Friday, 6 May 2016

Angel of Doneness

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is complete, and so ends an era in Tomb Raider history. AoD was the last of the Core games - after that, Lara lay dormant for a while before Crystal Dynamics picked up the baton. AoD has a bad reputation, and I was expecting the worst going into it, but actually I found it surprisingly enjoyable. It has its problems, sure, but it certainly wasn't the travesty that I believed it to be. What did it do wrong? Well, there are a lot of bugs - it was obviously released in a suboptimal state. The basic movement controls are terrible. Lara is no longer the responsive, athletic girl she used to be, now she stumbles around like a drunken sailor never quite responding to the way that you want her to. You get used to some of the failings and they soon become an awkward second nature, but some of them are just terrible, for example when you try and hop onto a platform and she'll suddenly veer off wildly in mid air - that one's fun, or whenever you draw your guns - Lara's movement when aiming is atrocious, luckily there aren't *that* many enemies in this game, so it doesn't cause problems as often as it could have done. Kurtis Trent - well, he's not quite as bad as I thought he was going to be, and the twist in his story was unexpected, but A) he controls worse than Lara, and B) he's the guy you have to fight the worst boss in the game with. A + B = fun. Also, in virtually every cutscene with Kurtis you see he wielding an amazing magical spinny bladey thing that he can control with his mind and use to decapitate enemies with ease. Can you use it in the game? No, of course not. You have to put up with a completely useless pop-gun (and the worse than atrocious controls that come with it). As I say, it's a testament to the game that even with all of these problems it's still quite enjoyable. They introduced a basic level-up system where at certain points in the game Lara would gain, say, a strength upgrade allowing her to hang on ledges a bit longer without falling. It didn't really work, though, just felt like an arbitrary way of stopping you going a certain way until the developers said you could. They could have potentially done more with it, but I think it dilutes the core Tomb Raider experience - it's not really what the game's about, so I'm glad that's the last we'll see of it. The level design is pretty good, if a little linear, and the story was kind of interesting. It didn't really reach a conclusion - apparently they'd planned 3 games, but only got to make this one - but it kind of tied up most of its loose ends. The graphics were much improved over previous games, and it would have been interesting to see how far they could have gone with the story and the engine, but hey, it wasn't to be. AoD tanked at retail and in contemporary reviews, and that was the end of Lara's days at Core. Next up is Legend, the first of the Crystal Dynamics games. I've already had a quick run through of the training level and the first level, and it's a breath of fresh air. I'm looking froward to playing through the rest of it, and I've heard that these later games are shorter than the Core ones, hopefully I'll be able to speed through it.

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