Tomb Raider EP20: Why is Everything Backwards?

  By Shamus   Aug 1, 2013   58 comments


Link (YouTube)

For the record, the parts where I seem to be talking over myself are instances where Josh lagged out. If I lag out, my messages arrive broken up, late, and far apart. If Josh (as the person making the recording) lags, then the audio piles up on the server and when he recovers they all arrive at once. I’ve had instances where I lagged out in Vent and had half a minute of everyone else talking mashed into ten seconds.

What I was saying about Prince of Persia:

The Sands of Time sequels are pretty much a textbook case of why games shouldn’t get so dang hung up on continuity. The first game was a beautiful, simple, and self-contained tale. The second game took all the character development of the first game and threw it away. The third game had to re-write Fara. Over time, characters get less interesting because their arcs end and leave them with nowhere to go. The setting gets less interesting because all the really great secrets have already been revealed and we have more things to explain to the newcomers.

Retconning things and stapling new ideas onto an existing lore is often messy and ugly. Leaving every story open-ended for a sequel is unsatisfying, since the audience never gets the closure they’re looking for. (Sands of Time would have been hurt immensely if they had hacked in a “BUT IT’S NOT REALLY OVER!” moment at the end.)

In a Prince of Persia game we need three things:

  1. Climbing around Arabian-styled ruins.

  2. A time-rewind mechanic.
  3. Somebody in the story should probably be a prince.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of Arabian-themed stories and tropes to draw from. They should just let each game stand on its own. In one game you play as a prince. In another you play as a street rat who meets the prince. In another you’re a commoner who looks like the prince, etc.

Warrior Within would have been so much less offensive to me if this was a new prince with a new story. And besides…

Wait. What are we talking about again? Tomb Raider? Right. Anyway, I hope Tomb Raider won’t blunder into this same trap of plot convolution, character stagnation, and lore cruft. They left things open for a sequel, but they didn’t set up a sequel, if you can see the distinction. We don’t have a really strong, likable character to be Lara’s sidekick.


20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Humanoid says:

    In the next game, we play a different archaeological vandal, then in the next a common smuggler who is mistaken for an archaeological vandal, and then later we play a college student who is creepily obsessed with an archaeological vandal. No wait, scratch that last one.

  2. Spammy says:

    Lore Cruft: Tombra Ider.

  3. Akri says:

    This game has the best graphics glitches :D

  4. Nidokoenig says:

    Campster: “I think from here on out I should be the Sam to Shamus’s Lara…”

    Ooh, that sounds interesting…

    “…And I could just, like, be his cheerleader the whole time…”

    Kinky!

    “…and be like ‘Yay, Shamus'”

    Oh. Aww…

  5. Heche says:

    I like Assassin’s Creed. There are so many ancestors you can play as, and it makes for cool world exploration as well. Renaissance Italy, Colonial east coast, and a sort-approximation of the Middle East during the Crusades. Very cool. No stagnation. Not in my opinion at least.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Well, they DID spend three games in the renaissance. Although one of them was in.. Constantinople/Istanbul/whatever. And the current-time plot was certainly going nowhere.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        The Revolutionary War plot didn’t go anywhere either.

        • Fleaman says:

          It could if we go to France.

          The French Revolution is basically the most relevant thing to the Templar/Assassin political philosophy dispute to ever happen in history. The Jacobins were the Assassin faction. The Templars were enlightened despotsism. Things go wrong. The guillotine makes the “SHINGGG!!!” noise of the hidden blade in the first game.

          The Bastille gets motherfucking climbed.

          Really needs to not be wasted on a novel or a game.

  6. ChoppazAndDakka says:

    What? All that joking about the outhouse and it doesn’t make the title? DISAPPOINT! This episode should have been titled “Ghost Outhouse” or “Scary Crap”. DAMN YOU JARENTH YOU RUIN EVERYTHING.

    In any case, the upcoming section with the elevator is the point I stopped playing. I have low tolerance for third person cover based shooters. They get very samey to me after a while. There are some that I liked of course. I played all the Mass Effect games, and LOOOOVED Spec Ops: The Line. But this one? Eh. I felt like the game could have been shorter. There was so much fat that could have been trimmed off, the shooting was feeling samey, and the awful cul-de-sac with Alex just pushed my patience too far. I was ready to get my answers and end the game. So I look forward to seeing what I missed. All blind from here.

    • Klay F. says:

      Aw too bad. You missed what I’ve taken to calling its “Metal Gear Rising” moment. That moment when the game goes from already patently ridiculous, to full-on bonkers loony toons parody of itself.

