Tomb Raider EP4: Nice Doggy

By Shamus
on Jun 14, 2013
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

62 comments

It’s been a long time since we failed this much in a single episode. We failed at navigating, at platforming, and puzzle-solving. Josh usually takes the blame when this sort of thing happens, but the truth is that Chris and I did’t know what to do either. If you had asked me before the episode if I knew where we were going and what we were doing, I’d have laughed. I’ve done this three times now! OF COURSE I’ll remember it. Yet when the moment came I couldn’t remember a dang thing, not even the solution to this very easy tutorial puzzle.


Link (YouTube)

The frustrating thing is that this is the best stuff in the game, and we’re not exactly selling that idea. The game has given us a break from playing Whack-A-Mook to finally deliver some long-overdue characterization. Then is lets us enjoy the platforming and puzzles while we take in some really solid environmental design.

Like others have already said: Some of the early combat in this game ought to have been cut down or pushed back so we could get here sooner. Up until now the player has been stuck on linear paths, and mostly talking to unknown characters on the radio. We needed to establish Roth and get the player to this little playground so they can enjoy the mechanics.

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From the Archives:

  1. hborrgg says:

    Let me guess, she pulls out her bow and holds it drawn while having a big, long-winded conversation with that mob of guys?

  2. Gosh, I loved the platforming and the tools you get so much in this game. I do wish these tombs could be incorporated along the main path of the game in place of excessive combat. I would’ve been okay with slightly more linear environments.

    Old Man Roth, Daddy Croft, and Kid Lara adventures. Want.

    As far as buddy back and camp, I would be okay with seeing more Jonah, but he somehow feels appropriate and inappropriate simultaneously, and I can’t quite put my finger on why this is.

    Must. not. say anything. about. puzzle. Oh. wait. crap.
    A little more seriously, I didn’t remember the puzzle either, but I rediscovered the solution while watching. Oh joys.

  3. The Snide Sniper says:

    Seeing Josh “solve” the tomb is… painful (the definition of insanity comes to mind), but I’ll admit that this particular tomb took me a rather long time for similar reasons.

    Despite… No, that’s the wrong word. Because of that, I consider it to be one of the better tombs in the game. Later tombs seem to lose much of the “puzzle” aspect, and I found myself waiting for a puzzle right up until the time I opened the chest.

    • GM says:

      are you supposed to jump on the box you push away? or quickly move at the sides of the other box well we will find out later.

      • The Snide Sniper says:

        The platform with the 3 bodies falls slowly enough that you can jump onto it, run across, and jump to the ledge so you can light your torch. This is if you do not raise the platform.

        Raising the platform adds the “climb-ledge” animation, which takes more time than is available.

        It’s a beautiful “puzzle” because it forces gamers to give up their tendency to do something, instead requiring us to not perform an action.

        • silver Harloe says:

          And what’s funny is how many times a gamer will do the same thing over and over and assume they were just off in their timing rather than just try something a little different.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            Speaking as someone who took 15 whole minutes to figure that out the first time, indeed. I slapped my forehead in embarrassment when I figured it out, because the designers really do give you more than enough visual cues to do so.

          • X2-Eliah says:

            To be fair, a lot of games have and still *do* rely on that sort of timing where you are meant to execute it in the nick of tenths of seconds. It’s not so much funny as natural – games have been doing that for years, this is a game, therefore…

          • Tom says:

            That’s the cardinal sign of bad puzzle design / inadequate beta testing as far as I’m concerned. It’s probably an unattainable ideal, but a player should always be able to tell whether they just need to work on the timing (whether by actual practice or by leveling up in game, as appropriate) or whether they need to try something else because it’s just not the right answer.

    • Zoe says:

      The other really good/memorable tomb was the one with the wind and the shutters.

      Then there were a bunch of “Throw the gas can” tombs that acted as throwbacks to Left 4 Dead…

  4. Lawton says:

    Am I the only one who felt like Roth would get eaten by wolves if you leave him there to bleed out while you go fetch the pack? It just seems weird that wolves are clearly a danger yet you leave a bloody and unconscious guy in an area that is obviously prime wolf territory

    • gyfrmabrd says:

      But you leave him at a campsite.
      It’s a well documented scientific fact that makeshift campfires repel 99.9% of all hostile wildlife (up to and including bears, crazy men with AKs and, theoretically, dinosaurs) in any given area.

      • Syal says:

        Not to mention the slowing effect being prone with a leg injury has on these wolves, like what happened with beartrap Lara. They could probably leap at him and Lara would still have time to get the supplies and come back before they got there.

