11 February 2015

[This article contains spoilers regarding Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris' storyline.]

As a single player experience, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris has quickly become one of my favourite games in the  Tomb Raider franchise. The graphics are gorgeous, the feel of the game feels like a return to the classics, the music is sensational, and the puzzles are fun and clever. The experience is added to with additional players, and for me that certainly was the case. Things got weird!

The friend who joined me one late Sunday evening was the same friend who teamed up with me for Guardian of Light. We were playing the title over the Christmas holidays, which means to say that we were playing the title over one of the busiest times of the year, amid hacks to both Playstation Network and XBOX Live servers.

Promotional Photograph for Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

Just before we get there though, first, a quick introduction to the game. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is the second (and most recent!) game launched in the Lara Croft series. Up to three friends can join you in a single game or you can choose to play on your own. The game begins with Lara and Carter competing with each other to obtain the Staff of Osiris. Carter is just steps ahead, ignoring Lara's warning about the mystical power locked away in it. With the staff within reach, he grabs it, unleashes Set and marks both archaeologists for death. The staff also awakens Isis and Horus, who helps you on your quest to save the world from falling under Set's domain. All of this is explained in the opening cutscene.

Before we started the adventure, we had to first choose our characters. Players can choose between Lara, Isis, Horus or Carter; but as the Gods have a unique power, with two players, one must be a God. God-like powers were bestowed on my friend as I chose Lara. And so Lara teamed up with Isis, the ancient  Egyptian goddess  health, marriage, wisdom and convenient in game commentary.

While we were aware of Microsoft's network problems, we didn't really face any until ten minutes or so into the game. The first hint that something was not quite right came after my death. We were playing the game as normal until Lara began running off the side of the cliff and into the grey textureless deadzone, outside of the level. Her character turned to red, as though she was behind something, and she suddenly died. The notification came up to respawn next to my friend, but after hitting the button, I respawned.... and died again. The camera hovered over Isis for a moment, also standing still in a sea of textureless grey until seconds later everything snapped into place and I rejoined the game again, back where I was as though nothing had happened.

Promotional screenshot, showcasing the title's playable characters.

Seconds later we were caught in a fight. Skeletons emerged from the shadows, their bows and arrows drawn and ready. An infestation of scarabs dropped from the skies, greatly outnumbering us. Suddenly Isis flew to a corner of the map, dragging the camera along with her, where she began running into a wall and off the side of the cliff as the scarabs began nibbling on my ankles. "Errr, what are you doing?" I asked my friend, secretly impressed with his ability to cheat death by just balancing on the cliff edge. Isis picked up her staff and began shooting wildly in all directions. "What do you mean? I'm fighting!" He replied with a tone of confidence as though the very question was an insult. I just stared at Isis. Then my friend on Skype. Then Isis. "Okay!"

To get out of the room,  Isis needed to catch Lara's grapple from the high ledge and pull her to safety, which is how it went...sort of. As soon as Isis got into place, she began to dart around the map. She would be behind me on the ground, then back where she needed to be, then over on the other side of the room. "Errrm, are you getting this too?" I asked. "Throw me the grapple!" He replied. Isis was on the ground next to me, about a metre or two away, and I threw the grapple towards her. "I don't know if th-" I began before things suddenly clicked into place. Isis was back at the high ledge, holding onto the grapple I had just thrown. I climbed up. I didn't dare to let the grapple go after that, scared that I was going to run into the textureless zone or that Isis was.  We walked several metres before Isis got bored, raised her shields and ran off. "Did...Did you just refuse my love with convenient Star Trek plot points?"

Moments later we were running down a linear walkway, avoiding the falling pillars and destroyed pathways. Ammit, the god who had marked both Lara and Carter for death and was on our tail as we jumped and rolled past the numerous traps. I rolled into spiked roller and died instantly, the screen went black, apart from Isis. "Wait, what?" I heard over Skype seconds before his character died. Then we were back in the action again, running away from Ammit, or rather a cacophony of roars. Our characters tasting dust and the bitter tang of adrenaline. Though we were in not imminent threat, at least as far as we could see on screen, as the restart brought everything back to its original position, except for Ammit. On the plus side, we died less often! This also happened later in single player when I replayed the level....I am very bad at that sequence.

 Ammit, one of the many bosses in the game.

In a later room, we were faced with a simple but clever puzzle. As the gates closed suddenly afterwards, we knew it was a trap. Then the bridge we were on began retracting. To the left of us was a mechanical eye which, when shot, would release a bomb down a slope. At the bottom of the slope was a block which would hit the bomb down onto our bridge, and to move the block Isis would need to use her staff. The bomb could then be moved into position and when detonated reveal a secret path. As we game quite a bit, we both picked this up fairly quickly especially after some experimenting with what the environment had to offer. I shot the eye, and when the bomb dropped down the slope, my friend used Isis' staff to move it. The bridge slowly began retracting past the point where it was comfortable. Our eyes fixated on the bomb tittering on the edge, caught on something we couldn't see. We tried again, and again, but it was on the fourth try that the bomb dropped down.

As the XBOX Live network was affected, we ended our first playthrough soon after discovering the fragment of Osiris' body. Now as an disclaimer, while I spoke a lot about the interesting glitches that arose during the gameplay, this is by no means an example of the type of gameplay you may face in yours. This piece is intended to be an as an interesting look at our personal adventure. Playing before the connection issues over the festive season, the game felt solid and once everything was stable again on Microsoft's side, our co-op adventure turned away from the glitches and more into our antics.


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