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Retrospective: Tomb Raider Legend • Page 2

Legendary?

And yet some of it acts as a commentary. An incredibly well executed sequence early on has you walk through a very typical Tomb Raider tomb, full of corridors of spikes, blades and traps - but they're all impotently harmless. Age has worn them, meaning treading on pressure plates only coughs out a puff of dust, maybe accompanied by a spear falling limply to the floor. It says something about how dated it all feels now, as well as making the statement that Crystal Dynamics was going to take the series somewhere more interesting.

But that would all come much later. In the end Legend does feature trap-filled corridors themselves, albeit mostly ones that rely on acrobatics rather than boring timing. But it is, for the most part, extremely traditional. And one of those traditions, sadly, is extremely ill-conceived boss fights.

Until the final boss none is particularly difficult, but each is especially stupidly conceived. Poor flagging of what you're supposed to be doing to harm the enemy means your only option is trial and error, which is intrinsically bad design. The general combat is pretty poor, human and animal enemies somehow requiring dozens and dozens of bullets before they're slowed down, confused by a jumbled targeting system that barely works. And these flaws shine like beacons when encountering the bosses.

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Combat still feels like it doesn't belong in the game. It never did.

It's infuriating not because the player is failing, but because the game is failing. The game's final boss, an idiotic giant purple ghost monster, has the ability to impossibly dodge my attacks while the game refuses to acknowledge my dodging his. It decides you've been hit before you have, and any well-timed evasive manoeuvres are just ignored. This is made doubly worse by its being so spitefully stupid as to allow the enemy to hit you multiple times before it will give you your controls back to move out of the way. It's unforgivably stupid. This combined with the awful targeting means you flail around stupidly, easily winning if the game lets you, but more often failing because it arbitrarily doesn't.

The good news is that after repeating the same bloody ridiculous mistakes in Anniversary, Crystal Dynamics did something extraordinary and listened to the critics, completely ditching boss fights altogether in the closing chapter of the trilogy, Underworld. But sadly the perils of retrospecting are that the past remains unchanged, and Legend is still just as cock-damned frustrating as it ever was.

An amazing score, combined with what were remarkable graphics (I feel a little embarrassed that I was once so gobsmacked by the waterfall scenery that now looks just so ordinary), and for the most part lovely platforming, demonstrates why Crystal Dynamics is such an interesting team. Here's hoping its learned not to make the same mistakes again in the forthcoming reboot.

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