  5. anaphysik says:

    Really, guys? Having to give directions to the player, on a five-second delay? A few minutes in this almost turned into a bad Disclosure Alert episode!

    #JoshIsDumb

  6. drkeiscool says:

    You guys thought the combat was good? I don’t know what Tomb Raider you were playing, but I’d love to borrow it.

    The combat felt flighty and over responsive (even with adjustments), the cover system felt strange and uncomfortable, and having the FOV drop 15 degrees just to ready your weapon (without adjusting mouse sensitivity) was extremely irritating. All of this is combined with enemies who you can shoot twice in the head with a fully upgraded pistol, at the end of the game, who don’t have armor, on easy difficulty, and just won’t die.

    All of that added to an excessive amount of encounters, almost ruined the game for me. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but I think the combat needs a serious overhaul.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I found that after the initial combat sections, I was getting really good at consistently landing headshots with the bow and defeating hoards of guards without being spotted.

      Even when I was in active combat, the game was tense while still giving me a lot of control over the situation. I enjoyed how everything played out, even the mini-bosses throughout the game were fun to me.

  7. Scott says:

    I dunno — I’m not sure you guys need to sell a whole lot. This section does speak for itself. The first few episodes left me feeling like the game was a schizophrenic mess of bad QTEs and missed story opportunities. I was actually kind of happy I hadn’t skipped over this season of Spoiler Warning to avoid spoilers, since the game looked so uninteresting. After this one, I’m really wanting to give it a try.

    Seeing where the game’s real strengths lie, I’m wondering — I know a triple-A game would never go this way, and you guys do have some complimentary things to say about the combat, but do you feel like the experience would have been stronger with no combat at all? Obviously it’d be a very different game. Just a hypothetical.

    • jarppi says:

      I’m with you here. It’s the fourth episode in and it is the first time I saw something that makes have any interest to play this game at all.

      • jarppi says:

        Uhm… Shamus, you might want to delete those two extra posts.

        When I wrote those in the morning, it seemed like it didn’t get any response from clicking “Post Comment” button. So I tried again a couple of times and here we are. A random slowdong or anyone else having these problems? E: Now it works okay. Weird…

        • Syal says:

          It happens occasionally. Usually I end up refreshing the page to see if it went through (usually it did).

          • jarppi says:

            I tried that (in other tab) but my message was not shown. Anyway. Random slowdowns in a webpage managed by a coder. Gotta like the irony here. It is like a mechanical engineer driving a stuffy car… (This message was totally not written by a mechanical engineering student whose car almost works well.)

    • Tizzy says:

      I just finished playing the game, and I found it quite enjoyable and very frustrating at the same time. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it so long as you know you’ll have to take it warts and all.

      There was way more combat than I felt was called for, and I ended up dialing the combat difficulty to easy to avoid needless aggravation (partly because of the build I chose, I guess, where I tended to pick the survival skills over the fighting skills, because… well… it seemed more *appropriate*, closer to the apparent intent behind the game).

      There weren’t many QTEs, but I could really have done with none at all. Even better: why not have a check box to turn them on or off? That would be easy to implement and nice to the customer.

      The story fails at every level. But even though I tend to be a story snob, I could power through that particular disappointment as well because the game was so enjoyable.

  8. DGM says:

    Shamus,

    I remember how much you hated the Evony ads, so you might want want to block ads for a game called Tynon. They’re showing up on your site.

  9. newdarkcloud says:

    I often wondered why they didn’t just let you light your torch at campfires. It’s never a big deal since there’s usually a fire next to a campfire, but it feels weird.

  10. I toyed with the idea of counting the number of cleavage shots seen in these episodes.
    But I gave up early into the first episode.

    I wonder if this game has the record for most cleavage shots in a game?

    I’m also surprised that not one of the SW team has mentioned it.
    I’d expect at least a quick giggety from Rutskarn.

    The opening cutscene even gives you a slowmo cleavage shot.

    Unless there is a quota of cleavage shots they needed to make, then I think somebody messed up there.
    Showing how sexy Lara is does not equal to having the “camera guy” act like a creep.

    I don’t mind the cleavage shots obviously, being the dirty ol’man that I am, but I’m pretty sure I’d be able to do more interesting camera placements than those, the slowmo fall from the boat for example, I’d gone in tighter and tighter zooming in on her eye as she fell and I’d speed up the slowmo during the fall. Giving the illusion that as the camera lens “hit” the eye she hits the water. And all the time you see the fear of death in her face/eye.

    Instead my reaction to their way of doing the scene as she fell was… “Boobshot!”

