17 October 2015

To celebrate ten million downloads for Lara Croft Relic Run, the team at Simultronics released a major update for the game. Back in May, when the game was originally announced, the immersiveness of the gameplay, the style and the variety of the enemies and environments took me by surprise. I travel quite a bit, and the game provided hours of entertainment during those quiet moments. With the release of the update, I loaded up the game thinking just a few things had changed. I was definitely wrong! There's a lot more to this update than just one new location.

Here's a look into how Lara Croft Relic Run has changed with the Mountain Pass update!

Just for clarity, the marketing company that promotes Lara Croft: Relic Run, Betty Brown, transferred gems to my account to ensure that I could check out the new Mountain Pass location and Minigun. I had already got all the achievements before the release, so the next stage was automatically unlocked, and I purchased upgrades for the Minigun with the in-game currency I had built up before then; 57 gems and +35,000 coins. I did use the gems on other things, and I will post a new article about the changes in the in-game currency soon. The review below looks at the game before the gems were transferred.

A Quick Refresher


Lara Croft: Relic Run is a free-to-play title, developed by Simutronics in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix, is available worldwide for the iPhone, Android and Windows phone. The title is part of the Lara Croft series, a spin-off from the original Tomb Raider games and continues roughly where Temple of Osiris left off. In the game, you're searching for fellow archaeologist, Carter Bell, who has gone missing.  Your search takes you from Cambodia to the Sahara and now the Mountain Pass, looking for clues. You can read more about the previous version of the game, on our preview article, here.


A New Level System


If you're looking for an endless runner game, this game is not it... well, not anymore. Whereas before you could pick either exploring the jungle or desert locations, this time you build up to discovering each of the relics. Each location now has 40 levels which are broken down into two groups. The first group involves Lara searching for clues and finding relics. Every time you collect a relic, you're closer to discovering the truth about the level, but it also means that the next time you need to find one, the challenge will be harder and you must find more clues to obtain the item. The second group are challenge levels. They don't really add to the story, but each level has a particular target. Some of these challenge levels involve you running a certain distance, fighting X amount of enemies or collecting coin. For these levels the player is scored using stars. One star is enough to complete the level and move onto the next, and you can return, if you want, to improve your score later.

The two level types alternate, so you'll face a challenge level, then a search for a relic, then another challenge level.

While the game style may have changed, there are a few things that have remained the same. The progress you made before the update will carry over and you will start the game on the highest relic you obtained during your playthrough. That means that if you got 100% completion, you can start exploring the Mountain Pass location. Additionally, all your purchases will also remain, including your gems, outfits, and any upgrades.

Scheduled Exploration


Prior to the update, the player would discover new traps and enemies depending on their playtime. If you played a lot, new areas would be unlocked mid-level. The thing players would focus on the most on was the duration of their run and how high their score would be because of that. With the new update, things are very different! Each level seems to add one new thing, which makes it easier to search for clues and the game teaches you to be cautious of your surroundings one trap at a time. However, this does have an effect on the pacing of the game, causing the level progression to feel slower, even though you are proceeding through the levels at a much quicker rate. It's something that new players, won't notice but those more familiar with the title will feel the change.

HOWEVER! There is a way of returning to the previous format that Relic Run offered in which you run for longer, but this mode is apparently only unlocked upon beating the 100th level.


Saving Your Progress


If you're struggling to find the clues, there's a new system which makes your search easier, but it comes at a cost. If you trip you might be given the option to watch an advert to regain a life. Alternatively you can use ankhs, or spend gems to get ankhs. These were also available in the prior version, but the new update now includes some useful extra ways of saving your progress. If you trip before you found all of the clues, the end level menu will give you the option of saving the clues you've found so far. It may cost you several gems, but if you're struggling, it provides a useful way of progressing!

The Mountain Pass


The Mountain Pass location was something which was announced on launch day back in the Spring. Possible future levels were also discussed, such as Venice, which pays a nice homage to Tomb Raider 2. But we knew for a fact that Lara's next adventure would take place on a mountain path.

Due to a the system which introduces new traps and enemies in stages, a quick look at the Mountain Pass may make you think the environment is more barren than the previous locations. In actuality, it's a tricky level filled with tight corners and surprise environmental obstacles which introduces you to new creatures such as the ice spiders and yetis. It also allows Lara to speed along the path on a snowmobile.

Unfortunately, the snowmobile is the one problem I have with the update. Like the quad bike in Cambodia and the motorcycle in the Sahara, the snowmobile provides variety to the gameplay. But personally I find that the snowmobile can feel a little sluggish, and takes a while to change lanes. While I was excited about the new vehicle at first, it soon became a burden. Like with the other vehicles, the snowmobile also faces its fate on the side of a cliff. At first I was sad, but then I concluded that it sacrificed its mechanical life so that relics could be found, so our departure was bittersweet.

But I soon found another snowmobile. And another three after that. And that's where things began to get a little expensive. I had crashed a total of three times during the level, all on the snowmobile, each time expecting it to be that little bit faster to move between the alleys. The first time I watched an advert to gain a life, then I converted 10 gems into two ankhs, and then used a further 15 gems to save my clue progress to avoid re-entering the snowmobile minefield.

It's certainly an interesting vehicle, but often a little frustrating depending on the randomly generated environment. Good news: it handles exactly like the snowmobile in Tomb Raider 2, bringing back those nostalgic memories. Bad news: it handles exactly like the snowmobile in Tomb Raider 2.

Minigun


With the new update, the team introduced a new weapon, the gatling gun. It's a little different to use this weapon, compared to the others, and at first... I didn't know quite what to make of it. To use the gun, you simply hold your finger down on the screen and move it where you want the spray of bullets to go. It does take a little while to warm up the gun, and once it's started it does eat through bullets at a rapid speed. It's pretty effective on the yetis, but best reserved for those trickier moments. Luckily it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the game.


Final Notes


When I first checked out Lara Croft Relic Run in London, there were two versions of the game being passed around on the iPads. Most of them had a developer version of the game loaded up, and others had the retail version. That's pretty common, especially when press are coming in for just a few minutes, and there's just not enough time for them to learn how to sense and avoid traps. The developer version focused on the gameplay, and you would respawn immediately after tripping. So while the challenge would get harder, you could just keep going. When I sat down I didn't know this. My iPad had the other version. I died a lot. It was only a couple of hours into the event, when we moved onto the second location, that I realised that I just couldn't; I didn't have the gems or the progress to unlock that section yet. I then got a chance on an iPad with the developer version and the experience felt different.

The recent update feels very similar to that experience. It changes a lot of what you knew about the title. It's much less punishing than the previous game was, while still presenting a challenge. I love that there's now an option to save your progress. As someone who picks up the game in the middle of writing articles or on the plane, it's great to have the opportunity to put down the game when you want.

No game is perfect and while the snowmobile can be clunky and the strength of the yeti is a little too much at times, it's still a very solid game with an addictive gameplay element. Perfect for traveling with or just chilling out. It's definitely worth checking out!



[Update 18/10: Added paragraph about in-game currency.]

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2 comments:

  1. I've just finished the mountain pass is there another level after it and is she going to find her friend what happens after the mountain pass. Dangrow.

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  2. I was going to comment exactly that. I finished Mountain pass, and now the game doesn't go further. They will resease another location? I know the game didn't end because Lara still has to find her friend, which seems to be the objective of the game, and in the last level of Mountain pass (level 120), when you click on the relic you found,, it reads: "It seems the Oni and Rahu are contained, for now. The Amulet shows me Carter still on the move, but I cannot see where. This adventure may not be over."

    Well that means there's more to the game, right?

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