Tomb Raider EP19: A Couple of Tools

  By Shamus   Jul 31, 2013   79 comments


Link (YouTube)

No Mumbles this week, since she had important supervillains to punch in the face. No Rutskarn this week, because [insert joke about Rutskarn being eight years old]! But we did have Jarenth. On the downside, Jarenth caused an inordinate number of deaths. Like, I don’t know how he manages to suck at the game this bad.

I mentioned on the podcast that I tend to binge on games. When I don’t, I tend to have mishaps like the one we talked about in this episode. Back when Tomb Raider was still fresh, I took a couple of days off from it. When I came back, I misunderstood how rope arrows worked. I had it in my head that it was context-based and that shooting at rope-arrow surfaces with the standard attack button would automatically cause it to fire a rope arrow. (For the record, there’s a special rope-arrow button. On the PC, it’s middle mouse button.)

I thought the game was glitching out when it refused to shoot a rope arrow at the ladder/crane thing. Hey! The cursor is red, it should fire a rope arrow when I shoot at this. Am I at the wrong angle? Do I need to be closer? Maybe up on this platform?

Moments like this can really take the fun out of a game. This is yet another way in which Games Are Very Much Not Movies. If you pause a movie for a couple of days you might forget the plot, but you’ll never forget something in a way that makes it impossible to watch the rest of the movie.

So that’s why I binge on games. After you play a few thousand videogames, their various control schemes, conventions, and idiosyncrasies kind of blur together.

EDIT: So we can’t embed the video here. Looks like somebody is claiming they own a segment of this video. (The part where Lara ascends away from the ship.) And because we’re using “their” footage YouTube has nailed us with a copyright infringing claim. And now embedding is disabled.

This entire copyright system on YouTube is ludicrous. There is something deeply Kafkaesque about arguing with the YouTube robot about using content from an anonymous corporation. That’s a really good basis for dystopian fiction, right there. Thankfully it’s just a dumb claim against an internet video and not something dangerous, but still. This sort of thing is SO unjust and nonsensical it’s hard not to be outraged just by the sheer bloody-mindedness of it all.

Anyway. We’re working on it. Hopefully we can clear this claim and get back to normal.

EDIT II: Maybe the claim isn’t related to the embed lockout. I just managed to allow embedding without dealing with the claim. I have no idea. Apparently on an advanced options screen there’s a checkmark for allowing or forbidding embeds, and it was mysteriously unchecked. I’m mystified how it got that way, but whatever. Hopefully no more strangeness.

YouTube copyright matching system still sucks.


2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. Spammy says:

    So related to all the Tomb Raider jokes, when I was staying at a friend’s house, I played through The Last of Us, which also has a bow, so I started to make various jokes about Larry Craft and Tom Braider that culminated in me saying this:

    This summer… When Larry Craft and his shipmates shipwreck on the Island of the Rufios, all hope is lost when Larry’s best friend Sammy Hinohosa is captured by the eeevil Father Matty.

    “Give it up, Larry! There’s no way you’ll ever save your friend Sammy Hinohosa!”

    His only hope is to take up the bow and arrow and learn the truth about his lost heritage from his best friendtor Rory…

    “I never told you Larry… the Crafts weren’t your real parents. You’re actually… the last of the Braiders…”

    It all comes down to one man and his arrers…

    “Give it up, Larry! There’s no way you can win!”

    “My name isn’t Larry. I am… Tom Braider!

    For the record, Father Matty’s voiced by Rutskarn’s Mr. House impression and Tom Braider sounds like Christian Bale’s Batman. I got a laugh from my friend so all is good.

  2. Michael says:

    It’s Far Cry 3, Chris. Though, given how much Tomb Raider and FC3 manage to look like each other (on the ship), it’s a pretty easy mistake to make.

    • BlusterBlaster says:

      When I was waching, I thought it could also be Resident Evil Revelations. But Far Cry 3 sounds more likely.

      • Spammy says:

        Revelations’ swimming was annoying but it wasn’t that horrible. Also if Chris has actually played Revelations then I demand a video of him sitting down and trying to make heads or tails of what happened in that game. Because I got the game almost on launch day and I couldn’t explain the plot.

  3. Thearpox says:

    Embedding disabled on request?

