Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review: The Mummy Returns
As I finished up writing this review, I had to change the posting date of it. It read February 25th, 2015. I’ve had this review waiting to be written for a month-and-a-half. It’s hard to motivate yourself to write a review for a game that does so little to motivate you to play it. Basically, this game is the game that nearly ended et geekera. I had to overcome the challenge and finish the review but I couldn’t will myself to do it.
There are great games. There are terrible games. The worst thing that a game could be is perfectly average. Nothing particularly good. Nothing particularly bad. The only thing that it’s great at is making you go “That was a game.”
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is the “sequel” to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a game that is very well-regarded by gamers and critics. LCTOO is just a game. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. This game might involve Lara Croft and be developed by Crystal Dynamics but LCTOO is not the same type of game as 2013’s hit Tomb Raider reboot. While Tomb Raider was an action-adventure third-person shooter, Temple of Osiris is an isometric twin-stick shooter. While they’re not completely diametrically opposed genres (that would be going from third-person shooter to a cow clicker), the differences in the games are kind of obvious from the start.
Well, I suppose that if the genre change didn’t make the differences obvious, the tone of the games would do that too. Tomb Raider was like a serious version of an Indiana Jones movie. Granted, Indy never got the crap kicked out of him like Lara so it might not be the best comparison. So if Tomb Raider is Indiana Jones, then Temple of Osiris is closer to The Mummy. It’s not just the Ancient Egyptian theme. It’s the whole battle versus an evil Egyptian god and his hordes of minions created via supernatural, godlike means that screams The Mummy to me. Actually, that’s a bit more The Mummy Returns but close enough. (I pretend the third one didn’t happen.)
In Temple of Osiris, you are Lara Croft (or one of the other three people who your buddies/random strangers on Steam have to play as because you’ve taken Lara) whose daily tomb raid has gone horribly wrong when your colleague inadvertently awoke the evil Egyptian god Set and some other ancient Egyptian guardians have you help them reassemble a statue of Osiris so it will reanimate and put Set in his place. Basically, it’s a B-movie plot that’s very The Mummy. Unless you’re a student of Ancient Egyptian mythology and know the origin story LCTOO is playing off.
The majority of the game is spent being a shooter. Waves of enemies line up to get mowed down by your array of weapons. You do battle with scarabs, skeletons, attack crocodiles, bi-pedal attack crocodiles and a bunch of boss monsters, among other creatures, attempting to murder you before you reassemble Osiris. It sounds tedious but new enemies are steadily introduced and older enemies get different abilities between areas in the sprawling Osiris temple complex.
That being said, combat does tend to feel fairly samesies apart from the boss battles. At the end of each main temple, there’s usually a mini-boss or a chase sequence (more on that in a second) or a massive horde of enemies to mow through. There are a few big boss fights at the end of each section of the Osiris complex which were each fun and unique though the final boss fight was dull as dishwater. It was Crash 3-esque. The two Gods (or masks in Crash’s case) battle while you avoid them and complete this other objective that’s an afterthought to the on-screen action to actually do damage to the boss. In this case, run from the hordes to shoot three glowing orb things shielding the boss. It probably would have been better with more than one person but that doesn’t earn you a reprieve.
What helps keep the game fresh is the inventory system. You can equip three different weapons to go along with the Staff of Osiris. Apart from the dual-pistols, they each deplete an ammo counter at different rates but have varying damage and fire rates to allow you to choose weapons you’re comfortable with. The real prize weapon is the grenade which allows you to do some AOE damage, solve puzzles and take down big enemies without blowing all your ammo. That was the combat change of pace that this game needed to separate it from Tomb Raider.
I mentioned the camera off the top because there’s a big problem with some of the gameplay thanks to the camera. For whatever reason, fast-paced escape sections are littered throughout the campaign and they involve a whole lot of platforming. And that’s not including a bunch of jumping around the game has you do anyway.
Tomb Raider’s blockbuster movie style of platforming that was borrowed liberally from Uncharted was intuitive enough through visual clues and general forgiveness to let you blister through platforming sections with a focus on the story and set pieces rather than cripplingly frustrating platforming.
The problem with LCTOO is that the platforming is done from that high-angle perspective which makes judging anything but the most simple jumps to be an exercise in frustration. Trying to jump onto little platforms most often ends in death because you can’t really tell when you’re actually on top of the platform. There’s a bit of shadowing but nothing that’s particularly easy to see when platforming. And if you have to turn shadows off, I doubt you’d have a prayer. It’s a little nitpick but it was my biggest source of frustration.
What scares me a little is that I forgot this game had puzzles in it until I quickly thumbed through the Steam reviews to see if there was anything I missed. I’d say this was sub-Uncharted in terms of puzzles that aren’t really puzzles because there’s no challenge to them. At least there was some dialogue or story happening in Uncharted’s puzzles. Here, they were so completely forgettable that I legitimately forgot they were there.
Loot was relegated to the end of the levels. You gathered gems for killing enemies and breaking vases. These gems could be used to open chests with random at the end of the levels. Most of these rewards were amulets which activated bonuses from shooting enemies long enough without taking damage. Occasionally, there’d be a weapon. Mostly, the loot was forgettable. Are you starting to see a pattern?
The one thing I can absolutely say good things about is the art style. As opposed to the gritty, dirty art styles of Tomb Raider and Uncharted, LCTOO was very colourful. Sure, there were sandy beiges all over the place but there were different seasons represented across the Osiris complex which gave the art team a chance to stretch their legs and design an Ancient Egyptian temple and mythical creatures in winter, jungle and underwater motifs. It’s a little touch on paper but it’s absolutely gorgeous in practice.
Helping was the fact that the lighting engine is beautiful too. While you’re not close enough to get much detail of the characters, there are lighting effects everywhere from coloured light beams and torches lighting up you and the environment to shadow play to particle effects. Maybe when I think about $20 games, I don’t have high hopes. However, graphics is the one thing I can sing the praises of when reviewing this game.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris was a game. At the end of the day, that’s the most succinct way of summing it up. If you’re a fan of Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light and haven’t played Temple of Osiris, wait for it to go 75% off in a Steam sale and replay Guardian of Light if you get twitchy over waiting.
Maybe I’ll take my own advice and grab Guardian of Light this summer during the Steam sale to see if it’s any better. It’s not like it’s guaranteed to be better because Temple of Osiris isn’t a bad game. It’s just not a good one either.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris was reviewed on Windows PC but is also available on PlayStation Four and Xbox One. Your impressions of the game may differ depending on the platform played on, PC specs and whether you prefer your games inspired by Harrison Ford movies or Brendan Fraser movies.