Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light [Review]
This is it. The last release for this year’s Summer of Arcade. Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is an isometric platformer in which Lara teams up with Totec, the Guardian of Light, to stop Xolotl from plunging the world into darkness… and what a world that is! The environment of Guardian of Light (GoL) is exactly what you would expect from a Tomb Raider game. Crystal Dynamics gives you 14 levels beautiful scenery. The levels where you are inside tombs give you the feel of walking through the halls of an great ancient Mayan civilization while the outside levels provide you with lush foliage, great looking rivers and waterfalls, and other detailed Mayan structures. While the game isn’t played in 3D, I don’t think the overall Tomb Raider feel is lost here.
I was very happy with the game play. It presented the perfect balance between action and puzzles. I wasn’t bored at all while playing this game. In fact, I found it hard to put it down because at the end of each level I wanted to see what new challenges awaited me in the next. You get a steady pace of action. You won’t go too far without finding an enemy to shoot at. Sometimes, depending on how many enemies there are, the action can get really hectic… and fun! Not only can you use your weapons to take out enemies, you can also use your environment. There are things such as exploding barrels, exploding cards, and boulders that will provide you with some options in taking out your opponents. Because your environments are constantly changing, you will find that your fighting tactics need to change with them. Sometimes you can use cover, sometimes you need to keep dodging, sometimes you need to draw your enemies in, and others you just need to balls out attack!
Like I said, the game has a perfect balance between action and puzzles. So for as much as you fight, you will also have plenty of puzzles to solve. Just like in any Tomb Raider there are puzzles that stand in your way of advancement. I can’t say the puzzles are wickedly difficult, but they do make you think. Also, the puzzles are built for you and your partner to work together. Totec can throw spears into walls and make them stay. Only Lara can jump on to the spears. If Totec tries, they will break. Lara has the grapple ring. When she shoots it across a pit or up a wall, Totec and walk across the wire to gain access to places that Lara can’t on her own. Along with the puzzles that you need to advance through the game you will also come across challenge tombs. They are optional, but they usually provide you with a good reward. Sometimes it may be an ammo or health upgrade; maybe a new weapon, artifact, or relic. Either way, I would advise taking the time to figure out these puzzles as you will get the bulk of the good stuff here.
Some puzzles are sequence based where you need to go through steps in the proper order to unlock a door or get an item. One example of this is one of my favorite puzzles of the game where there is a circular room with a big hole and a platform in the middle of it with spikes on it. When you step on the pressure plate the spikes go down and the platform raises, but it rises so fast that neither Lara nor Totec can get on it. In order to complete this task you need to have each player stand on the opposite end of the pit, have Lara shoot the grapple ring to Totec across the pit, have Totec then backup on to the pressure plate. The plate will rise, taking the cable of the grapple ring with it. Lara can then scale the platform and get the item you need. Other puzzles are time based where you may need to hit a target and get across a set of spike, run across a collapsing runway using the correct platforms, or complete a sequence in the set amount of time. Either way the puzzles are fun.
There are 28 weapons to choose from, but don’t expect to pick up all 28 easily while going through the 14 levels. Certain weapons are given to you because you need them to pass a certain area, but others you need to find on your own. If you are playing as Lara you start off with her standard double handguns, if you’re Totec you will start off with his golden spear. It won’t be too long before you pick up the assault rifle, but if you look you will get things like shotguns, flamethrowers, double light machine pistols, and even a grenade launcher. The handguns and spear have unlimited ammo, however, other weapons don’t. You have an ammo bar, and when that empties you will revert back to your default weapon. There are plenty of ammo caches and drops around so you really shouldn’t have to worry about running out of ammo that often. Also, as mentioned earlier, you can get ammo upgrades to increase the amount of ammo you have total. You also get an unlimited supply of remote bombs. You can use these in combat, but most of the time they will be used to solve puzzles.
Along with the weapons, you have artifacts and relics to help you through the game. Artifacts affect your stats. There are four stats: weapon, defense, bomb, and speed. Each artifact will boost one stat, but lower another. You can equip two artifacts at a time, so be careful how you stack them or you will put yourself in a bad position. Relics on the other hand only boost power or give you a perk such as power shot, health regen, scatter shot, etc. The deal with relics is that you can only equip one and they only work when your relic meter is full. You fill your relic meter by killing enemies without taking damage and collecting gems. Once it’s full the relic will activate automatically.
Remember, this is a Tomb Raider game so you are rewarded for exploring. You will find challenge tombs, gems, and other collectables for you achievement whores out there. Speaking of achievements, there are quite a few in this game. You can see them by going to the objectives tab while in game, or just paying attention during the loading screen. Also, when you enter an area where an achievement is available you will be alerted. Achievements will usually give you rewards like artifacts, weapons, and relics.
While this is a multiplayer game, there is a single player as well. Most of my time was spent playing multiplayer (which isn’t online co-op by the way), but from what I have seen in single player you should be able to obtain every objective, get every weapon, artifact, and relic on your own. You are given Totec’s spear in the beginning of the game so you can use that to scale walls or use your grapple ring where available. Also, there are more locations to use your grapple ring. You will also find extra boulders, rolling balls, platforms, and other things to replace Totec in puzzles. The same is true in challenge tombs so you can complete all of those as well. Cut scenes also differ in single player, mainly because Totec is not with you.
Whether you are playing single or multiplayer, the items you collect stay with you. Also, your level progress stays with you; so if you unlock a level in single player, you can play it in multiplayer as well. This brings me to a point that I don’t like… You need two XBox profiles to play multiplayer. It is done this way so that each profile can keep track of what it has collected and use it in both single and multiplayer. I can understand why they did this, however, what if you just have someone that wants to play quickly? You have to completely leave the game, log out of your profile, and create a new XBox profile.
I did notice a few bugs while I played. The two most prevalent being a delayed motion bug where you go to jump, it doesn’t look like you’re going to do it, but then you accidentally do it twice, or in the wrong direction because you hit the button and direction twice. Another is a bug when you are switching weapons. You press the button to switch, but the change doesn’t show on the screen until you press fire. This lead to many times where I was pressing the same button over and over again out of frustration trying to change my weapon when it really had already changed. Also, there are a few invisible walls here or there. I wouldn’t call these bugs severe, as they didn’t really affect my overall game play experience.
Overall I think Guardian of Light is a great game. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a Tomb Raider fan, or just looking to have a little fun. You’re only looking at $15 to grab this, so it’s a great deal. But if you’re cheap, I’m pretty sure they will have it on sale sometime within the next year before the next Summer of Arcade.