  4. That boat is extremely fuel efficient. It gets more miles per galleon.

  5. Akri says:

    I actually just played through this section of the game today. Fun fact: if you have the graphics turned down, you can’t actually tell that Lara is looking at a mirror during that one cut scene. Makes it kinda funny–she just stares at the locker door for a few seconds.

    Regarding Chris’ comment that it needs to be like a horror game that was actually the original plan. Then they decided to dial down the horror and dial up the action, and they didn’t get the balance quite right.

    I definitely agree with the smaller combat encounters idea. I’m a shooter newbie (this is basically the first shooter I’ve played to any meaningful extent), and I’m finding that I get a lot less enjoyment out of the big battles. Early on the big fights were intimidating, but then after I got used to dying a lot they just kinda became a chore. Little encounters, on the other hand, have stayed entertaining because I know that I can get through them in one try if I’m careful. I have no expectation of getting through the big fights without trial and error, so it takes away a lot of the fun.

    Also, am I the only one who gets a bit of a sympathetic stinging pain every time they see the cuts on Lara’s shoulders?

    • Michael says:

      I tuned out on empathy after she took the rebar to the kidney in the opening.

      Even as a major shooter junkie, this one’s longer fights do manage to outstay their welcome. Combat’s good, but it isn’t quite fluid enough to hold up the rest of the game.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Even if the combat is good (and personally, I did kinda enjoy TR’s… though not my favorite), there’s still that niggling feeling like something’s wrong when you fight a whole ton of guys on an island as small as this one. A lot of people know about the 1-man (or woman in this case) army trope, and while that works for many stories… I don’t think it works so well for a survival story wherein someone with no combat experience (and an injury no less) takes on an island of crazy cultists.

        A counterargument might be that you need lots of enemies to have sufficient gameplay/challenge, but I call that being lazy in design when there’s PLENTY of fun gameplay outside of the shooting here. And I would think there are ways to make small numbers of enemies much more engaging so that you wouldn’t even need more in the first place.

        Still, at least TR had a lot more than the shooting to like (and the shooting wasn’t terrible IMO). So while it wasn’t an amazing game, I think it was still worth playing in the end.

        EDIT: And yet again I use the wrong email address. I’ve been using my other one too much lately it seems….

        EDIT2: Or I could just add the other address. I’m smurt.

  6. bloodsquirrel says:

    I’m still bitter about Darksiders being a dead franchise now.

    • Adam says:

      I’ve played a good bit of the first one. If you want to play something similar, it might help to know that the whole thing is basically God of War crossed with Twilight Princess (but then, what successful action game ISN’T GoW crossed with something else these days?) with a liberal dose of 90’s comic aesthetic dumped over it. All of those things can be found in other, not-dead-franchised games.

      • bloodsquirrel says:

        Sadly, we only get a new Zelda game about once a generation, and they’ve been increasingly sparse of inspiration since OOT.

        • GM says:

          Yeah those two games are fun,there are some zelda games like anodyne,just have too look around a bit that game get´s me confused a bit where is now open with the new item.

  7. newdarkcloud says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the rope arrows were semi-context based. While they have a dedicated button, placing your crosshairs over rope arrowable object automatically switched to them as well.

    • Akri says:

      No, placing the crosshairs over rope-able surfaces just changes the crosshair to let you know that it’s a rope-able surface. You still have to push the right button.

  8. McNutcase says:

    Now I’m curious. Has there ever been another Spoiler Warning recording session with two hosts in the same place? And yes, I’m counting Jarenth as a host for this…

    Also, I demand outtakes so we can at least see if Jarenth is any better at the game than Josh!

  9. Duhad says:

    Way to go stealing all our blame Jabar! Why to just take all the resentment for yourself… jerk! I BLAME YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OUR BLAMED DEAD!

  10. Zukhramm says:

    This part with Alex. It annoyed me. Yes, Roth and the other guy who died were cheaply killed too, but at least they were killed along the way to something else, and we get to meet them before that. Alex is killed right as he’s introduce, and we went out specifically to rescue him before the game decided to snatch that away from us.

    • ehlijen says:

      It’s the game trying to show that the good guys don’t always win. You fail to save the first pilot. You fail to save the second pilot. You fail to save Brother Grim. You have do chose to give up trying to save Alex (so that Roth can be right about sacrifice). Who will you fail to save next?

      It’s meant to pay off when you spit Himiko in the face rescue the girlfr… the princ…I mean Sam the plank against all odds and expectations.

