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June 24, 2019
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Tomb Raider 3 - 14 years later, pt.3

by Matthias Zarzecki on 05/01/12 05:06:00 am

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Let's finish this. After Lara already explored the jungles of India and the faraway place called Nevada, she moves closer and closer to her final destination. Whatever that was anyway. I forgot.

General things:

  • The game still does that thing where it spawns a boulder right behind you that you can't avoid it unless you already know about it.
  • There are 6 outfits in this game, 3 have bare midriffs, 2 are skin-tight. I think I like the Antarctica-gear best, it's practical. ...mostly
  • Cannibals! Amputations! You know, for the children.
  • There is a missile-launcher/bazooka in this game, which insta-kills every enemy, but there's barely any ammo for it (I think maybe 5 missiles in the entire game), which makes them a valued commodity. The rockets look yellow-black, and immediately stand out everywhere. 
  • Tomb Raider 3 massively toned down the "spawn enemy in your back"-issue, although it still happens sometimes. It will have an embarrassing return in Tomb Raider 4.
  • One render-graphic shows Lara with a belly-button-piercing. It is never referenced again and treated like it never happened.
  • You don't explode if you enter the cheats incorrectly. Awwww

 The dinosaurs (small and large) are still terrifying. Has something to do with the clunky controls.

  • I've always subconsciously marveled at the minimalistic interface. Your ammo is displayed as a simple number in the corner, your health is a red bar on top, breathing-air is a blue one. They are only shown when actually necessary, so you never feel like they are in the way.
  • You can sprint in Tomb Raider 3. When you do, you get a third bar on top (a green one). The sprint is really useless though. You can only run straight ahead, it's very short, and only marginally faster than usual running. So far I know it's only used in a few puzzles, some of them optional.
  • Unlike sprinting, crawling does make sense and is fun. It feels a lot better suited to the environment to crawl through tight passages, and you're able to explore vents. VENTS! Imagine that. 
  • In Tomb Raider 2 dropped items spawned at the feet of the enemy. In TR3 they spawn in the middle of the next ground-tile, so a medkit might be within a dead guys' torso.

Hey there, flamethrower-guy. ...Lara never gets a flamethrower.

  • All items already in the environment are in the center of a square too. This takes away a lot of possibilities for item-placement. In TR2 you could, for example, have to carefully balance to an edge of a platform to get something.
  • In TR2 items are sprites, here they are 3d-models. I think this might be the reason for the tile-placement.
  • You can walk slowly through deadly spikes, but you don't really notice or learn this until far into the game, so might make a lot more complicated jumps than necessary.
  • Lara references Jeff Goldblum in a cutscene. Wait what. 
  • The bad guy is Finnish. Who would've thought.
  • The cave-ins and eartquakes feel like classic Star Trek action, as in "shake the camera while I pretend to fall sideways".


On to my ongoing exploration:

  • There is a bonus-level which I never played. You can access it after the end of the game if you have found all secrets.
  • Just accicentally pressed quick-load instead of quick-save and landed 3 levels back. See, it happened again.
  • There are some kayaking-sections that are just awful. I never managed to make it through them, so I cheated me some medpacks and gulped them down whenever I got the into the damage/kill-zones.
  • The bad guy in TR2 jammed a dagger into his heart and gained superpowers. This guy here just jammed a dagger-shaped rock into his heart and gained superpowers.
  • Why is everyone so polite? Stranded in the middle of the jungle, with no supplies, predators everywhere, they go "Good day to you, Sir! May I offer you some biscuits?" The polite mercenary without a leg isn't even supposed to be British.

"And a splendid day to you, young Miss!"

  • Some level have multiple paths through them. They usually split very early, and then both ways arrive at the last room. When I played the game 14 years ago I was intrigued that there was another way to explore I never even knew was there, but it has some downsides. Some goodies/secrets can be seen from one path, but never accessed from it. It didn't feel like an incentive to play again, more like a "fuck you" to the player.
  • Just met the King of the Mole-people, with thug-bodyguard. All posh and polite.
  • Another polite bad guy. WHY IS EVERYONE SO POLITE. It's worse than The Avengers. Not the Marvel-one, the crappy Uma-Thurman-one from 1998.
  • In the first level in London, right before the end, you can find the "cathedral-key". In the next level it has disappeared. I never figured out what it does (turns out it's for the bonus-level).
  • I think this is where they realized there's hardly any raiding of tombs. Conversely, Tomb Raider 4 is set entirely in Egypt. Lots of tombs over there.
  • Correction: The shotgun can be found in London too, but it is very easily missed.
  • In Antarctica you get the warmth-mechanic, which limits the time you can spend in water. It isn't really fun and will never be used again.
  • The mine-level in Antarctica scared me too much the first play-through, so I cheated my way through it back it. Let explore it now!
  • In the last level the bad-guy Willard mutates into a freaky spider. I was so afraid of this scene that I had to wait a year before I had the guts to confront him.
  • It's still creepy as hell.

(If you look closely you can tell it was a person once)

  • The giant spider has only one attack, which insta-kills you. Not fun.
  • Final cutscene: Lara goes outside, evades some guards, steals a helicopter and has an aerial battle with another helicopter. What. The final scene, the final climax of the last 20 hours, is Lara destroying a foe/obstacle that has been introduced just 30 seconds earlier? This is worse than Mass Effect 3.

For 3 games the formula has changed very little, and the cracks in the TR-formula become more and more apparent. Tomb Raider 4 will deviate from that is some significant ways, including a new inventory, more item-mechanics, less globe-trotting, and a more personal plot.

This article was originally posted on Matthew On Game Design.

It was preceeded by Part 1 and Part 2.

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