Tomb Raider Chronicles
Tomb Raider Chronicles is an action adventure game developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. The fifth entry in the famous Tomb Raider series of games, it was released on the Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS. The PlayStation version was released on November 17th 2000 in Europe (24th in North America), the Windows version launched on November 21st 2000 in NA (24th in EU), and the Dreamcast version launched on November 28th 2000 in NA (December 15th in EU). Exclusive to North America, the Mac OS version released a year later on November 1st.
The game opens with the funeral of famed archaeologist, Lara Croft, who was declared dead by the end of The Last Revelation. After the ceremony, some of her closest friends gather at her mansion to reminisce on her past adventures, all the while hoping that Croft's mentor, Werner Von Croy would find her alive. The group reflect on Lara's adventures in Rome, Russia, Ireland, and an undisclosed facility in a top secret location.
Why It Sucks
- The game is just a rehash of the previous game with very few changes made. The game even goes as far as reusing the exact same menu layout as its predecessor!
- This is the fifth game in the series, and Lara Croft still uses tank controls. By this point, the control scheme is antiquated by 2000 standards.
- In addition to reusing the same graphics, sounds are also reused, with guns packing the same sound effects as before.
- Speaking of the guns, while some of the more powerful guns from previous games make a return, like the Revolver from The Last Revelation, and the Desert Eagle from Tomb Raider III, those two weapons were unfortunately nerfed in this game. Plus, you don't get to keep them for the remainder of the game, being confined to the adventure they are found in.
- The game's narrative structure doesn't leave a lot of room for fleshed out story telling, opting for something less linear. However, the Rome level also introduces a continuity error:
- The Rome levels take place some time before the events of the first game, hence the reappearance of Larson and Pierre. In the final section of the Rome story, Pierre appears to die from a long and nasty fall (with audible bone crunches to boot), but there is no way he could die here from a chronological standpoint since, once again, this story happens before his appearance in the first game, making his death in Rome a glaring plothole.
- In the Ireland levels, you have no weapons at all; you are completely defenseless throughout that sub-story and have to rely more on instincts to counter enemies, the methods the game doesn't make clear.
- The Tomb Raider series is not known for stealth elements, yet for some reason, the team decided to incorporate them into this game. The stealth sections are basic at best and don't require anything more than "hide around the corner, and the baddies won't see you." Oh, and there are two chapters in the game that revolve around using stealth.
- Blatant product placement. As James Rolfe pointed out in his Tomb Raider video, the game opens with a credit for Timex, a watch company founded in 1854. The product advertised is a grip clip watch that Lara uses in-game to track her progress. The kicker is that the aforementioned Timex credit is on one of the first screens in the screen...before the main menu appears! Hell, the game's manual even advertises the same watch as the one in the game! As Rolfe himself put it: "this game just sells out with the product placement!"
- The new tightrope mechanic is a complete nuisance since Lara can't even go two steps without overbalancing, which makes the walk across extremely slow and tedious.
- The last sub-story is a nightmare; aside from the aforementioned focus on stealth, there are sections were Lara has to deposit her weapons into a tray to get past tight security, leaving her defenseless for a good chunk of these level. New to the game is also a grapple gun, which fires a short ranged grappling hook that Lara can swing on. The grapple gun however, is not very reliable due to its short range and limited use, since it can only be fired at fixed points in the environment.
- There is also a secret in the last level that requires you to pass two shooting galleries in order to get it. Fail the first one, and the second gallery is locked off from you; fail the second one, however, and it will lock you inside the room. Bare in mind these shooting galleries aren't exact easy. Oh yeah, did we forget to mention that as you try to complete the second shooting gallery, there is poisonous gas flowing into the room? Well, if you fail the second gallery, you are subjected to a slow, painful death by asphyxiation!
- Because of the recycled gameplay loops, reused graphics and sounds, and limited scope, the game overall has a soulless feel to it. See the Reception section for more details.
- In the Rome levels, we get treated to some good banter between Pierre and Larson, who return from the first game in the series.
- The game features a much better tutorial than its predecessor, since it is not only an optional area Lara can explore right at the start of the game, but it actually goes over every single move in the game, something that The Last Revelation did such a poor job at.
- Zip makes his debut in Lara's undercover mission, and his wise cracks do lighten the mood somewhat. This game isn't the last we get to see of him, either.
- The Ireland levels do have a really creepy and haunting atmosphere thanks to its inspiration from old Irish folklore.
- The PC version came with a second disc containing level building tools to allow fans to design their own levels based off of the game's engine.
Although Tomb Raider Chronicles received a few highly positive reviews from some gaming outlets like Games Radar, the game's overall reception was extremely mixed, scoring 70.59% on GameRankings and 63/100 on Metacritic for the PlayStation version, while the PC version scored a measly 60.24% and 57/100 on the same respective aggregating sites. Many critics took issue with the game's outdated feel, criticising the controls for remaining the same as the first entry with very few noticeable differences. The lack of innovation and antiquated design were cited as the biggest sore spot for the title, with IGN stating in their review that game would do very little to attract fans who didn't enjoy, or got tired of the series after the previous entries.
In retrospect, the team that worked on Chronicles had become burnt out from three years of annual sequels, and wanted to end the series after The Last Revelation because of franchise fatigue, but Eidos wanted the series to continue on. Andy Sandham, the designer of Chronicles called the game a "load of old shit", citing it to be the hardest Tomb Raider game the team had ever worked on, and that they only went through with the project for a paycheck, rather than out of passion for the craft. The team's lack of enthusiasm and franchise fatigue played a big role in how the game turned out, as many assets were reused or re-purposed from The Last Revelation.
Tomb Raider Chronicles only sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, making it the worst selling entry in the franchise, and the first one to bomb both financially, and critically.