Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris ReviewOmar Elaasar
I like to sometimes think of videogames as strange machines. Each one of them built by many engineers and artists compiling and crafting the pieces, gears and sockets. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is one of those games that seems to fit well into that analogy. If last year's Tomb Raider reboot focused more on character side than the mechanical one, then Guardian of Light and this year's Temple of Osiris might come off as a counterpoint to it. Packed with the puzzles, contraptions and tombs that felt largely absent from the reboot, Temple of Osiris feels much closer spiritually to the original Tomb Raider series. They've even brought Lara's old outfit and voice actress back.
For those who've played 2010's Guardian of Light most of what's here will feel familiar. You'll fight the usual suspects while solving puzzles unraveling contraptions. What's new is a new loot system and the addition of two more available players. While these encourage replayability, they don't substantially change the experience.
The loot system seems mostly redundant, as it relies on you spending collected gems on treasure chests strewn throughout the world. The low level chests give out such paltry rewards that it makes little sense to do anything other than wait until you've accumulated enough gems for larger chests. You'll never feel a need for new equipment either. Tombs provide you with enough new weapons to get through whatever obstacles ahead, and while amulets and weapons can provide alternative methods of approach the flow of combat is never altered in any substantial way by gaining a new weapon. Perhaps the same critique can be applied to other loot-driven systems (this seems to be a problem between me and loot-driven games) but it seems obvious that the game wasn't built with the loot system at the core of it.
While these new systems aren't substantial, the core systems still feel are. While this entry seems to lean hard upon the traditional push/pull and switch puzzles (I haven't seen this many ball and switch puzzles since Darksiders II) they're well crafted and integral enough to feel satisfying to solve in of themselves, rather than be obstacles to experiencing the rest of the game. My least favorite ones tended to be the ones that ended in immediate death for failure. Especially in single player (where I spent the majority of time), where it would kick you back to a loading screen each time, it became a frequent source of frustration. This is mitigated in co-op by the countdown timers for each player. In fact, co-op seems to be the answer to a lot of my frustrations with it.
If there's one thing I outright admire about Temple of Osiris it's the systems they've built for co-op. Co-op isn't simply adding more people into the mix. Entire rooms are reworked with different puzzles that require different approaches with other people, with other characters bringing their own tools to the table. It's enough to say that there are almost two games, with and without others. For Temple of Osiris, I strongly recommend that you experience the former. While singleplayer gives you some tools to eke it out by yourself, co-op is a substantially stronger experience that you can tell the devs designed the game for. I also recommend that you get those people into the same room as you. Sure, there's online play, and sure, it works, but in many ways it feels just as solitary as singleplayer to play it that way. The comradeship, trash talking and dialogue that occurs when playing with buddies just doesn't happen with a stranger.
It's good to have that dialogue around as well, because the Temple of Osiris isn't going to provide any worth listening to. Crystal Dynamics have returned to a more lighthearted tone, but aside from a few quips about the godhood and living mythology of the Egyptian gods that tag along with you this time, the dialogue fails to rise from the level of a lesser Saturday morning cartoon. I did enjoy Lara's characterization as a bit of greedy person, more interested in valuable artifacts than knowledge.
For mechanics focused games, the best of them feel like a set of parts that require you to make the machine work. Temple of Osiris is one that demands you bring another person along to really see it perform. It's neither the companion to Guardian of Light, nor the counterpoint to the new Tomb Raider that you may have wanted, but it's a machine that serves its purpose.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Omar Elaasar is an hobbyist artist, writer, and game developer, and is dedicated to playing obscure games in order to maintain his status as a most pretentious hipster.
About the Author: Omar Elaasar
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