Video Game heroine Lara Croft has earned ‘Legend’ status, and for good reason. After starting out, she became a true gaming icon who stood out in a male-dominated world. In 2010 they named “Lara Croft Way”, a road in Derby, UK which was the home of Core Design, the developer who worked on the original run of Tomb Raider games. After a string of (mostly) brilliant games the decision was made to reboot the series after the disappointing Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness.
This time around Lara’s motivation was much more personal, as she works to discover the circumstances behind her mother’s disappearance after a nasty plane crash. It’s essentially an origins story, but a retelling which retains most of what made Tomb Raider great.
Running alongside this is Lara’s quest to uncover the mystery behind Excalibur, which once again took her around the globe to places such as Bolivia, Tokyo and even Cornwall. Tomb Raider: Legend struck a faithful balance between wild and urban locations, so Lara could show off her entire skill set. Whether you were rock climbing or exploring a King Arthur-themed museum, the classic combo of exploration, puzzle solving and combat was alive and well in Tomb Raider: Legend.
Lara had a supporting cast in the form of Zip and Alister. These two served as a storytelling device by providing radio comms as Lara worked to pursue the truth. This, combined with in-game cutscenes of which some contained quick time events, created a smooth flow to the game that was underpinned by the strongest narrative in the series to date.
In Tomb Raider: Legend, Lara was packing a few new tricks including her grapple, torch and binoculars. Yep, far away from using your unlimited pistol ammo to light up dark areas in the very first game, Lara was now correctly equipped with a small torch. She could also use her binoculars to scan her environment for clues and points of interest. However, by far her most useful new tool was the grapple. This could be used to move and destroy objects, as well as momentarily stun enemies whilst in combat.
On the subject of combat, as well as getting her hands on the usual variety of weaponry, Lara could now translate her agility into melee attacks, including a pretty cool jump manoeuvre which slowed down in mid-air. It seemed Lara had been busy learning new tricks whilst she was away.
The biggest change, however, came in the form of how Lara moved around her environments – this time she was even more agile than before. This stretched from puzzle solving to combat, and opened things up fully for players, giving a real feel of full freedom in 360 degrees. A simple way of illustrating this is how Lara moved blocks. Instead of only being able to move in one of the four main compass directions, she could now push or pull blocks in any direction she liked, or use her grapple. This same principle could be applied to Lara’s platforming and the complexity of the puzzles, at times making the way forward much less obvious than before.
The design of Lara herself was tweaked for the reboot, whilst still staying faithful to her original incarnation. Interestingly, Keeley Hawes returned to voice her also, which only added to the polished feel to the game overall, doing Lara justice as a character.
Tomb Raider: Legend also saw a direct sequel in Tomb Raider: Underworld. This signalled the return of classic villain Jacqueline Natla, from the very first game. This further underlined the commitment to respecting the series’ legacy, as it evolved for future generations.
Even before Tomb Raider: Legend, two films had been made starring Angelina Jolie as the artifact hunter which, in truth, were a real mixed bag. What they did do however, is show that Lara was not just a video game character, but a true British icon whose adventures won over many millions of fans.
Of course, more recently there’s been another reboot with the trilogy of Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and with it a movie based directly on the first game. Now, reports say a further reboot is in the works, rumoured to be a remake of the very first game. I hope this is the case, as this opens the door to a remake of Tomb Raider 2, which is the most exciting prospect for me.
Tomb Raider: Legend had the important but difficult job of rebooting a series that had lost its way both on the small and big screens. Since then, we’ve seen that Lara Croft is a resilient character and is still going strong 25 years after first shimmying into our lives.
If you wish to play Tomb Raider: Legend then you’ll find it available on the Xbox Store for play on Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It also released on PS3, PS4 and various other systems.