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Old 08-18-2010, 02:57 PM   #1
lost
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[360/PS3/PC] - Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review

Title: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Platform: XBLA/PSN/PC
Platform Reviewed: XBLA
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix/Eidos
MSRP: 1200 points
Writer: Martin 'lost' Perry

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light Review

This ain’t no Tomb Raider...

If you were to ask Eidos, Lara Croft’s last big console release, Underworld, was something of a commercial failure. It didn’t come anywhere close to their sales expectations and arguably contributed to the eventual sale of the business to Square Enix. If you ask me, that title sold well for such a long-standing franchise, but if all Eidos’ bitching caused developer Crystal Dynamics to go back to the drawing board and sketch up Guardian of Light, then I’m glad they did it. This new XBLA/PSN release is one of the best downloadable titles that you are likely to play this year, embodying the series’ best qualities in a completely new guise.


Attempting to carve out a unique space within the series ever-present third-person gameplay, Guardian of Light shifts things to an isometric viewpoint. What seems like a strange move is one of the big reasons that the game succeeds as an ‘Arcade’ title. Pushing away from the third-person viewpoint has allowed the developers to retain the visual quality of the series, albeit in Matchbox form, while opening the doors to new puzzle ideas. Where some of the physics based challenges of her bigger brothers caused gamers a headache, struggling to carefully position items to achieve the desired effect, you can clearly see the components of the brainteaser in front of you. While definitely still offering challenge, this often means the solution comes to you quicker.

Quicker is a pretty good description for how GoL feels in general. Lara, and her co-op partner, Totec, move at a considerable lick whether it be up staircases or leaping across fiery chasms. Thanks to this speed, the game is less reflective and less lonely than Underworld – you rarely pause to consider the history of your surroundings or the massive challenge ahead of you. Along with the viewpoint change, this change of pace is one of the greatest factors when considering the game as a separate entity from the series as a whole.

Gunplay has, and will always remain, a part of what makes Lara Croft a videogame legend. While gamers unite in their desire for more puzzles, more platforming and less empty shell casings, Crystal Dynamics have decided to ignore them entirely. The game features a wide range of weaponry, unlocked throughout the game, that offer a myriad of ways to dispatch lava dogs, green smoke monsters and a multitude of trolls. The problem with all of this is that the gun fights typically take place mid-puzzle. With challenges stretching across entire levels, enemies feel like an interruption. The most recent Tomb Raider games have done a good job separating out the gameplay, rather than blurring it all together, and this had a positive impact on how varied things feel; GoL can’t stake the same claim.


I can’t claim to have played co-op. The current lack of online play meant I had to try and convince the missus to have a go – lets just say the game didn’t appeal. The puzzles, while fun, didn’t really tax one’s mind. You are granted an infinite amount of explosive charges, which when placed can shift objects forward. The awkwardness of this is the only real challenge that a co-operative friend would help you overcome - otherwise the game is really quite easy. In the shoot-outs, I can definitely see how a second player would benefit but there just doesn’t feel like there is enough challenging content here for two players to really get stuck into. Still, co-op is always a welcome addition, but the marketing certainly points toward it being a more significant consideration than it is. Truth be told, were it not there then very few, if any, changes would need to have been made to the level design.

Crystal Dynamics tried to impart a little more depth into the game with an overhauled inventory system that focuses on power upgrades. Health packs and keys are gathered from around the level and applied automatically. Artifacts are found in special challenge tombs or by completing some of the score or action based additional tasks found on every level. It’s the artifacts that can take up to two slots that may improve your damage resistance or weapon damage. An additional slot grants either character a special ability that activates after a particularly successful blasting spree. This light RPG element is a little forgettable but may well hold more value when playing on a higher difficulty with a friend.


I went in to Guardian of Light with low expectations but high hopes. As a long-time fan of the series the lack of ‘Tomb Raider’ in the title suggested to me that this was something of an identity crisis rather than an attempt to offer something fresh and original. Still, the change of viewpoint always held some promise and it delivered. Feeling the same, it obviously inherits a lot of code from the big releases, but totally different all at once. I can confidently recommend this to fans of Lara’s ongoing adventures and those who abandoned her years ago. The pace, the quality level design and the confident presentation of a good value package outweighs any niggles about boring shooting or an under-developed co-op element.

Score: 4 out of 5


The Good
  • Excellent level design with the isometric perspective allowing for some complicated spacial problems.
  • Visuals compare extremely well to the full $60 games.
  • A decent volume of content for 1200 points, about 4 hours on the first play. Additional level challenges pack things out for the completionists.
The Bad
  • No online co-op at launch is bullshit.
  • The shooter gameplay is standard twin stick stuff and gets a little laborious.
The Ugly
  • No Tomb Raider in the title? Why?
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Old 08-18-2010, 02:58 PM   #2
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:02 PM   #3
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No online co-op means no buy on a game like this for me.
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:22 PM   #4
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This looks pretty fun. Trying to decide between this or Castelvania or Monday night combat.
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:34 PM   #5
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This was honestly the title I was least excited about for this year's Summer of Arcade. However, after reading your review, I'm actually thinking it might spark some of that old Gauntlet Legends love that's been simmering since the last time I played it on my GameCube.

