When I started this project back at the beginning of the year, it didn’t exactly take me very long to write something about the original Tomb Raider, a game that holds a special place in my heart, not just out of nostalgia, but due to the way it conveyed a certain tone and atmosphere. I miss that in the more recent iterations; Lara Croft taking more the role of survivalist action heroine than lonely adventurer now. I suppose it was always destined to happen. If you were to look at the old Tomb Raiders in a modern context, they would likely be seen as having poor design, especially as it pertained to the obtuse puzzles within. I understand why they won’t make another game like that, but I spent a long time lamenting that, not really sure what else would be able to emulate that same experience.
Lara Croft GO doesn’t completely fill that void, but it does show that there’s still life in the old Lara. When Square Enix Montreal was given the reigns to create the GO series out of well-known franchises, they breathed a new life into each of them, in many ways distilling them to only their most necessary moving parts, but in the process, they also seemed to get to the heart of why those games worked in the first place. In the case of Hitman, reducing it to a board game made the cat-and-mouse stealth element even more transparent. With Lara, I can appreciate that they made her a bit more animated. Tomb Raider was always about navigating geometry whilst assessing the risks of every move and jump. It’s about those near-misses that you were certain would be the end of you. Even in a turn-based context, Lara Croft GO manages to capture that beautifully, constantly darting you in and out of danger and you try to find the best path. For those quick sessions, it’s like the old Lara never left.
I can only hope to see this trend continue, not just the GO series and similar genre experiments, but the practice of seeing large publishers hand off resources and franchises to smaller teams. Lara Croft GO was made by six people, making it a feel like more of a passion project than a franchise cash-in.
Honestly, that’s the highest compliment I can give it.