantly when stepping up to Normal, as well.

The xenomorphs can climb the walls and ceilings

I seriously recommend WPC's Aliens Killing Floor to anyone who likes:

multiplayer first-person shooters
survival horror
Call of Duty's Nazi Zombies
Killing Floor
Seriously. You don't even need to like Aliens or know what it is to enjoy this game. Plus, it's free!

(You must own Killing Floor.)

Go to the Killing Floor Steam Workshop page.
Click the Collections tab.
Find ALIENS Killing Floor (it should be on the first page.)
Scroll down and click "Subscribe to All."
Launch Killing Floor
Look at the top right. You should see the mods downloading.
Relaunch Killing Floor when downloads are finished.

The Space Pirates Steam group:[youtube]   read

12:12 AM on 04.19.2012

Created vs. Creator: Why I Like ME3's Ending

The following is extremely spoilerific about Mass Effect 3's ending:

So I just finished. Personally, I didn't see a problem with the Starkid as long as that extended cut is a good one. It's not at all what Bioware promised, but then again, I just started this series three weeks ago with Mass Effect. I played all of them in a marathon run free from the years of waiting and without knowing what Bioware said they'd do. I still have a big problem with what happens right after, like all the fleets being stuck in Sol and the Normandy suddenly running away and crashing, and especially all the relays probably blowing up everyone's home system, but about the choices themselves, I like them. The endings still should have been vastly different from each other instead of color changed variations, showing the affect all your choices had, but I don't have a problem with the actual choices, and here's why :

The running theme of Mass Effect has been Created vs. Creator. Salarians vs. The Krogan they uplifted. Quarians vs. The Geth. In a twisted way involving the predetermined paths of evolution, Reapers vs. The Races of The Galaxy. Organic Life vs. Synthetic Life. Cerberus vs. EDI too, as we learned through the backstory revealed throughout. Every time a chance to preserve what was given the chance at life and what gave it the chance in the first place, I did. I made peace between the Geth and the Quarians, the Krogan and everybody... I did shoot The Illusive Man, though.

I also didn't know the Starkid was lying. Even though he lied about destroying all synthetic life, he didn't lie about cycles repeating. I study literature, which is basically finding the connections between anything and everything. I know cycles repeat, and I know that after the war prejudice against synthetics and war between peoples would continue. They did after WWII. So I did the only thing that made sense. I threw myself in.

Everyone lives.

It certainly doesn't stop the probability of war and such in the future, but oh well. Maybe with their new sense of life and I guess "humanity," synthetics will understand and sympathyze with and get along with everyone even more. With their new bodies and enhanced thinking and general functioning, organics will do the same, and maybe have the logic to find new solutions to conflicts instead of war. All of this should also very much speed up recovery and, depending on their biology, survivability. Like the way cooperation between Geth and Quarians gave them like a 50 year head start with rebuilding the homeworld.

The whole series was a question about the worth of life as a whole, and while not what they'd apparently promised, I can see why this was the ending Bioware chose. Yes, your past choices didn't directly affect this at all, but they certainly affected you as a person. I'm willing to bet that a lot of you knew exactly what you were going to pick the second the options were given. No matter what, you get rid of Starkid's control of the Reapers, which are shown in those last minutes to be shackled AI controlled by a creator, the way EDI was controlled by Cerberus.


Control was the option showing that you thought it best to control synthetic life, have it be subservient.

Destruction was the option showing that you had decided committing genocide against synthetic life that was more powerful than you was necessary.

Synthesis shows that you want organics and synthetics to cooperate, and that you can forgive the terrible wrongs either side has committed in favor of a fresh start.   read

11:47 AM on 02.14.2012

Beginnings: All in The Family

My first truly memorable experience with gaming was watching my dad play. I would look over his shoulder or sit in a chair next to his and watch him play games on his computer. I saw everything from Half-Life, Rainbow Six, and Wolfenstein, to Red Alert, Tribes, and Diablo. At first, he'd say things like "You shouldn't watch this game" sometimes, and so I'd walk out of the room, but pretty soon he'd say it even less and less often, I suppose after seeing that I thought they were awesome and I wasn't murdering the other kids at the day care or anything. Games and specifically PC games are my connection with my dad, a way I found that I could bond with him and relate to him from a very early age. I always asked if I could have a turn, and eventually I had my own computer to share with my brother with my own copy of a few games.

My dad would take me to LAN parties, which my mom and us kids called the "computer parties." I would wake up one Saturday morning and find that my dad's computer was gone, and it would almost be like Christmas. I would help him move mine to the car, and off we went. I wasn't always allowed to play, and sometimes I wouldn't be allowed to go at all which that bummed me out, but I understand now that not everyone wants to play Diablo with their adult friends and a five year old. When I did go, though, it was amazing and exciting. I would run around and crawl under the long tables and things to help people put their computers together and hook them together with the ethernet cables. There was food and family and people laughing, and I was happy to be recognized as being responsible enough to play all of these M rated games with my dad and uncles and cousins and people I didn't know.

LAN parties and playing games with my dad were my first step to learning what makes a computer tick and my first step to being an avid gamer who understands that they do not themselves make kids violent. I now have my own LAN parties on occasion. Even in high school my dad was still coming into my room and having conversations like this with me:

DAD: Can you help us beat No Mercy on Expert? The Zoey bot's killing us.
ME: Dad, it's a school night.
DAD: Yeah, but we really need your help.

Games are a great hobby, and my friends and I recently played through Diablo II together, which was the second time for me. Playing with family and friends is the reason I love online gaming and LANs so much, and LANs in particular are always good times.


If you like older games, you'll love my good friend Patrick, or Werebear, who is currently playing through every single Zelda game in order, and is probably going to start writing what he calls "backlog reviews" soon.   read

12:03 AM on 02.13.2012

Games Your Sister Will Like: Plants Vs. Zombies

Maybe some of you out there have a little sister, and maybe she's getting into video games, or maybe you would like her to increase her awesomeness while being a good big brother/sister by doing so. Plants Vs. Zombies is a great game to introduce a cool little sister to. My (at the time) nine-year-old sister walked in and saw me playing this gem once and asked if she could have a turn. I made her a profile and off she went.

My sister played for over an hour and never had to ask for help. The reading level was such that she was able to easily understand and laugh along with the game, and every so often, she would turn to me while giggling and saying things like "Who would even live next to zombies?!" between snickers. She perfectly understands the absurdity of the entire game as much as the rest of us adults and almost-adults do, and it's that simplicity behind a game and its story that is so deceptive, hiding how complex it really is, that brought us all into gaming in the first place. We still look back on those games we started on with nostalgia and the urge to replay them, and my sister still asks if she can play PvZ on my computer.

It's primarily a PC game, but it's also sold for iOS and Nintendo DS.

Oh, and if you haven't played this yet, do so.
The patch notes for God's new Commandments mentions that not playing PvZ is a sin now.

The usual price is $9.99, but for the next eleven-and-a-half hours, Plants Vs. Zombies is $1.99 on Steam:   read

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -