Tomb Raider: Legend was a game that I'd rush home to play after a long day at school and it was one of the first video games I'd really gotten into since at thirteen, I didn't quite grasp the concept of the older games in the series. I decided to pick the game up out of its bed of dust and give it another go, this time with a critiquing state of mind.
Lara Croft returns in her seventh official adventure (not including expansions such as Unfinished Business) and this time, its her most personal adventure yet. When Lara was a little girl, she and her mother were flying back home from somewhere in the east and the storm causes their plane to malfunction and crash somewhere in Nepal. As they take shelter in an underground ruin of some sort, Lara accidentally activates an artefact and her mother gets sucked into it and disappears. Thirty some-odd years later, Lara is now setting out to learn what happened to her mother and hopefully bring her back.
Tomb Raider: Legend is a more story based adventure than Lara's previous instalments. Where the Tomb Raider games have always had a well developed story, Legend is almost driven by its narrative. Lara learns quickly of the artefact that caused her mother's disappearance and the duration of the game involves her travelling from Bolivia to Peru, Japan, Africa, Kazakhstan, England and Nepal to find pieces of King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, which she needs to reactivate a similar artefact. It's a personal narrative with Lara's family involvement and the return of a friend we've never met before who was presumed dead many years ago, and the implied return of the villain from the very first Tomb Raider game who makes an official return in Legend's sequel.
The narrative, while interesting, just comes off as shoddy and loosely tied together. After years of selfish adventures to uncover artefacts, Lara now decides that since she's bored, she'll attempt to find out what happened to her mother thirty years ago. When one considers that the Tomb Raider franchise almost ended at The Last Revelation, it's understandable that the development team hadn't a clue what to do next and decided to make Legend a personal vendetta. It's honestly sloppy work as much as it pains me to say as a Tomb Raider fan.
Legend's gameplay takes an interesting and well-conceptualised turn when compared to the previous games in the series. One of the many complaints (as well as compliments) about the classic Tomb Raider games was the gameplay mechanics and the difficulty of adapting to it. Legend is now much easier to pick up and play considering the fact that it mirrors common third person action games. Ledges and cliffs that Lara can manoeuvre are now 'magnetic' in which she will independently and safely grab when jumping in the appropriate direction. Traversing the game world is a lot easier and enjoyable thanks to the welcomed change and it's a pleasant experience.
Combat hasn't changed much since the previous games; Lara still locks onto enemies automatically and her acrobatics help dodge and evade gunfire and hostile animals. The only noticeable difference aside from the polish is that now, holding the appropriate button will arm Lara with her twin pistols and letting it go will cause her to holster them, like in the common third person action/shooter.
There are also five 'boss' fights within the game.
As always, puzzles make an appearance and are not quite as complicated as previously noted. With a quick scan of the environment, one could easily determine what needs to be done to enter the next area. However, Lara's binoculars have an alternate mode called R.A.D (Remote Analysis Device) to highlight points of interest, which helps expedite the puzzle solving portions.
The game is rather short when compared to previous games in the series, boasting a mere eight missions in which some are shorter than others. However, the duration of the game can easily be doubled when one considers the hidden relics to be found within each mission as well as the time trials to complete after missions are completed. The player may also visit Croft Manor for exploration around Lara's home, as well as additional puzzle solving and relic finding.
Overall, Tomb Raider: Legend is a decent enough game for the casual gamer and it's an easy pick-up-and-play title. While Tomb Raider: Legend gave the series the strongest critical response it had received since Tomb Raider II in 1997, and it remains one of the highest-rated games in the history of the franchise, I feel that is only because the concept of Tomb Raider was watered down to appeal to a wider audience. While that is fine, it would be nice to have Tomb Raider stick to some of what made it great in the first place. You don't need to dilute your product to achieve that.