Tomb Raider Underworld
So, I’m through with the actual game, for which I already reviewed the demo, and I have to say that I liked it better than I’d have thought. Much better, in fact. It’s not perfect, but it’s nice enough that I feel bad for just critizing it all the time. So as an experiment, I’m only going to say nice things about it.
Oh yes, this’ll contain spoilers.
- The game length is much, much better than it was in Legend. The levels have enough room to breathe, the ways are longer and the rooms are larger. I’ve not measured, but in Legend I always felt cheated when I thought I had dealt with the challenge of getting into the level, when suddenly the level was over already, something I never had a problem with in Underowlrd.
- We’re back to the huge rooms, which are a single puzzle consisting of weird keys and mechanisms. Sure, Legend had some as well, but much smaller and easy. I’d say Underworld is the game that Legend should have been.
- Also returned: The old Tomb Raider frustration, including the temporary high feeling when having solved a problem. It’s much easier, though (something I personally like) and the new hint system makes it possible to get out of all situations before you stop playing the game in disgust.
- Gone, however, are the boss fights and the unnecessary special combat moves (which are present, but never required. I didn’t use them even once). This makes combat a whole lot more enjoyable.
- Sure, I’ve said in the Demo review that you don’t become a TR fan because of graphics, but it has to be said that Underworld looks really, really good. The framerate issues I’ve found in the demo are gone completely.
- Mindless chatter is dead, and in fact, so is Alister! A drastic but not unwelcome way to solve one of the biggest sources of annoyance in Legend.
- Since I’ve mentioned graphics, all the characters look much more cool, and I especially love the clothes, which look rather realistic.
- I don’t know whether the controls got better or I got better with the controls, either way, it’s more fun now. Additionally, underwater controls have finally been changed to be true 3D controls, making the second underwater level my favorite area in the game.
- I like the menu font. Sure, it’s not a big thing, but it’s not a bad thing either.
- Load times stay low to not present, they even seem less than in Legend (note that I changed my hardware since playing Legend). In my opinion, all games should be like that.
- Quicktime-Events are gone, replaced by slow-motion sequences which might not have been necessary, but at least keep me in control at all times.
Now, I’ve already mentioned that Underworld isn’t perfect, and there are some points that I think deserve mentioning, but since this would go against the spirit of this post, as outlined above, I’ll try to see the positive aspects of them.
- The sonar map is funny. Completely useless, but funny.
- You truly learn your way around the levels when you have to search for 10 minutes because you respawned at a completely different point than your motorbike.
- The story is so horrible that it’s funny again. The journal entries in particular are gold, containing gems such as (paraphrased) “These snow monsters must have inspired the legends of snow monsters” or “It’s not magic, it’s an artifact”. Discussions with Amanda are also so cliché-filled that I can’t help but think this was parody.
- It’s never truly a problem to find secrets, since most of them aren’t hidden better than “around the corner”, if at all. This gives the traditional good feeling of “I found a secret!” every ten meters.
- I’ve already said in the demo review that cocktails of local herbs, thoughtfully prepared and left in place by civilizations who have been dead for thousands of years, have replaced medipacks, but what I didn’t know then was that you’d find these cocktails even under water! So much more realistic than a modern medipack in the same location.
- The game manages to create true regret in me, as it forced me to kill the Kraken, who does nothing more bad than be in the way ever. When I played that level I was suffering from a cold, so I sounded exactly like him, and I’ve regarded him as a kindred spirit ever since.
- Thanks to a lack of truly original gameplay ideas, I can reuse all my knowledge from Prince of Persia Sands of Time, right down to the “Now press a different button to really kill them” mechanic.
- The light Lara has infinite range, never goes out on it’s own or even makes the levels ugly, removing all strategy from it’s use, which is very practical. A good alternative to making the levels light enough already.
- The nice person you meet at the end of the first level manages to capture Lara, being ordered to do so by her mortal enemy, but doesn’t kill her, restrain her or at least takes away her weapons, instead only collapsing a wall. Very stupid for him, very practical for me.
- The game makes me recall good old memories, since the amount (though not the severity) of bugs rivals Angel of Darkness.
Okay, let’s stop the sarcasm. Honestly, is it a good game? Yes! If you liked Legend you’ll probably like this one as well, only more. It’s not perfect, and I could imagine a reviewer tearing it to pieces and me agreeing with every single thing he said, but in the end, I got more fun for my money than I got with Legend, and for me, that’s really all that counts.
Written on December 3rd, 2008 at 09:17 pm