She likes shootin' and lootin'
Which Lara Croft do you prefer? Crystal Dynamics has two versions of her, splitting the iconic character into distinctly different properties. The recent Tomb Raider reboot and the scheduled follow-up Rise of the Tomb Raider paint Lara in a survivalist light -- someone that's fighting for her life more than anything else. That's all well and good, but you can't fault anyone that favors the other Lara; they're probably just used to her.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris continues what 2010's Guardian of Light began -- getting back to the Tomb Raider roots with a star that had no problem mowing down anything in her path to find more treasure. She’s brash, she’s ruthless, and, (ideally) she has a few friends helping her.
Guardian of Light is highly regarded by most -- an isometric, top-down twin-stick shooter that was a delight to play. With few complaints from the fans, Crystal Dynamics knew that Temple of Osiris wasn’t an effort that it’d necessarily want to revamp, but rather just improve. The two levels that we played at gamescom 2014 indicate that it's certainly poised to do just that.
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Perhaps the biggest alteration that Temple of Osiris employs is simply the number of people that are in on the action. Whereas the first game in the series featured two-player co-op, Temple of Osiris drops up to four into the fray. The characters pair off into two groups with unique capabilities. Lara and fellow treasure hunter Carter Bell can grapple to distant locations, while Egyptian gods Horus and Isis are equipped with light staffs. Each proves essential for clearing certain sections, but no characters feel more powerful than others. In the event that there's only a single player, Lara is given a staff to assist with certain sections.
On the surface, Temple of Osiris is all about teamwork. Traversing across several tombs in an Egyptian setting in an effort to stop the god Osiris' evil brother Set is technically the reason for this dangerous endeavor. Your partners will feel invaluable as you fight monsters, solve puzzles, and wander off into intriguing nooks. Don't be naive -- they have an ulterior motive just like you.
Underscoring the entirety of Temple of Osiris is a sense of competition. The game ranks players after each level, elevating the top performer on a pedestal where they're showered with gems. These gems act as the game's currency, so it's easy to get caught up in wanting more than your compadres. Before long, you're scrambling to pick up the point bonuses, get the final blow on enemies, and find that secret area first. It gives you that one-up that isn't necessary, but you just want so badly.
The pursuit of gems is how the game accentuates its light RPG system. A treasure room that's available in between levels features a wealth of chests that all have random gear to equip. Chests vary in cost to open -- the higher the cost, the better the chance that it'll hold rare items. Crystal Dynamics isn't too willing to talk about the economy of Temple of Osiris yet, so it's unknown whether you'll be able to just buy specific items. Regardless, it's a certainty that gems are something you'll want lots of.
Temple of Osiris offers the ability to go back to previous sections and grind out gems if you so wish. After each level, an elevator option is available, which takes the team back to an overworld hub where everything's replayable. It'll end up being a great help when seeking to clear side challenges or set high scores, especially considering that doing so is how some of the game's best gear is unlocked.
These challenges won't be a cakewalk. In our demo, gameplay wasn't overly difficult, but it also gave the impression that it'd be tough to do consistently well. Dying resets a point multiplier along with a deduction in points, meaning that consistency is absolutely key. Compounding matters are the typical flaws associated with this style of game. Depth of field and precision platforming aren't Osiris' strengths, but it's likely that familiarity will eventually mitigate most frustrations that arise as a result.
It may not be perfect but it works, and it'll probably work really well. It brings with it a sense of exploration and adventure that'll be welcome by those who grew up with Lara. Crystal Dynamics may have taken divergent paths with her character, but Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris proves that it hasn't forgotten the series' roots.