    PS! Do not make a drinking game out of yelling Boobshot each time the camera centers on Laura’s cleavage, you’d die of alcohol poisoning for sure.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Well, this is a franchise in which the titular lead actress for the movies was chosen entirely on account of her bazonkers. Old habits die hard, apparently. Gotta cater to that Boob Raider audience somewhat, y’know!

      • “Boob Raider” dang it, nice one, I didn’t think of that one when writing the above.

        And your right, “nice” boobs (or features in general) is part of the Lara character.

        I guess that is why the console catchup (the PS4 and XBox One) is a positive. Soon we’ll probably see fully self-shadowing boobs in the next Tomb Raider game while keeping the framerate, we got the jiggle physics right?
        Add some Oculus Rift support and you can oogle in 3D as well.

        • Tom says:

          I thought the original reason for Lara’s being well-stacked was simply because in the original games, where she had about two polygons total, the only way to make it visually clear that the character was female at all was to cartoonify/exaggerate a bit. Maybe I’m spectacularly naive on that front.

          Obviously, with current graphics, that approach would now be obsolete, but the video game industry today seems to have become like the movie studio system of old; once they’ve found a formula that seems to work, they just keep on cranking it out no matter how stale it gets.

          (EDIT: pun entirely unintentional)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “but the video game industry today seems to have become like the movie studio system of old”

            Wait,of old?Have you not seen all the twilight knock offs recently?

      • “Boob Raider” dang it, nice one, I didn’t think of that one when writing the above.

        And your right, “nice” boobs (or features in general) is part of the Lara character.

        I guess that is why the console catchup (the PS4 and XBox One) is a positive. Soon we’ll probably see fully self-shadowing boobs in the next Tomb Raider game while keeping the framerate, we got the jiggle physics right?
        Add some Oculus Rift support and you can oogle in 3D as well.

      • “Boob Raider” dang it, nice one, I didn’t think of that one when writing the above.

        And your right, “nice” boobs (or features in general) is part of the Lara character, though personally i prefer them small and perky but…

        I guess that is why the console catchup (the PS4 and XBox One) is a positive. Soon we’ll probably see fully self-shadowing boobs in the next Tomb Raider game while keeping the framerate, we got the jiggle physics right?
        Add some Oculus Rift support and you can oogle in 3D as well.

        Anyway the thing is, they create this dramatic origin story of Lara, and while I don’t mind the fanservice. It feels out of place. It’s jarring in the same way that how killing repulses her then she blasts down mooks without a twitch a moment later like a switch has been turned. (only psychopaths act like that right?)

        There are two Tomb Raider games here, one is the classic puzzle/platform one, the other the new and gritty Lara, and tied together with cover based 3rd person shooter mechanics. *sigh*

      • Michael says:

        Titular character,” heh, nice. /puerile

        Yeah, so far as a Tomb Raider game goes, this one’s actually surprisingly not sexed up. Unless you’re into some kind of creepy torture fetish, which, probably wouldn’t be such an easy accusation to level at the game if the franchise didn’t have the reputation it does.

        Hell, now for some reason, I’m remembering the CCG that actually made a point of saying you could “play it with yourself”, not that it had an alternate single player rule set (that was actually pretty good).

        Honestly, the franchise has produced some pretty good games, which makes the puerile jokes that follow both predictable and unfortunate.

      • Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

        Bazookas. Lara Croft always quadruple wielded two pistols and two bazookas. Torpedoes in the underwater sections.

        I haven’t noticed anything too terribly fanservicey, but maybe that’s because I’ve been watching anime recently, where the definition of subtle is that the camera backs off three inches from the female lead’s chest.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Usually,I would agree with a sentiment like this,but really any cleavage shots in this game arent there intentionally as fanservice.Replace lara with a guy,then imagine how the shot would look like,and think about if it would be out of place.If no,then the shot is not about cleavage.

      • Raygereio says:

        I agree with Daemian. The camera angles themselves so far haven’t been bad.

        That said; Lara’s cleavage is rather prominent at time, due to how shiney her skin gets when wet and because of that low cut and tight tanktop she’s wearing.
        Speaking of which; I think I would have liked Lara’s model a lot more if she had a jacket.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its always funny watching someone trying to rush through a puzzle,because is certain that theyll screw it up.Something that is obvious if you only took 5 seconds to stop and think will turn into this unsolvable wall that youll be smacking against for 5 minutes.

  12. Weimer says:

    It’s strange how players would vividly remember characters or setpieces in a game even years after the fact, but trying to remember the gameplay of the game is suprisingly hard. Why is that, I wonder?