      Except the story doesn’t work as intended :( Partly because Sam fails to be a goal of interest and partly because it’s too predicatble.

  11. MrGuy says:

    Don’t we have to call this episode Disclosure Warning or something?

  12. MrGuy says:

    Also, and very sorry to go all valve all over your censored, but watching Josh jump off that cliff repeatedly brought back memories of the commentary on Portal 2. There’s a part near the end where you’re clearly supposed to “throw a portal to not die,” creating a link back to their last portal. But people forgot which color they’d already placed (and so what color they needed to throw to link it properly). So half the time in the play testing, they threw the wrong color, so they died.

    So Valve made the game cheat – OK, if you place the wrong portal here, the game will switch the portal you placed earlier to the “right” color, so we’re cool. Sure, they could have DIAS’ed you into eventually remembering the right color to place, but is that really more fun than “we get what you meant to do, and it was the right idea, so here – have some win!”?

    This bit right here is an excellent example of why sometimes it makes sense for games to cheat. Tom Braider COULD have some code to “snap to the rope” when you’re jumping “close enough” to a rope that it’s clear that you’re trying to hit it (and there’s clearly nothing else you’d be trying to do). Instead, they chose to shout “Not close enough! Try harder next time. Enjoy this death animation – we worked hard on it!”

    There’s a difference between making a game challenging and making a game less enjoyable to play.

    • McNutcase says:

      I see this same problem in so many third-person games. It’s the same root cause every time: a demand for excessive accuracy in character placement. The “interact radius” to Do A Thing is made too small, and with the inherent imprecision in third-person movement (since the character is animated, unlike in first-person, it’s VERY hard to allow the player to move an arbitrarily small distace; this is also why it’s possible via keyboard tapdancing to make the character run in very tiny circles) it becomes an exercise in frustration. I suspect this would be more forgiving with thumbstick movement, which allows arbitrary speed scaling rather than the digital “stand still/run full-tilt” control of a keyboard, but it’s a frustration.

    • Trix2000 says:

      To be fair, it actually isn’t that hard usually to land on the ropes – they do have some significant leeway – just that Josh missed both times by quite a bit.

      On the other hand, it seemed more like a controls/movement issue rather than a failure on Josh’s part. More like the jump he was about to make wasn’t really clear somehow.

      Either way, I agree there’s room for improvement on the mechanic.

  13. MrGuy says:

    Also, around minute 20 where you crash through the concrete floor and find the world war two logbook….

    The first sentence is “Months of excavation have at last yielded new information concerning the weather patterns gripping this island.”

    That sentence makes no gorram sense.

    Person A: “Hey, there are some crazy weather patterns on this island. I wonder what’s causing them.”
    Person B: “You’re right! Let’s commence an archaeological dig at once!”
    Person A: “I don’t think archaeology will help us here. We need meterology. I was thinking more a weather station, maybe a barometer, something like that…”
    Person B: “No, you fool! The secret is clearly to find a tomb of some sort.”
    Person A: “A…tomb? Why would there be a tomb, and how could it possibly help us if there was?”
    Person B: “It could be a king. Or a sage. Or a general. You know. Someone important.”
    Person A: (stunned silence)
    Person B: “Oh, yeah, also, I’m the one with the gun here. Start digging.”
    Person A: (grumbling)

    Much, much later…
    Person A: “You’re not going to believe it! Despite this being the stupidest idea ever, somehow your crazy ‘Let’s dig for tombs’ plan might actually have lead to some insight into the crazy weather patterns!
    Person B: “Well, FINALLY! It’s about time!”
    Person A: “I hate you so much.”

    • Tim Charters says:

      This really isn’t any more crazy than the Nazis devoting an absurd amount of manpower and resources to obtaining the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail. It’s actually a bit more sensible than either of those, since in this case there are both anomalous weather patterns and presumably old legends of an ancient weather-controlling queen that used to live there. Whereas in Raiders of the Lost Ark, until the end there wasn’t any strong evidence that the Ark had any supernatural powers whatsoever.

      In fact, things like this happen in real life more often than you would think. For instance, both the US and the USSR funded programs studying psychic powers during the Cold War.

      • MrGuy says:

        So, your counter-argument is “It’s not appreciably crazier than Hitler?”

        Goodwin wins again!

