Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris
PC, PS4, Xbox One
More than four years have passed since Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light transposed the Tomb Raider star’s twin pistols and plundering ways into an isometric twin-stick shooter-cum-adventure, but you may not realise it from playing Temple Of Osiris. It’s an act of gaming archaeology as Crystal Dynamics digs out all of Guardian Of Light’s mechanics and ideas, dusts them off, and places them in a new Egyptian setting. But that same reverence for the past guarantees a solid, if unremarkable, run through a selection of beautiful tombs.
Time hasn’t stood entirely still for this spun-off sideline. Crystal Dynamics has increased the player count from two to four, ensuring chaotic scenes as enemies swarm the dual-wielding party and weapon effects occlude the action. But as well as upping the scale of battles, the larger group here allows Crystal Dynamics to build on the possibilities of the first game’s co-operative puzzles.
Just as in Guardian Of Light, the available tools are split between different characters to push co-op play (though all of them will be to hand if you work on your own). Rather than divvying up four abilities, however, skills are parcelled off into pairs. Lara and fellow treasure hunter Carter each get a grappling hook that can be used to scale or descend sheer faces, target other players so that you can haul them up after you, or create precarious tightrope bridges across pits of gnarled spikes. The pair also have a torch that can be used to light both the way and the many gem-yielding lamps you’ll find in transit, as well as solve some entertaining puzzles involving flammable gas.
Lara and Carter are joined by Egyptian gods Horus and Isis, who manifest after a hasty act of Carter’s unleashes Set, here painted as the villain rather than the ambiguous deity of antiquity. Both of the supernatural pair wields a Staff Of Osiris, which replaces Totec’s spear from the first game. The staff can fire a laser beam that slows and kills enemies, and eradicates enemy-spawning glowing orbs placed in the world by the malevolent Set. It can also be used to manipulate certain environmental features such as lifts or spinning cogs, but as a result puzzles involving the staff feel more prescribed and less satisfying than the spearthrowing interplay between Lara and Totec. You never feel like you’re improvising a solution to a problem, just spotting a texture and pressing the right button. Totec’s shield, meanwhile, which could be held aloft to provide a platform for Lara, is also replicated here in the form of force-fields which do much the same job.
There’s an arsenal of weapons beyond the character-specific tools, of course, the more explosive end topping out with the ludicrous, artefact-desecrating bazooka, and the return of sticky bombs, which can be used offensively or to trigger switches. Gunplay is serviceable, but few weapons deliver any kind of kick, and while there are a number of enemies that require you to change up your tactics – a tough, grenade-lobbing bipedal crocodile that must be finished off with a bomb after it falls on its back; a slow-moving knight that wields a mirrored shield capable of reflecting the Staff Of Osiris’s energy beam – the vast majority feel a little too similar to dispatch.
Temple Of Osiris does at least take a step closer to Diablo territory with a vastly increased pool of loot to collect. Most of it takes the form of buff-happy amulets and rings, and a new inventory screen provides a clearer picture of what effect the various trinkets will have on you – extending the life of your magic shield, perhaps, increasing your resistance to certain elements, or expanding the reach of your torchlight. You’re able to wear up to two rings and one amulet at any one time, and every tomb is capped off with a treasure room crammed full of chests that cost various amounts of gems to open – the more you spend, the greater the chance you’ll acquire Rare or Epic items.
You’ll also find chests secreted around the world that change with the seasons. Temple Of Osiris’s central gimmick is a large dial in the hub world that can be turned to manipulate the climate and open new routes. While you aren’t given free rein to mess with nature – its use is rationed according to the needs of the story – observing the changes wrought on the world each time you give the device a spin is a pleasure.
In fact, the new engine has made for a particularly attractive game all round, dynamic lighting and surprisingly detailed geometry combining to make tombs look fantastic. But the camera’s efforts to take all of this in often see it draw out to an almost unusable distance, rendering Lara and the rest of her party amusingly small and difficult to spot in the process. Problems also occur elsewhere due to a concerted effort to streamline absolutely everything. As such, puzzles have been reduced in complexity – there are no tomb-spanning conundrums here, just a series of neatly packaged localised tests – and boss fights provide little challenge. Platforming feels stodgy, too, thanks to a particularly overbearing attempt to prevent you accidentally falling from one.
There are flashes of brilliance, not least in the way levels reorganise themselves depending on the number of players present, and there’s something appealing about inhabiting the combat boots of a pre-reboot Lara again (even if that makes Temple Of Osiris feel more anachronistic than Guardian Of Light did). But while the game delivers its smooth-edged package efficiently enough, it never manages to raise the pulse like its predecessor, and like an ancient tomb, close inspection reveals some worrying cracks.
Puzzles have been reduced in complexity – there are no tomb-spanning conundrums, just a series of localised tests