Checking out Lara Croft with her top down... shooter, that is!


Bad story headlines aside, you should know that -- after having gotten a nice look at the game at GDC -- I'm pretty pumped about Lara Croft's upcoming adventure.

Called Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, this isn't your typical tomb-raiding adventure. Crystal Dynamics first download-only title, Guardian of Light is an isometric top down shooter, designed for intense action and cooperative puzzle solving. But one thing it's not is a Tomb Raider game.

"At a high level, I built it for our fans to live in between our major Tomb Raider releases," Creative Director Daniel Neuburger tells me. "It's definitely through and through a Lara Croft adventure, but a different style of gameplay, just to give [fans] something different to do between those major releases."

Hit the jump for eyes-on details, which includes spiders. Big spiders. Giant even.

The Guardian of Light finds Lara exploring the jungles of Central America, searching for lost artifacts and other things buried in tombs and dirt, as she tends to do. In particular, she's searching for something called the Mirror of Smoke, an artifact that was key in an ancient war between The Army of Light and the evil overlord known as Xolotl (pronounced "Zo-lote"). Using the Mirror of Smoke, Totec (the leader of the Army of Light) banished Xolotl, and then entombed himself in the mirror to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Following along so far? Good -- here's where Lara comes in. Because she's good at her job, she unearths the Mirror of Smoke, but soon finds that she's been tracked by a band of mercenaries. The mirror gets swiped, which raises Xolotl back from the dead (of course), and gives him the opportunity to swipe the mirror before running off. Totec awakens from his slumber and blames Lara before the two reluctantly join forces to retrieve the mirror and save the world from an age of darkness.


Whether or not you were able to follow all of that, it doesn't much matter right now. The point is that it sets up the game's cooperative action, with one player taking control of Lara and the other of Totec. Each character has his or her own strengths and abilities, forcing players to cooperate in some interesting and clever ways.

As expected, Lara wields her dual pistols, but will come equipped with a grappling hook, as well. The hook can be used to attach to grapple points in the world, of course. But more important to the game's cooperative spin, she'll also be able to throw the rope to Totec in order to help him across gaps and solve other puzzles.

Totec's got his own sets of skills, as well. He'll be able to fire weapons (Lara gave him a quick class on modern armaments), but also carries with him spears, along with a shield. The spears (up to three can exist in the game world at any given time) can be thrown at walls, which Lara can jump to to cross gaps. Totec can also put his shield above his head, giving Lara a stepping stone or a moving platform.

While much of the game will find players exploring sprawling, fully-rendered 3D worlds as they blast down Xolotl's minions using firearms and remote bombs, that's not the only focus. Using a combination of both Lara's and Zotec's unique abilities, players will have to work together to solve puzzles as a team.

The hands-off demo I'm shown has Lara and Zotec exploring The Spider's Tomb, and tasked with finding four sun discs to advance (all the while killing lots of big ass spiders). This particular area isn't linear, with the players being able to pick up the discs in any order. It's a great opportunity for me to see the player team work in action. In one instance, Lara uses a wall run ability to clear a gap. Once crossed, Totec jumps as Lara throws out her grappling hook to catch him. It's one of many trust building mechanics built into Guardian of Light.

"The two players in the story are kind of building a trust and learning to work together," Neuburger tells me, "and I really wanted the two people on the couch or the two people playing online to have to go through the same struggle, and really learn to work together, to trust each other."

Outside of these types of puzzles on the critical story path, The Guardian of Light will also have a number of "Challenge Tombs." In one particular "Challenge Tomb" (one of the game's easiest, I'm told), Lara and Totec need to climb a tall pillar in order to retrieve an item. With no grappling point in sight, the obvious solve is to use Totec's spears -- throwing them into the pillar will allow Lara to climb up. But thrown from the ground, the spears aren't high enough for Lara to reach. The solution? Totec heads up a nearby staircase, giving him a little extra height. Problem solved.

This item, along with the gems that drop from fallen enemies, will be used for something linked to gameplay. Exactly what that is, Neuburger isn't really saying.

"All of the rewards in our game have gameplay meaning," he says, saying one of the team's goals was to make sure they weren't throwing in pick-ups just for the sake of it.

Visually, The Guardian of Light looks stellar for a downloadable title. It should -- it uses the same engine Crystal Dynamics used for its last next-gen Tomb Raider title, Tomb Raider: Underworld. Although locked into an isometric view, the entire world is rendered in 3D, lighting effects, shadows, and bristling foliage.

Although the game was tuned for cooperative play (both online and off), The Guardian of Light will also feature an adapted Lara-only single-player experience. Sorry, Totec fans.

"We designed everything for co-op, because it's really important to hit that co-op experience pitch perfect," Neuburger explains to me. "We take those co-op puzzles and redesign them to fit for the single player experience, but with the overall goals of the co-op puzzles."

But watching two players working together while playing The Guardian of Light, it's obvious that you'll want to grab a buddy for this adventure. As surprising a take on the franchise as it is, it's definitely shaping up to be one of the more polished downloadable titles in the space.

I left my meeting with Crystal Dynamics with one thing on my mind: "I want to play this." The developer plans to show off more of Lara Croft: The Guardian of Light -- set to hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC and their respective downloadable services -- at E3. I hope to get my chance then, and maybe they'll bring even bigger spiders for me to shoot.

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Nick Chester
Nick ChesterFormer Editor-in-Chief (2011)   gamer profile

Editor-in-Chief @ Destructoid.com nick at destructoid.com  more + disclosures



Filed under... #Lara Croft #PC #Previews #PS3 #PSN #Xbox 360



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