Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Game along with the Geek: Tomb Raider Day 4 - DONE

Considering how clueless I was at certain parts of "Tomb Raider: Underworld," it's either an extremely short adventure, or developer Crystal Dynamics decided inducing hours of utter confusion counted as their final expected playing time for the game.

Either way, I am finished. So plenty of spoilers ahead:

I am still trying to figure out my thoughts on the final level, though. On the one hand, I was thrilled that the confusion that ran rampant across the first few levels was absent here. Getting into the underwater castle was a straight-forward excavation mission. Finding your way to the door Natia needs you to open is also fairly simple, as what you can jump on and what you cannot is very clearly distinguished. Even the fact that Lara's hands were glowing as soon as you get into the room was a clear indication that you would have to hit some switches before heading over to the door. And then the final puzzle, the machine that would awaken the Midgar Serpent, was easy once you see the grapple hooks have a floor beneath them.

Am I being a hypocrite to say I wanted to be challenged mentally more at the end of this game?

Speaking of simple, what did I say yesterday about Thor's Hammer? Cool as it is, the hammer made the boat level impossible to screw up, and made fighting hordes upon hordes of thralls (in that one corridor before the machine area) a breeze. I even killed eight or nine sharks with that thing.

Overall, I have to say I was not satisfied with the last moments of "Tomb Raider: Underworld," and as such, I give it a failing grade.

It was just all unfulfilled potential. The storyline was fantastic, but you only really learn what Lara found and how she put the pieces of the puzzle together if you take the time to stop and read her journal. The character of the Doppleganger was great, but in the end you don't even get to fight her. And all during that final room with Natia flying overhead hurling fireballs at you, you don't even get to try to hit her back. Not once.

And Mostly -- I WANTED TO FIGHT A SERPENT! How cool would it have been to have an enormous serpent wake up, and you have to jump from scale to scale, while he moved, and hit him in certain places with Thor's Hammer? Where's the imagination?

Don't get me wrong, there were definite redeeming qualities to this ending. Especially the direction when Lara finally "meets" her mother and when Amanda and Lara need to escape.

But too much was left in cutscenes and out of our hands for the ending to really feel like you accomplished anything. And after dying oh so many times on so many levels, this was a game that really needed to pay off with some good hands-on action in the end.

Oh well, maybe the downloadable content will be worth it. Or, maybe it will just a waste of another $10. I guess we'll see. For now, if you haven't been playing along, I would not recommend this game as anything more than a rental.

And with that, we're moving on. The next game we feature will be Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, so go find the game and get ready to play along. My first night playing will likely be Wednesday night, so the first post will come Thursday.

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