PAX Prime 2014: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Revisits Tomb Raider's Most Surprising Reboot

PAX Prime 2014: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Revisits Tomb Raider's Most Surprising Reboot

You may not associate Crystal Dynamics' hot property with isometric action, but Lara's brand of "archaeology" works surprisingly well in this atypical format.

Tomb Raider's been retooled so many times, it's easy to lose track of how many takes on Lara Croft we've seen throughout her nearly 20 years. But one of her most unexpected relaunches came in the form of 2010's Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, a co-op puzzle platformer with a helping of Gauntlet-style combat.

That might not be the first description that comes to mind when you hear "Tomb Raider," but surprisingly, it worked. I played through the entirety of Guardian alongside my girlfriend, and the experience reminded me of the absolute blast I had with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures—and without the need for added hardware and criss-crossing link cables. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris continues this tradition by not deviating too far from Guardian of Light's design, while upping the possible amount of players from two to four for the sake of trickier puzzles and more frenetic combat.

Like its predecessor, Temple of Osiris focuses its action on the interplay between two different sets of abilities. Lara and her human companion come equipped with grappling hooks used to latch onto golden rings and scale walls, while the two playable Egyptian deities can cause specially marked platforms to rise from the ground, and surround their bodies with a force field, allowing them to act as makeshift platforms, and block incoming projectiles. (Though you have to question the abilities of any almighty being who can't scramble to the top of a two-story barrier.)

Even though the action isn't quite as cinematic as Tomb Raider's most recent form, it sure is pretty.

My 20-minute demo at PAX had me sitting alongside three other participants, where we used our unique abilities in tandem to overcome the level's obstacles. This show floor session didn't provide the trickiest of puzzles, but it at least communicated how these characters are meant to work together. When a wall stood in our way, the human characters would bounce off of the deities' force fields, then use their grappling hooks to pull their companions up. And when the level threw platforms at us that could only be activated by godly powers, we humans had to rely on the otherworldly powers of our companions. It's all basic stuff, but even in these early stages of the game, Osiris had me and the other three couch-bound players communicating our strategies with each other. And that's the main draw of Osiris: As with Guardian of Light, pulling off a plan as a team feels great, even if it doesn't seem too complicated on paper.

Osiris' combat doesn't feel too removed from Gauntlet, and that's just fine—at best, it breaks up the thinky bits and lets you shoot at waves of enemies and collect the glittering treasures they leave behind. The demo showed a few equippable upgrades, and they're about what you'd expect: A weapon with additional firepower here, some accessories that increase stats and abilities there. And each stage ends with a bonus treasure room that allows you to trade collected gems for the purpose of opening chests containing items to boost your characters' powers.

I didn't see much of Temple of Osiris, but Square-Enix's showing had me relieved they, too, realize the secret greatness of Guardian of Light. Again, I only saw the very early parts of the game, so I'm not sure if Osiris will offer Guardian's brand of tricky puzzles, but I'm confident they understand the latter's strengths.

While the rest of the world salivates over Tomb Raider 2013's mashup of Far Cry and Uncharted, I'm going to risk being the odd man out with my preference for Osiris' old-fashioned take on theft-based archaeology. I'm hoping it'll bring the same co-op highs Guardian of Light did four years ago.

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