Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Game Challenge – Tomb Raider Chronicles

Chronological Game Challenge – Tomb Raider Chronicles

October 17, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

With 2000 almost done, it’s time to look at one of the very last PS1 games too. It’s Lara’s last appearance on 5th gen systems, but is it any good?

Tomb Raider Chronicles
Publisher: Eidos Interactive | Developer: Core Design | Year: 2000
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (PSN release)

Goal: Find all secrets and complete the four stories

Actual Outcome: Realised I missed a major secret early on in the second level and decided to just move on

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation was the pinnacle of the classic series as far as I’m concerned. Core Design gathered all the things that made the series great up to that point and pieced them together into what I feel is the definitive Tomb Raider experience.

It was also clearly meant to be the last game. Lara ends the game trapped inside a tomb, presumably dead. But Eidos were having none of that. Tomb Raider was their cash cow, and they needed new games. They had annual releases, dammit, and that’s what they’re keeping!

And so, Tomb Raider Chronicles happened. A hastily-made game that skirts around Lara’s supposed death by having her associates tell stories of her escapades, and those escapades translate into four separate adventures, each with a different theme. The Rome section is a standard Tomb Raider adventure in a setting that blends the modern world and ancient ruins. Russia is the return of Tomb Raider 3 – all gritty industrial environments and awkward underwater vehicle sections. Black Isle is Tomb Raider as survival horror. And the New York section is an attempt to bring stealth and Matrix-style aesthetics to the series.

The problem with Chronicles is that you can tell this was rushed together at the last minute just to release a Tomb Raider game, right down to the copied and pasted Egyptian-styled inventory menu that makes no sense when no part of the game is set in Egypt. The four different sections of the game don’t fit together very well as a cohesive experience, instead feeling like four half-formed ideas pulled from the cutting floor and stuck together awkwardly in a hurry. And where the game attempts a few new things, these ideas seem to be half-arsed in their execution, to the point where of irritation.

Let’s take these sections one by one. Rome is a strong start, as it feels like The Last Revelation Part Two. The sense of exploration is still there, the puzzles are fiendish in all the right ways, and the interactions with old enemies Pierre and Larson are amusing. It’s an excellent section with a lot to love, pitting Lara against a range of supernatural creatures and discovering another lost Colosseum. If the whole game had been like this, I’d feel better about it.

However, then we move to Russia, which is…okay. It feels like a huge return to Tomb Raider 3, as it’s entirely in a gritty urban environment and there’s a larger emphasis on combat and quite a few challenges and puzzles that just get dropped on you. There’s even a section with a submersible that brings back “fond” memories of the UPV from London. It’s a huge disappointment to fall back into this after such a strong opening section.

Black Isle is unusual, but it’s fairly enjoyable. Lara is a teenager, unarmed, and lost on a haunted Irish island. It’s an atmospheric survival horror section, and while it’s a massive departure, it’s handled well. Lots of weird mind-bending puzzles involving Irish folklore and a persistent sense of dread combined to make this a really interesting experience and I liked it a lot.

And then there’s New York. Ugh, New York. Let it be known that classic Tomb Raider was never good at stealth. The Area 51 sections of Tomb Raider 3 were a chore at times, and they’re back here as Lara tries to infiltrate her way into a high-tech company building, but somehow much, much worse. This had the potential to be great, but the limitations of the engine at this point make things difficult in two ways – Tomb Raider doesn’t fit stealth well, but at the same time, the many times the action ramps up for chase sequences wear you down from frustration. The helicopter section in particular, where you have to battle changing camera angles to avoid being riddled with bullets, is the second worst thing I’ve ever played in a Tomb Raider game (we’ll get to the first eventually).

And this is the central problem with Tomb Raider Chronicles. While Tomb Raider 3 just managed to hold its disparate environments together with a sense of sci-fi spookiness, Chronicles veers from setting to setting and tone to tone with the flimsiest of excuses, and the quality of the sections varies so much that it’s hard to come up with an overall opinion on the game. If it was all Rome or Black Isle, I’d praise it as a great final hurrah for Lara on the PS1, but Russia and New York drag it down dramatically.

Essentially, Chronicles is a confused mess, tossed together just to have another annual Tomb Raider game. There’s no focus, no overarching theme, and a level of quality that’s just all over the place. Oh well, maybe the next Tomb Raider title will be better…

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