20 November 2014

In anticipation for the upcoming Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, I returned to it's predecessor and one of my favourite titles, Guardian of Light. Admittedly, while I love the game, and the idea of a co-op Tomb Raider title, I hadn't actually played it with someone else before. For me it was always about the single player experience, how Lara fought her way through the various tombs and how Totec showed up at the last moment to share in the glory of defeat.

Yet this time it was different. I had a buddy!

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a co-op game created by Crystal Dynamics in 2010. It's a stand alone, spin off title, which allowed the developers to explore the Tomb Raider IP in new ways. In the game, Lara is after an artifact called the Mirror of Smoke but is ambushed upon its discovery by Vasco, the local warlord, who unknowingly releases Xolotl from his prison inside the relic. While the enemy escapes, Totec, the guardian, is awakened. Gamers can play through the title either on single play mode or with a friend in co-op.  The title is available on PC, XBOX 360, PS3, iOS and Android.

The guy I was playing with has been a friend for a number of years, he's pretty damn awesome, a gamer and is really difficult to buy a Christmas present for. He also allowed me to play as Lara so, you know, brownie points. 

The game is one of my favourites due to its non-stop action, and the sense of continual achievement due to the game's fast paced level design. The AAA Tomb Raider titles tend to include bigger,  more complex puzzles, which sometimes spans over the entire map, whereas Guardian of Light has more compact challenges which you can solve fairly quickly with a certain mind set. Which is by no means a criticism! Once you're running away from Chompy or dodging at the last minute to avoid a rolling spike ball, you want to keep that level of adrenaline going. 

There were several moments which stood out for me a little more in co-op, compared to the single player experience. Moments like coming up with tactics to lure the lava dinosaur in a certain direction, as one of us jumps on the pressure plate, delivering a deadly blow to the enemy just felt a lot more immersive. Running away from Chompy was another favourite and took quite a bit of trial and error to get right; every now and then, one of us would slip up and roll into a fallen pillar instead of jumping over it. By the end of the path, we knew we had mere seconds left to trap the creature and that was exciting!

Midway through a level I wanted to try to get an achievement called Leap of Faith which meant that Totec would have to leap over a cavern while Lara used her grapple to catch him in mid-flight. My partner was somewhat... reluctant at first. In fact I don't think that achievement was gotten there but later after jumping over a gap that the isometric camera implied was smaller. Of course he had a perfect reason to doubt my honesty, at every opportunity I would drop a bomb near him and run quickly in the opposite direction hoping he wouldn't notice. He always would. 

My only criticism from the co-op experience was that, as the game progressed, we died more. We died a lot. The level design drifted away from the puzzles and into horde mode. Rather than working together, it became a situation which we were at separate sides of the screen facing our own onslaught of enemies and facing the situation alone. One of us would die, and the three seconds delay to return to the game felt longer as we were forced to watch the other being overcome by the large group of enemies intended for two players. Although that is such a small criticism and doesn't really take away from the overall experience or enjoyment. There are gamers who live for those moments, I guess we're the type of people who prefer to die by the other's hand in a wave of sudden and inevitable betrayal. 

As an overall co-op experience, the game is fantastic and is one of the best buddy games out there. Yes, I may be slightly biased given my love for the series already but playing with someone close to me and seeing them enjoy it and enjoying the game myself, was pretty amazing.

Bring on Temple of Osiris! 


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