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ClassicKnuckles

Is Tomb Raider (PSX) and it's PSX sequels still good?

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I've recently been playing through them, and not only do I find them fun, but innovative. My favorite of the original trilogy is probably 2. Is this game a good game or a bad one and does it hold up today? (Replaying every single Tomb Raider in preparation for Shadow of the Tomb Raider)

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The main thing that really holds back these games in my opinion is the tank controls. The games are obviously outdated, but they still hold up as fun experiences centred around solid gameplay. Just as with many 3D games from the era, you need to get back into the mindset of working around a completely different way of moving the character.

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It depends what you mean, really.

By today's standards - I honestly don't think these games hold any sliver of chance of standing up well. The tank controls are overly clunky and a total pain to use in order to play the game, and it's a massive reason why I'm still trying to get into these games. The same reason is actually why I can't get into the original MGS. No tank controls but the control scheme for doing stuff like snapping enemy necks is somewhat annoying to get working correctly. 

But that said, they hold an obvious charm due to what they've achieved for the time era. The atmosphere, the story-driven nature, the use of a multi-game arc between Lost Revelation and Chronicles for example. There's a lot of reasons why someone could go back and enjoy the game, getting through the tank controls. It's not unplayable, by any means and holds a lot of quirks and charm from a long-gone era. If you're someone like me who enjoys game development and seeing how we got from Point A to Point B, I'd even argue Tomb Raider and it's games is a series you should absolutely play because it's one of the best examples of tank controls in an early 3D games.

So, do I think it holds up particularly well as a good game? Not necessarily. Do I think it holds up well as a good experience? Yeah, pretty much, if that's what you're going into the game for and can forgive some random early 3D quirks.

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The main thing that separates Tomb Raider from the many, many, many games that copied it (and the ones that didn't really copy it per se but used a very similar control scheme, like everything that copied Alone in the Dark) is that the classic Tomb Raiders were generally a platformer first and an action game second; and the controls were designed as such. The controls are clunky when you needed to go fast or shoot, but they were also very precise for when you were going slowly because the PSX Tomb Raider titles were grid based (very similar to the original Prince of Persia games). That in turn is why the amount of platforming (as opposed to shooting) and the quality of the level design directly correlated, even when the games were new, to how well they were received by the gaming press.

 

For that reason I suspect that the original five games in the series would be even more widely spaced in reception now than they were then; with the first and second and maybe 4th still being somewhat well received but the other two slammed even more than they already had been at the time. No, none of them controlled like Mario 64, but Tomb Raider also didn't have levels or challenges like Mario 64; so there was no Bubsy 3D-level disaster waiting for anybody who played it.

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Also, what's everyone's favorite Tomb Raider game in each era?

PSX- 1, 2, 3, Chronicles, Revelation

Post-PSX- Everything post-Revelation until Underworld

Survive- TR 2013, RotTR

 

Mine are...

PSX- 2 and 3 tied

Post PSX- Underworld, Legends

Survive- RotTR

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34 minutes ago, Tornado said:

The main thing that separates Tomb Raider from the many, many, many games that copied it (and the ones that didn't really copy it per se but used a very similar control scheme, like everything that copied Alone in the Dark) is that the classic Tomb Raiders were generally a platformer first and an action game second; and the controls were designed as such. The controls are clunky when you needed to go fast or shoot, but they were also very precise for when you were going slowly because the PSX Tomb Raider titles were grid based (very similar to the original Prince of Persia games). That in turn is why the amount of platforming (as opposed to shooting) and the quality of the level design directly correlated, even when the games were new, to how well they were received by the gaming press.

Picking up on this point for a second, that's the huge difference between Tomb Raider pre- and post-reboot. Tomb Raider 2013 is a brilliant game in it's own right, but changes the fundamental genre of the gameplay entirely (amongst other things). The newer games are out and out action shooters. Platforming, exploration and puzzles are largely optional, and the mandatory parts are short sequences that bridge together the extended shooting sections. I'd hazard a guess and say that TR'13 is about 75% shooting. I've still yet to play Rise, but I gather it's not all that different. Legend and Underworld were both a lot more action focused than the earlier games (and Anniversary), but they were still platformers with an action/shooter edge. 

I wonder how the classic Tomb Raider games would be viewed by people who aren't familiar with 3D games from that period, especially if they have played the newer instalments. They're practically unrecognisable. I'm not really a fan of the new direction that Tomb Raider has taken, neither from a gameplay or story/genre/tonal point of view. The series hasn't just been modernised but rather has been entirely changed to suit today's market. 

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1 hour ago, Blue Blood said:

The newer games are out and out action shooters. Platforming, exploration and puzzles are largely optional, and the mandatory parts are short sequences that bridge together the extended shooting sections.

Without question.I can remember getting the first game the year it came out and from the first full 3 or 4 levels, you start off shooting the wolves... then there's virtually no gun play as all until you encounter rexy.

