Square Enix decided the best way to build up the hype for the new Tomb Raider and keep Lara in people’s minds is with The Tomb Raider Trilogy. This collection features Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: Underworld. All three titles encompass a three game story arc.
Lara’s trilogy begins with what was originally a PS2 game, Tomb Raider: Legend, which follows Lara as she searches for answers about her mother’s disappearance. Her quest leads her to a strange portal and sword that were involved in various ruins around the world. She also learns that Amanda Evert, a former friend, may still be alive and working against her. These events tie directly into Tomb Raider: Anniversary, where Lara is trying to find pieces to complete the Scion before Jacqueline Natla does. Finally, Tomb Raider: Underworld links everything together, with Lara searching for Thor’s gauntlets and hammer so she can enter Helheim/Avalon. Once again, she has to try and outwit and outperform both Evert and Natla.
What’s especially interesting is that the list of foes extend beyond natural opponents, as supernatural and mythical concepts come up throughout the adventure. These otherworldly elements are tied to real myths and legends. Granted, all three adventures would still be interesting if you were looking for rare artifacts just to have them, but the mythic concepts really add to the story. Even if you’re already familiar with the folklore, you might still be surprised with how things tie together in the Lara’s world.
Tomb Raider is a precursor to Uncharted and plays in a similar manner. Lara explores exotic, typically gorgeous, locations throughout the world. More often then not, they’re tombs. You’ll also venture through jungles, small towns, and Japanese skyscrapers. Players essentially help her get from point A to point B, which isn’t as simple as it looks. Fortunately, Lara has a grappling line and is fantastic at climbing around any kind of environment, even if it looks like there aren’t any places to grab hold, without any equipment. There are also quite a few puzzles, usually at least two in each location. Prepare to push some boxes, giant stone spheres or construction equipment onto rather obvious switches. Of course, enemies will also be around while Lara’s exploring, which is why she has two guns and occasionally grenades.
All three games should look familiar because they’re not new. Legend originally came out in 2006, Anniversary in 2007 and Underworld in 2008, with the first two only just making their PS3 debut. For The Tomb Raider Trilogy, HD versions of Legend and Anniversary were created. They definitely look different, but it isn’t terribly drastic unless you look directly at screenshots of both versions alongside one another. I think the improved graphics were most noticeable when you look at the environments and not at the characters. The jungles, tombs and caverns look rich and picturesque. That in itself isn’t too unusual, since Tomb Raider environments at their best can be quite stunning.
The Tomb Raider Trilogy is also quite nice because you can see how the series has evolved from Legends to Underworld. The visuals, of course, are vastly improves. There’s more to it then that though. I found the camera angles were much better in Underworld than they were in Legend and Anniversary. Plus, while one could occasionally get sidetracked or even a little lost in Legend and Anniversary, Underworld‘s sonar mapping system can be quite helpful in pinpointing locations. Even the Croft Manor bonus sections, which allow players to solve puzzles in Lara’s mansion without fear of being suddenly attacked by enemies or dying, seem to improve in each iteration.
I did find the save system a bit frustrating, at least in Legends and Anniversary. When you save, you aren’t saving your exact position and state at that moment. You’re just creating a backup save at the automatic save point you just passed that you can access at any time. This means if you’re facing a particularly tricky jump or disconcerting area, you can’t save just before it, then reload if you mess up, and Lara dies with the items you collected before then. You go back to the last save checkpoint you passed. The same thing happens in Underworld, but at least there you keep the items (relics, grenades, ammo) you found after the checkpoint but before your save.
Each game also has a few extra features to encourage replays. There are time trials for each level, for example. Odds are you won’t accomplish this feat on the first try, but it provides incentive to go back again. Plus, there are lots of relics hidden in each level. Collecting them can unlock extra features in each entry, sometimes granting access to videos, outfits, character profiles or concept art. If you decide you want to be a completist and grab every little bonus in an area, you can even temporarily tone down the difficulty so you can grab everything.
Underworld‘s difficulty scaling is best, since you can adjust multiple settings. All three games have trophies as well, which should encourage people who like collecting those to keep playing and reaching for certain objectives.
The Tomb Raider Trilogy is best for people who are new to the series. This way you get an entire story arc of three games. Legend does a great job of setting up the trilogy for you, with multiple flashbacks to important moments in the past that have had an impact on current events. Both Legend and Anniversary have held up pretty well, but make sure you play Underworld last because you can really see how the overall game mechanics have improved over the series. If you enjoy games that focus more on adventure and exploration than fighting, then you’ll probably enjoy the trilogy. If you already own all three games, then you won’t miss anything if you pass the collection up. There’s really no substantial, additional content.
Food for Thought
- Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the PS2 versions of Legends and Anniversary looked a bit better. The HD remastered versions look darker.
- Expect to spend around an hour on each level the first time you play it. So each game should last between six and eight hours, excluding the optional Croft Manor training and exploration areas.
- Personally, I liked Legend best, then Underworld second best.