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The Best of the Tomb Raider Franchise

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When the Sony PlayStation was launched in 1994, it heralded the birth of the 3D gaming revolution. The Sega Saturn had been launched several months earlier but had failed to deliver on its promise – the Saturn sold 100,000 units in its four-month lead over the release of the PlayStation. The PlayStation sold more units on its first day on sale.

Sony had been ruthless with its courting of third-party developers and retail stores – a task that Sega had made easy for them by launching their Saturn console months ahead of schedule. Sega had hoped that being first would grant them an unassailable lead – the reality was, games studios didn’t have time to finish their launch titles in time to benefit from the crucial launch period, and Sega didn’t have enough stock to fill all of their retail partners. It was a disaster for Sega, and was likely the key factor in why it is Sony who led the industry today.

Sony’s Secret Weapons

With more time for developers to become familiar with the hardware, games simply looked better on the PlayStation. Whilst Tomb Raider did see a release on the Saturn, it looked ugly compared to the PlayStation’s version. The original Tomb Raider is almost universally regarded as being the best game in what has become a 17-game franchise.

Tomb Raider was groundbreaking for its mixing of several genres into one title. Platforming, puzzle-solving, action, adventure, the original Tomb Raider game made Lara Croft a household name, and it was the PlayStation which took the glory. Today, it’s “tank-controls” can seem outdated to modern gamers, but this was the early days of 3D gaming so I think we can forgive the developers, Core Design, for this early mishap.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)

Jumping straight from the first game to one of the most recent, 2016’s Rise of the Tomb Raider, these two games have a strange affinity because they could easily follow on from one another – it could almost be a direct sequel. Lara looks very different now – blessed by the graphical power offered by modern consoles – but the storytelling, new survival mechanics, and the addition of crafting makes for a much more in depth experience that has been praised by old school players and the legions of fans discovering the adventures of Lara Croft for the first time.

Tomb Raider (Reboot – 2013)

Almost twenty years after the release of the original, new owners of the Tomb Raider franchise Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics felt it was the perfect time for a reboot. For many players, this was the first time they had been introduced to the origin story of the gaming world’s favorite explorer. It was a risky decision – these types of games can often flop, with fans preferring the original content over the flashier, reimagined, new game.

Luckily for Square and Crystal Dynamics, fans loved it – the darker, grittier take on Lara’s origin story was praised for bringing a new level of realism to the franchise, embracing modern styles of gameplay, and still respecting the classic games at the same time. A tough balance to manage indeed, and if this game had failed we may not have seen 2016’s Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider 2 (1997)

It only took one game for Lara Croft to reach iconic status, making it all the more surprising to see a sequel just one year later. The title of 1996’s Tomb Raider game is all the more apt when looking back in time – Lara really did rise, in an incredibly short of time. Action figures, slot machines, even Tomb Raider branded soft drinks appeared on the shelves for a while. The slot machines were quickly developed and clones of existing slots, but that didn’t make them any less fun, and Microgaming no doubt made a killing from these games which presented a different way of playing as Lara Croft – collecting real treasure for the first time. The games are still available at Unibet Casino, despite being many years old now, and are well worth a look, is still one of the most popular games among the video games enthusiasts.

Lara Croft & The Guardian of the Light (2010)

This spinoff took a different angle to previous Tomb Raider games, with the action being observed from a top-down angle. Surprisingly, this didn’t hinder the puzzle-solving, platforming gameplay that fans had come to love from the series, and Lara Croft & The Guardian of the Light was another smash hit for the franchise. The only downside with this one was the storyline – it’s a little cheesy compared to the previous and following games, but a remarkable amount of replay value, immaculate level design, and overall – a whole lot of fun, makes this single mistake easy to forgive.

 

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