Then I think that the next major gunplay is against what's his name who shoots at you when you come back to the waterfall area. 

From what I then remember of the game... there's very little in terms of gunplay until you reach the final few stages and encounter The Abortion, the various mini-bosses and encounter those alien ugly dudes every few seconds... finally climaxing against the last boss... and even then it doesn't end there but with more platform/exploring/puzzle segments.

 

Whereas more recent games... it's... nothing but gunplay pretty much... doesn't one of the modern games open with you on a boat shooting what feels like a small army?

 

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43 minutes ago, Mayor D said:

Whereas more recent games... it's... nothing but gunplay pretty much... doesn't one of the modern games open with you on a boat shooting what feels like a small army?

Pretty sure you're thinking of Uncharted.

TR2013 starts with you trapped inside of a cave and escaping from the island inhabitants and then navigating several cliffs while ROTR has you climbing a snowed over mountain.

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41 minutes ago, Ryannumber1gamer said:

Pretty sure you're thinking of Uncharted.

TR2013 starts with you trapped inside of a cave and escaping from the island inhabitants and then navigating several cliffs while ROTR has you climbing a snowed over mountain.

It's not much of a stretch to confuse New Raider with Dude Raider.

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8 hours ago, Ryannumber1gamer said:

TR2013 starts with you trapped inside of a cave and escaping from the island inhabitants and then navigating several cliffs while ROTR has you climbing a snowed over mountain.

No not that 'new raider'

The PS3 era ones. 

I think it might be 'Tomb Raider: Underworld'. It's the one where Lara finds her mum... who is now a zombie... yeah.

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8 hours ago, Mayor D said:

No not that 'new raider'

The PS3 era ones. 

I think it might be 'Tomb Raider: Underworld'. It's the one where Lara finds her mum... who is now a zombie... yeah.

Underworld starts with an escape from a burning Croft Manor, and then goes into a level set amongst underwater ruins with waaaaaaaaay too much swimming for the start of the game. That segment is followed by a shootout on a boat, but a relatively short one. It's shorter than the platforming/exploration parts before and after it. There is a pretty lengthy shooting sequence on another boat later on IIRC (it's been years) and plenty more shooting throughout the game, but it pales in comparison to the newer titles. Underworld is still platforming and exploration in majority. 

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2 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

Underworld starts with an escape from an burning Croft Manor, and then goes into a level set amongst underwater ruins with waaaaaaaaay too much swimming for the start of the game. That segment is followed by a shootout on a boat, but a relatively short one. It's shorter than the platforming/exploration parts before and after it. There is a pretty lengthy shooting sequence on another boat later on IIRC (it's been years) and plenty more shooting throughout the game, but it pales in comparison to the newer titles. Underworld is still platforming and exploration in majority. 

My God...

 

That game really was forgettable.

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I was introduced to the series through Legend, and really loved the Legend/Anniversary/Underworld trio. I recently bought the PSX games on eBay and thought i'd check out TR II, which I'd heard great things about. I have rarely felt as frustrated playing a game as this one, primarily down to the controls. I got up to the oil rig and haven't gone back to it, and I'm not certain I will. I just find the tank controls to be so unfun, especially coming in after playing the later games with much more fluid controls.

I do like the overall art and music direction in the older games, but I can't say I enjoy the gameplay. If they were to receive the remastered treatment, the controls would be the first thing that would really need an overhaul.

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4 hours ago, Mayor D said:

My God...

That game really was forgettable.

Underworld definitely was the worst of the Legend/Anniversary/Underworld trio. It didn't do badly with critics, but I seem to remember it failing to hit the mark commercially. The developers specifically made an effort with the game not to arbitrarily divide it into sections that are purely shooting or purely platforming and the levels weren't entirely linear. In doing that though they kind of weakened the stronger parts of the gameplay. It certainly was pretty forgettable. They went as far as removing all explicit boss battles (something they boasted about doing back at the time) and the result was the final game in a narrative-driven trilogy that was devoid of any sense of climax. It was still a good game, though it was let down by some ill-fated design experiments.

Anniversary was a great remake of the first game is is tied with Legend as my favourite game in the series. It recreates the original game brilliantly, and naturally uses a much better control scheme. There's a fan-remake of TRII in the works that I've just found out about in the course of writing this post. It looks pretty wonderful.

Totally a shame that Square are unlikely to ever return to the "original" Tomb Raider style considering the runaway success that the rebooted series has been. They did the isometric games Guardian of Light (great) and Temple of Osiris (meh) that were part of the pre-reboot continuity, but that's probably the last we'll see. I'm going to play through some of the games soon I think. I've got Rise, but my drive to play it is pretty minimal

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I played the first two games not too long back and I gotta say the level design puts a lot of today’s games to shame. You can spend hours running around these boxed labyrinths and still not know what you’re doing. Few games these days just leave you to work it out for yourself and that is something I love about those original Tomb Raider games.

