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Tomb Raider 2 was my very first PC game.
Well no. That was Redline Racer, but that I got for free with the computer, so it doesn't count.
I played it. I devoured it. I found all the secrets, I mastered the even then ridiculous controls, I fell in love with Lara, and I had loads of fun.
There were some corners, however, which I have never explored. Two places where I never ventured. Was I tired? Eager to move on, only to return to these places later? Afraid? Well yes actually, I was quite scared. I was only 10, it was dark, and Tomb Raider 2 had a tendency to insta-kill you often, which made me jump in my chair. So I skipped those passages.
Yesterday I remembered these plans to return. And Replayed parts of the game. I also had the possibility to see how it played more than a decade later.
- Insta-death features often. Infuriatingly often. Sometimes it's an avalanche that's impossible to predict, other times the level drops a guy with a flamethrower behind you.
- The game still tends to spawn enemies in places you have been to already, accompanied by a short burst of "danger music". It creates them anywhere, anytime, even in already secure places, and I still jump when that happens.
- Game-design alternates between brilliant and laughably stupid. Just as I think "yetis can climb stuff, cool" I stumble upon another frustrating issue.
- There is a back-breaking amount of "borderline cinematic" scenes. Which suck. There are accompanied usually by several insta-deaths, re-loads, and realizations that the game is cheating (like spawning infinite avalanches), until you notice that this isn't a game, it's a movie, and you haven't been handed the script.
- Voice-acting is german. Well, in the version I have. I still can't get my head around the idea of Lara having a british accent, even though I like those.
- The graphic scales wonderfully to todays resolutions and widescreens. Only the cutscenes fess up.
- The controls. Oh my, the controls. To beginners they are still incomprehensible. To gamers with a low rage-quit threshold they are incomprehensible. Funnily enough, it feels like it hasn't been 12 years since I last played. It am able to recall all special and cool maneuvers, and jump around caves without any problems. Seems it payed off to drill the control-scheme into my head.
- After years of post-Lara conditioning I press space instead of ctrl to execute actions. Ugh. I blame all other games ever.
- The menu-system is still one of the most beautiful things in existence, combining elegance and satisfaction. Just rifling (ha) through your backpack feels fun.
- It's still possible to accidentally press quicksave instead of quickload, thus trapping you forever in a possibly inescapable situation. This ruined my first playthrough back in the day.
So, on to exploring. I'll cheat my way through most of it (let's face it, I haven't got 20 hours lying around), only planning to stop to explore.
- The venice-level still looks beautiful and plays wonderfully.
- The water has a certain trasparent charme to it I haven't seen since.
- The game is awfully blocky, akin to Minecraft.
- Flares are FUN. Yet I have rarely seen them in non-Tomb-Raider games since.
- It feels satisfying to light up a flare, and then drop it down a dark chasm or into a deep pool of water.
- Fights are short, terrifying bursts of adrenaline. Enemies kill you relatively quickly, and I believe the wonky controls are somewhat resposible for your panic.
- The last level, where Laras mansion (from the tutorial-level) is invaded, is still brilliant. Just the feeling of actually fighting in a formerly secure place makes it special.
Now this is done, let's continue cheating my way through the levels.
After you lose your weapons in level 5 I make it a priority to retrieve my pistols. Even though I have infinite ammo on all other weapons, it just doesn't feel the same way without them. After I arrive in the deep waters near an old shipwreck, I realize I never explored this place either. I swim around, using my 100+ medpacks as breathing-aid. Turns out there is nothing but a huge invisible wall.
I arrive in the mountains. An avalanche rolls towards me, I jump over it. To the left is a small cave. Inside a tiger tries to maul me (making me jump in my chair). Inside the cave is - ammunition.
First checkpoint complete, on to the next one.
Before I can summon the giant reptile/bird-thing in level 14, I climb down the other side into a big chasm, where I press the usual button. The rest of the chasm I haven't explored. It contains - nothing.
So that concludes my exploration of these places I have never been. And although they have been quite empty, I did get the chance to have some nice, warm, nostalgic feeling, and could marvel at the wonders (and atrocities) of the game design.
You should try it. It's quite a good game, this Tomb Raider 2.
Now that I'm done, I remember some places in Tomb Raider 3 that I haven't explored either. Like some of the caves in the Antarctic(of which I was alo afraid). Or all those levels which had a secondary path, thus leaving an entire level-progression unexpored.
Should I go trough Tomb Raider 3 too, in its entirety, to explore these places?
...nah. Maybe in twelve years.
Orignally posted on Matthew on Game Design
I did go through Tomb Raider 3 after all! Took me a while longer, so it's in three articles. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3