A First Look at Lara Croft and the Temple of Griefing, ah, Osiris
The journey to find the Square Enix off-site media suite at New York Comic Con was akin to hunting up the lost treasure of Atlantis - full of wrong turns (and addresses), unexpected chasms (all right, maybe just a dark staircase), and a frighteningly creaky freight elevator.
Apt then, that Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris was one of the exciting new games being offered up for hands-on play.
An off-shoot of the popular Tomb Raider games, the titular character returns in this sequel to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. With a mouthful of snappy one-liners and a number of shiny balls to roll around, Lara Croft is back with a vengeance, delivering an over-the-top isometric co-op platforming adventure that one can play with up to three friends, local or online.
This time, Lara finds herself hunting up a treasure that should probably never have been found - accidentally cursing herself and unleashing the ancient Egyptian gods Isis, Horus, and Set into the world in the process.
Isis and Horus band together with Lara and Carter Bell (another up-and-coming hotshot out for Lara's crown as world-renowned archaeologist) in order to resurrect Osiris and defeat the evil Set.
A step back from the gravity and (relatively) grounded sense of reality in the main Tomb Raider series, Temple of Osiris takes itself a lot less seriously, liberally throwing collectible gems, cartoonishly revolving spike columns, and bouncy energy shields into play.
Armed with the first Xbox controller I've held in my hand for about 10 years, I and a few other enterprising journalists settled into the comfy leather couches that surrounded one of two ToG demo stations and proceeded to learn the ropes.
It took approximately half an hour for us to run through the demo... erring on the longer side thanks to my accidental tendency to set down a bomb when I intend to jump (sorry, guys!). In that time, we raced to step on co-op pressure plate switches, light torches, and whip out magical energy bubbles that everyone else in the party can bounce on top of to scale high walls.
I also dropped one or two of my newfound friends into a few spike pits.
My finger slipped off the button. Honest.
This was perhaps not the best way to pay them back for their patience in putting up with my distinct learning curve when it came to the controls (there are just...so many buttons...). Temple of Osiris makes use of the left and right triggers, the top bumpers, both left and right joysticks, and Y-X-A-B buttons - which can be a little daunting after the simplicity of the controllers I was used to rocking (read: N64 & PS2).
Nevertheless, once learned, I had an absurd amount of fun - smashing columns for goodies, shooting up enemies, figuring out how to get my hands on bonus loot, and working with everyone to get through the various puzzles.
And the puzzles are fantastic - not because they're difficult, but because they will change relative to your party. Given a single player, only one pressure plate might appear versus four. And a high wall that can only be scaled by an archaeologist won't appear if you're playing Horus.
But what about the troll factor?
The little that we got to see of it, they weren't particularly difficult in and of themselves, but all of it did require a fair bit of finesse and cooperation from all parties involved. While we had our few moments of har har, oh you killed me again, you jerkwad, all of us were largely invested on advancing further into the game.
It did give me pause and I inwardly cringed at the thought of what one troll in a PUG team could do in random online co-op. How could I even be sure I'd manage to finish one?
The devs have certainly tried to make this transition as easy as possible - they've included drop in/drop out mechanics that will allow you to keep progressing in a game even if one player has to leave, and pick up a new player to replace whoever has left. Whether or not there will be a vote kick/ban mechanic as well remains to be seen.
The map will change according to which character you choose to play, and also with how many players you have in a given game, which is ideal in keeping gameplay from getting monotonous, especially after you've played a few times.
To further mix things up a bit, customizable character items and gear can be picked up in various drops or loot chests throughout the levels - many of which (especially in the earlier levels) will have benefit/cost attributes (e.g. +2 Damage, -1 Defense). Attributes can be picked up and shared amongst players for some nifty powers (e.g. fire shot weapons).
Visually, preorder DLC bundles of character skins are also included with various versions of the game depending on where you bought it:
- Digital versions (i.e. Steam) come with Hitman skins
- EB/GameStop version comes with Legends skins
- Amazon version comes with Deus Ex skins
Of course, I highly suspect these are timed exclusives and will become available to all players in time. The team is planning on releasing DLCs in time (a digital bundle with the season pass is already available for pre-purchase), but no word yet on what they will be.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris retails for $21.99 (although currently 10% off on Steam) and promises to be well worth the price. It's set for release on December 9, and I, for one, am definitely looking forward to picking this baby up.