The visuals though have not held up at all , it can be very hard to look at sometimes especially on Tomb Raider 2’s outside levels. 

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Tomb Raider was released on consoles that didn't have analogue sticks when the game was made. But really, here's my argument for Tomb Raider:

As this music plays, you turn a corner and discover a huge, long-broken statue of King Midas - only the feet and a broken hand remain. The reveal, combined with the music, create a sequence of awe and wonder - especially for players in 1996.

Tank controls or no (even the brand new 2018 God of War has a quick turn button), little moments like those make the TR games classics.

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I think the PSX Tomb Raiders are fascinating games, they hold up but they also don't hold up at the same time.

On one hand they're these "realistic platformers" (for a lack of a better word) where every single level is a huge puzzle in how you even climb and navigate across the map using the deliberately planned out Tank Controls. Almost every single movement you make has to be planned out sometimes and I really like/miss that, I don't think there's any other game like that (in terms of platforming/adventure at least). It gives you this rewarding feeling that you really are climbing through this labyrinth/mountain, opposed to just tapping a button/clicking a thumbstick and watching your character auto move through everything.

On the other hand they're also completely unplayable to anyone who doesn't have patience to learn this control set and I totally understand that. I completely raged on the tutorial course for TR2 in my first 2 hours. There's also a "git gud or get out" mentality to this game's design that leads to some exhaustive levels when you don't play carefully. You gotta (or at least I feel like you have to) save scum every 5 seconds to avoid being instant killed by the next corner you go near or maybe if you miss a jump and die to fall damage. That's one thing I'm glad you don't have to do anymore in modern gaming. lol

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I doubt we need a third active Tomb Raider topic at one time, so I'm just going to post this here. This past week I've decided to go back to various TR games and see what I think of them.

Legend is fun, but the game is constantly telling you what to do. There's very little in the way of actually 'solving' puzzles - there's generally only one thing that you can possible do and the game makes it abundantly clear what that is. Still though, I love Lara's character in this. I've only played as far as halfway through the Ghana level as yet, and the game is rife with graphical glitches on PC. One of them is so bad that it actually makes a puzzle appear as though it's completed before you've even started. If the game wasn't so linear, it would be really confusing. That's just to do with the game on modern PCs though, since Legend is a good 12 years old now.

Moving on to Underworld, I'm enjoying this more than I had previously remembered. Again, I'm not very far into it yet, but I'm really getting a kick out of the wider levels. There's more than one way to explore each area, and even early on in the game the puzzles require more thought than in Legend. Combat is awful though. Like, it's truly a complete nightmare. From wonky aiming to useless melee, it's just not good by any stretch of the imagination. The camera angles are also a nightmare. There have been a number of occasions where I missed jumps or just couldn't see where to go because of the camera. Even manually adjusting it is difficult, with it constantly getting stuck on walls or even Lara herself.

TR1 is... dated. I've barely played any of it yet. The control scheme is anything but intuitive. It's remarkable how far the series has come. I only played the tutorial in Lara's home. I need to spend more time with it and the other old games.

And yesterday I finally went back to TR'13. Again, I'm still early on in the game right now, but it's really good. The game is telling me what to do, but it's not too intrusive. And at any given moment outside of combat, there are numerous ways to tackle any platforming area and secrets to find. The core TR gameplay here is better than ever. Despite being so early on in the game though, I'm already totally annoyed by the combat. Wolves and wild animals are fine, but the persistent shootouts with generic army men or whatever are just annoying. It feels like they're their to pad out a short game and to bank on the relative popularity of shooters these days. I don't like shooters at all though. Having so much of it here feels at odds with what TR is about. The setting of the game is quite exciting. While I don't feel like I'm playing as any incarnation of Lara Croft that I know and love, the heroine of this adventure is an interesting character nonetheless. It sets a fantastic atmosphere. It's just not a Tomb Raider game though. Great game - not a Tomb Raider. I seriously wish there was a mod to remove at least 50% of the enemies in the game. 

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I still enjoy the old Tomb Raiders for as hard and sometimes clunky as they could be. Even if the controls can make navigation a bitch if you aren't used to them (and in some cases even when you are), TR 1-4 did have really good level design. The way the labyrinths you explore unravel into a big platforming puzzle is still something I find thrilling to play through.

My personal rankings from best to worst for the original continuity are:

1.Tomb Raider 3*

2. Tomb Raider 1

3. Tomb Raider 2

4. Tomb Raider: the Last Revelation

5. Tomb Raider Chronicles

6. Angel of Darkness

*with 3 it has to be the pc version. The PS1 release is a real bitch due to how saving works in it, so when discussing that I'd place the PS1 version at 4.

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