And honestly--if they had to ax or delay either local or online co-op, I'm glad it was the online. I'm sure it will be coming via patch soon enough, but local co-op is where it's at in my house.
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Old 08-18-2010, 03:47 PM   #6
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The patch has been announced. It is getting online play, it is just delayed until the other multi-platform versions are out...like 2 weeks from now?
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Old 08-18-2010, 04:21 PM   #7
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just finished the demo and I must say it exceeded my expectation, which I had none to begin with.

There's nothing new here. It's basically more streamlined Tomb Raider gameplay of the recent years in isometric view ala Diablo.(Light combat, mostly shooting infinite ammo and physics puzzles.) However, this game wins big in playability department. Control's simple, easy and more responsive all due to the fixed isometric view as opposed to the full 3rd person view where you had to constantly babysit wacky camera.

While not a must buy for the hardcore crowd, casual gamers will be pleasantly surprised.
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:22 PM   #8
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I knew this was going to be fun. Glad to see a positive review.

I just added this to my Steam wishlist.
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Old 08-18-2010, 10:23 PM   #9
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F,f,f,fail breaker! Looks pretty good. Square headed this one up IIRC.
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Old 08-19-2010, 07:32 AM   #10
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The more I learn about game development, the more I laugh when we as gamers whine about lack of online play for titles at launch.

Implementing online adds 50% to the development costs of a game, so on a triple-A 20M budget we're talking 10M more just so you can go on LIVE instead of inviting someone over to play.

Some devs/pubs just don't believe it's worth it until the product is proven.
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Old 08-19-2010, 08:27 AM   #11
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Adding online play doesnt double a game budget, thats stupid. All versions of the game will have online co-op, the 360 just won't get it untill the PS3/PC versions launch. No clue why honestly, they never said. I don't think it is a bug/coding issue, I think its a release date issue with MS wanting all their summer titles to line up and get first sales on Lara, even if they had to wait for a feature down the road.
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Old 08-19-2010, 08:34 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SwitchBlade_Jax View Post
Adding online play doesnt double a game budget, thats stupid.
I agree, which is why the estimate is at half again as much, not double.

I was involved with Scott Pilgrim and Shank's development, so I'm speaking from experience, but thanks for your two cents nonetheless.
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Old 08-19-2010, 09:19 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the Jack View Post
The more I learn about game development, the more I laugh when we as gamers whine about lack of online play for titles at launch.
My friends and I all have different schedules, different days off work, and our own obligations. We might manage to find time to actually hang out once a month, sometimes less than that. For all of us, online gaming is about a million times more convenient than waiting for the once in a while when two of us happen to have enough free time on the same day to hang out.

If we waited until we could sit on the same couch to play we'd never get to play 95% of the multiplayer games we want to.

Facts of life.
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Old 08-19-2010, 09:43 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the Jack View Post
Implementing online adds 50% to the development costs of a game, so on a triple-A 20M budget we're talking 10M more just so you can go on LIVE instead of inviting someone over to play.
While I absolutely agree with you on the merit of having some friends over to play rather than always relying on faceless online players to pad out your games, I think the "online adds 50%" part of your comment probably depends on the game. For a title like Kane & Lynch 2, where the online versus multiplayer represents an entirely different style of gameplay than the single player campaign, then sure--you're probably right. But for a game like LC:GoL, where the online co-op plays virtually identical to the offline co-op that's already in the game? I really can't see how that would be the case. I would think that at this point in the 360's life cycle that there are plenty of very mature netplay API libraries from which they could pull to handle the netcode. So that would leave some relatively minor GUI changes (setting up a standard XBL or PSN lobby system), maybe a few programmatic changes to treat the other player as the equivalent of an AI-controlled character that receives its input from the remote player rather than the game engine's AI, and maybe a few other tweaks. But 50% additional cost to push LC:GoL from where it was at launch to adding online play? Unless there's some huge licensing cost for that of which I'm unaware, then I doubt it.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:38 PM   #15
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Making the game in the first place costs money - the goal being to create a feature set players want to pay for.

Saying it is laughable that gamers desire a certain feature is more than a little patronising. I don't give a shit about a game's budget, and I don't think 'because it cost too much' is a reason that will garner much sympathy for developers.

When I do my own game projects, as infrequently as that may be these days, I assess the tools available to me and try to scale the project appropriately. Given the resources of your Square Enixs and EAs I don't think anybody is being unreasonable looking for online features in games
that seem designed for them.

Scott Pilgrim review on Monday when I will make the same complaint but to a greater extent since the online is never coming for that game.
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Old 08-19-2010, 03:42 PM   #16
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Developers just have to step up to the plate and up the ante or get the hell out of the market.(find your own niche like social gaming companies did) Like any other business, game business is all about providing what consumers want. Studios losing competitive edge in the market will eventually close down.

Plain & simple.
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Old 08-20-2010, 11:08 AM   #17
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I bought this yesterday, will be playing it over the weekend.
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Old 08-22-2010, 07:12 AM   #18
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Got it yesterday. If you can do local co-op with a friend it's good fun.
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Old 08-22-2010, 07:59 AM   #19
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Man it seems like a lot of "developers" are cunts. No better word.
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Old 08-22-2010, 08:59 PM   #20
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Just chiming in for a bit. I'm having a blast playing this 2-player which is the best way to go. Well worth the MS space bucks; and with games like this, Shadow Complex, Flower and the PixelJunk series makes me very happy. Long live the little guy!
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