        • LunaticFringe says:

          Go google ‘canceled DARPA projects’ and see some of the ridiculous crap that modern governments invest in. Then we have the weirdness of CIA and the KGB in the Cold War with mind-control experiments with LSD, ESP spying, stuff like that. It’s not really ‘less crazy than Hitler’, more ‘less crazy than a lot of intelligence agencies/weird think tanks.’

    • Ranneko says:

      That is only if they leapt to digging, seems reasonable to me that they would have heard about the island, gone there, maybe found some kind of odd signal or something that lead them to start studying specific parts of the island and hence doing the digging.

      It isn’t like he is going to outline the entire process in a single entry.

    • They do dig holes to find about about ancient climates, they just do it in ice (the really old stuff in Greenland and Antarctica and places of that sort).
      And you could argue that they’re looking for ancient inscriptions/writings that mention the weather (like someone complaining about it or mentioning a drought or whatever), but yeah, it seems like a very long shot in the dark. It’s not like most tomb writers mention things like “the damn rain’s been going on for two months” or “this is an unusually not hot summer” but they might mention “the entire fleet was destroyed by a freak storm out of nowhere right when they were about to leave” which could be useful, I guess.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        Only reason I could think of would be for some kind of volcanic explosion (i.e. volcanoes can leave big archaeological markers, like Pompeii, and affect climate at the same time).

  14. Nimas says:

    Oh god yes I would have loved this game so much more if it was stealth based.

    As I commented on Chris’ Tomb Raider video, having this be more stealth based and perhaps a mechanic where you need to constantly get food/shelter ala Don’t Starve would have made the game so much better.

    Well, at the very least it would have made the story make alot more dang sense (goddamn clown car island).

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Shamus Young
    Takes three guys each morning”

    And here I thought he was married to a woman.

  16. If the opening graphic is in any way accurate, having “Spoiler Warning” on the ship’s bow implies that Josh was steering it. This makes me think he might have been at the helm of every other ship we’ve seen.

    It would explain a LOT about the island.

    • Dave B. says:

      I often think of Spoiler Warning as a ship that, without Shamus at the helm, is rather prone to run aground. Exactly like the ships in this game! So, does that mean that Tomb Raider is actually a sort of Spoiler Warning simulator?

  17. That whole scene with Alex’s death was odd. It obviously was supposed to be something, but there was nothing leading up to it. Almost all at once, we learn Alex has a thing for Lara, is trying to help the group (with the simultaneous intent of trying to get Lara’s attention and impress her), then she gives him the goodbye peck and kaboom. Sad Lara.

    I’m not against it, and I even have some sympathy/pity for Alex, but this really needed a better set-up.

    • Jakale says:

      It does kinda feel like they crammed in some motivation to make us care that he died. The book/note that you find where he reveals his feelings felt, to me, mostly like how Sam gushes over Lara, which strikes me as less romantic drama development and more the game preening itself over its main character like a bad fanfiction. “Ah yeah, she’s just so pretty and smart and capable.”

    • DerekTheViking says:

      I agree that Alex was a bit out of nowhere, and there should clearly have been more build-up to this point as regards his character in general, but I found the notion that Lara had no idea that Alex had a thing for her until that point really sold me on the idea that they were both geeks in their respective ways.

      Nobody can do unrequited (and unnoticed!) love like a pair of bookworms!

  18. Jakale says:

    I can’t really blame Josh for all those cliff deaths. I died the same way, there. Something about the rope being below you throws you off, I guess.

    The Endurance set piece, in general, and mirror scene, in particular, is another thing that makes me agree that there was probably a plan to start you off on the Endurance. There’re what? five guys total on the ship that you can fight? Once you’re below deck it felt more like a tour of changes. I imagine something akin to Half Life 2’s City 17 plaza, with the dramatic bit being at the locker, which felt like it might have had, at one time, a mirror of the mirror scene. One introducing us to Lara’s face and then this one.

  19. ehlijen says:

    The problem with the fights isn’t that there were many, but that the types of fights didn’t alernate well for long stretches.

    The game pretty much has three types of fights:
    -Enemies block your way. You can sneak or charge or snipe or whatever you like. Those are fun and come in many sizes.
    -Enemies blocking your way and they know you’re coming. Ok, no sneaking is less choice, but a few of them still feel fun (especially what should have been the final big fight of the game where Lara assaults Himiko’s stronghold).
    -You get trapped in a small area and have to fight of waves of respawning mooks. Ok, a few traps should be in the game for variety. But respanwing enemies are pure arcade and after the injury part there were too many all at once of that.