    Wolves (or at least common gray wolves) eat their prey-lunch on the spot, so I imagine their dens wouldn’t be overflowing with random bones.

    If this is the best part of the game, then I’m not impressed at all. Third-person platforming puzzles? That’s it? I’ll pass.

    • Josh says:

      In fairness, when I said “best part” I meant “best level.” You revisit this level several times during the course game, it serves as a sort of hub area for several other levels. And it’s much more massive than it appears in this segment.

  13. The Rocketeer says:

    So is Ross actually Race Bannon?

    About the lethality and combat in the game: I can’t help but feel like I sabotaged my own enjoyment somewhat in this game; I played my first playthrough on Hard, and what you guys said about enemies taking realistic damage? Yeah, no. Two or three flaming shotgun shells to the face, for standard nobody mook enemies. I hated it.

    The first time I heard you guys talk about how powerful the weapons felt in the Die Cast, I nearly did a spittake. I never realized the disparity between normal and hard would have been so large.

    • Michael says:

      Yeah, the dragon’s breath rounds are pretty sub par, and the shotgun’s surprisingly crappy beyond a few feet (even with the choke). The handgun and AR both have a lot of killing power, though.

    • The Snide Sniper says:

      All three of the other weapons permit headshots; with good aim, you’ll never need to fire more than 2 shots per (non-boss) enemy, and the second shot is only necessary if they have helmets. Add to that the fact that most enemies will have their heads poking out while in cover, and the shotgun quickly moves from “maybe I’ll need it” to “why would I need it?”

      That said, consoles may be the reason for the shotgun. The glorious PC-gaming master race has been blessed with mouselook, known to the ancient Greeks as “ambrosia” and commonly misinterpreted (in academic circles) as a beverage.

  14. silver Harloe says:

    I was going to bring this up when we got mostly through the shipwreck beach hub, but Shamus mentioned how none of the characters seemed set up to be your voice-in-the-earpiece in the inevitable sequel.

    However, I must disagree – they spent a lot of time in shipwreck beach establishing both Reyes and Jonah as “useful companions” covering both the mystical advice (Jonah) and the no-BS advice (Reyes) and mechanical/support skills (mostly Reyes). When they drive her up the river in their PT boat towards the end, I get the impression her next adventure basically begins like that: them carting her around on the Nile or the Amazon river or something, Reyes driving, Jonah keeping watch (probably on a gun) while Lara mutters over some map. Hopefully they leave Sam somewhere else, but probably she’ll be around filming things, sigh. Then Reyes and Jonah can set up camp and scare up some food while Lara delves into the next adventure area. I think Reyes was especially developed as “voice in the earpiece” material when Reyes was a very late convert to Lara’s plans – someone who can play Scully while Lara and Jonah go all Mulder on whatever supernatural thing is happening in the next ancient civilization thingy.

    I’m probably way off base here, but it looked set up like that to me.

    • Michael says:

      Suddenly, I have this horrible fear that the next game in the series will be another adaptation of Heart of Darkness, this time on the Nile… :\

    • Kian says:

      One problem with Reyes as “voice in the earpiece”; she has a daughter, who’s already lost her father on an “adventure”. It would be really irresponsible of her to go traveling around the world, knowing that she might find any number of deadly things and risk leaving her daughter alone.

      No one thought finding Yamatai would be dangerous, but it would be silly not to expect danger at the next site.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        She could always be home-base mission control – having more access to the internet, and Jonah being the close help on the local mythology – perhaps even a translator?

  15. Tizzy says:

    Meeting up with Roth was the moment when I realized I had to give up on the writing in this game. Wouldn’t their first words be: “What the hell!?! There are people on this island, and they’re trying to kill us for no reason!”

    (Actually, I had a problem as soon as Lara woke up in the cave, and saw the ludicrous amounts of human remains strewn about, but I blamed the art direction rather than the writers for that one.)

  16. Jerf says:

    Shamus,
    Sorry for the offtopic, but since the link in “If you’re looking to suggest or request an article on a particular subject, look here” doesn’t work, I have to ask this here: with all this hype related to the details about The Witcher 3 that were recently announced, I’m curious, are you going to finally write something about The Witcher 2?

  17. ehlijen says:

    I don’t think they put any weapon parts into the tomb boxes per se. You get weapon parts every so and so many either salvage collected or boxes/corpses looted, not sure which but it’s one of the two. Tombs just happen to have big salvage chunks in them and are thus more likely to trigger the ‘you crossed the threshold’ message.

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