    They charge you at the helicopter. They charge you at the gate. They charge you at grims tower. (small reprive with other fights). Then they charge you again on top of grims tower. They will never surrrender, they will never cease following the branngian stratagem.

    The game needed more freedom in how to fight, basically. When it gave you that choice, the combat was great. When it didn’t, it thankfully managed to not be annoying, but wasn’t great anymore.

  20. Decius says:

    I could see a game where half of the gameplay was in avoiding the big-mass firefights, and the other half was in perfectly executing ambushes on small groups of stragglers.

    A modern-day Thief with guns? (Once you’re fighting more than a couple enemies at once that know where you are, you’re dead!)

  21. Ravens Cry says:

    Ooh, yeah. In fact, some people with rather controversial opinions (*cough* conspiracy theorists *cough*)have been known to use the ‘reporting’ system as a way of silencing critics who use portions of their videos for illustrative purposes and is, in fact, an act of perjury. Yes, as in the crime perjury. I can name one name in particular who is well known for this.
    Just another way in which a system in which one is guilty until proven innocent is unjust.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Well, a lot of the public doesn’t really understand the ramifications, and a lot of the people filing take-downs don’t either. Which is why the whole counterclaim process exists. Essentially all one has to do is say “It tain’t n’t neither” to the claim “that’s mine” and it goes back up and YouTube gets to wash their hands of it legally.

  22. Cybron says:

    Re:Reducing the combat level – they could also have, y’know, not given every mook guns. They’re stranded on some island, it always makes me wonder where the heck they’re getting all these guns and bullets from.

    • bloodsquirrel says:

      Don’t be stupid. As Lara clearly shows us when she raids them, ancient Japanese tombs are littered with parts for modern guns and ammunition for them.

    • Trix2000 says:

      You know, that does make me wonder… what would it be like if they HAD put unarmed dudes in with the armed ones? Would Laura still be obligated to kill them? Would they just run and hide?

      I feel like there’s a lot of interesting possibility they could leverage with that. Maybe even as a way to remove the issue of the body count – only a quarter of the people are actually armed, but you make the decision on how many you kill. Unarmed guys could still sound the alarm, but otherwise wouldn’t hurt you unless you got too close (and even then, probably would run away from the crazy lady with weapons).

      I feel like I haven’t seen any games that try to do this… am I forgetting any? It just seems like a very interesting mechanic to me.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        Arcade shooters have had hostages and civilians since the 80s, and if I remember correctly, Operation Anchorage had some non-combatant Chinese scientists that you lost karma(oh noes!) for killing.

  23. Tse says:

    Hm, a backpacking trip through Bulgaria… Why do I have the feeling my country is being used as “this exotic country nobody knows anything about” again?

  24. Nidokoenig says:

    Am I the only one petty enough to get his jimmies rustled by the way the rope clips through Larry’s legs and boots when she uses the ascender? Or the way, when she jumps from one rope to another at 24 minutes in, the second rope clips through her torso and head? Seriously, what is this, I don’t even. Or maybe I’m the only one who sees it and know I’ve cursed you all.

    • I’m also curious as to why Larry doesn’t suffer massive cranial trauma when she smacks her noggin into stuff after zip-lining into them head-first.

      • ChoppazAndDakka says:

        The big thing that bugs me is when she zip lines across multiple ropes like at the end of the video, across a huge distance and building up a ton of speed, and then just lightly stumbles at the end. That should be eating shit with a mouthful of broken teeth, at best. Probably broken legs. But nope, she’s fine.

  25. Lalaland says:

    Regarding the takedown it reminds me of the issues both MrBTongue and SFDebris have had with the same YouTube copyright management system. It’s way too easy to abuse and is being abused by people in internet slap fights and by actual copyright holders (such as SEGA with TotalBiscuit)

  26. NOOOOO! Not Harry Potter! NOOOOOO! Damn it Harry, where’d you lose your wand and what muggle would ever send you after tools? Snicker, tool, wand, snicker. Yup, mental age of 5 atm.

    (Yes, I see Alex and think Harry Potter)

    Also, Shamus, did you finally get rid of the respawning mooks guarding your teapot? ;)

  27. Steve Online says:

    Did anyone else notice that the seven-foot tall grenade-resistant Punch-Out boss had a little stuffed animal on his belt, when the camera zoomed in for Lara to steal his stuff?

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