      The only problem was that in MGR, that moment was intentional, and in this game…I’m not so sure, because I never felt like the game was winking at me, saying “Its okay to laugh. We know this is dumb.”

  7. McNutcase says:

    And here we see why fancy animated menus are a Bad Idea. Seriously, what the heck? That’s something that REALLY ought to have been caught in QA. The problem was, Josh had two Mandatory Weapon Upgrades ready (thanks to having found the last bow part AND the last pistol part since the previous campfire session) and a serious case of impatience to spend his skill points.

    I’m just amazed the “You Must Upgrade Your Pistol” thing was both visible and interactive from behind.

    • silver Harloe says:

      Aye, it’s because Josh loves to troll the audience. He stops at every campfire when it’s useless, but soon as he sees “3/3 Handgun parts found” he runs past the campfire in the tomb and then circles home base for five minutes trying to climb things that don’t have the “white paint of you can climb this” on them, ignoring the campfire in the base :)

  8. anaphysik says:

    Hey, Irridium was blaming Jarenth since before it was cool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8wUAixYenk&t=11m46s

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Holy shit,this episode is haunting!

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    People talking about prince of persia,and its remake,and not one of them thinking of the original prince.Im really sad now….

  11. River Birch says:

    Shamus! I remember your video about game accessibility into gaming! You named the new Prince of Persia as the perfect game for bringing people in! :D

  12. The Rocketeer says:

    I’m playing through the Sands of Time trilogy right now, actually. I’d played through the first game before, but I just finished Warrior Within for the first time and am playing through The Two Thrones right now.

    Warrior Within is a disaster. Shamus says he’d be more lenient on it if it hadn’t been a sequel to a better game, but I’m not sure I can even give it that. There is absolutely nothing enjoyable in the game that isn’t an element of its predecessor in a diminished form, and even those bright spots are dragged down so terribly by the whole that its hard to get excited about them. I really can’t overemphasize how bad this game is both on its own and as a part of the trilogy.

    I haven’t finished Two Thrones, so I guess I don’t know what I think about it yet. So far, though, it seems like a medium between the two, with the Prince mainly getting back the parts of his personality I liked in Sands of Time, the snarky and charming interplay between him and Farah returns, and the Prince’s problem with talking to himself gets… complicated. Yet, all the parts of the game I like least seem to derive directly from Warrior Within, like the fragile mainhand weapons/two-hand fighting system, the enemies with slightly unreasonable health bars (not even in the same league as bad as Warrior Within in this respect), the Dark Prince sections are jarring, un-fun breaks from the parts of the game I like more, and Khaileena. Uuuuuuughgghghgh Khaileena. I think it’s clever she narrates the game like the Prince had done in Sands of Time, but her voice acting is so wooden and lifeless I’m amazed it’s not illegal. Her presence in the plot is tumorous to begin with, an unnecessary distraction shunted in mainly for lack of anything to do with her, yet not being able or willing to just leave her on the island where she belonged. Her existence in the game unfortunately ties the game to the tedious ball of stupid that was the plot of the previous game. I’m still overall pleased with the game so far.

    Sands of Time, of course, is head and shoulders above the other two, and a damn gem of a game in its own right. The combat got on my nerves occasionally, but I’d rather have seen the Sands of Time combat receive a bit of polish rather than throwing it out in favor of what came afterward.

    • Wedge says:

      After playing the fantastic Sands of Time, I went into Warrior Within already having heard that it wasn’t as good as the first. I got 15 minutes into the game, literally threw my controller at my television, and never touched it or any other Prince of Persia game again. What a piece of garbage.
      I really should replay Sands of Time, though. That game was amazing.

  13. Zukhramm says:

    And no one even seems to care that Alex died. Around somewhere is where my view of the characters progressed from “bad human characters” to “non-human characters”.

    • DerekTheViking says:

      I know! It’s incredibly jarring. Nobody seems to react to anything.

      This is where Sam actually doesn’t work for me. It’s ok to have an utterly helpless character who can’t deal with the situation. Some people will go to pieces when on an island of death where everything wants to kill you.

      Sam doesn’t go to pieces, though. She doesn’t react to it. And not in a blank “I can’t process this right now so I’ll just put on a face” way but in a way that seems like she barely knows where she is. She should be crippled with PTSD by now, but all she seems to care about is getting into Lara’s good books.

      Not that any other the other characters are more reactive, but you could at least see the resolve in Roth.

      And Grimm was Scottish, dammit! Hence him constantly referring to “Glasgae”!

  14. Neil W says:

    Campster: “Don’t make Lara an idiot”

    Lara promptly falls into the river twice in a row.

  15. borked says:

    so where’s that gif, Shamus?

  16. I don’t really have anything insightful to add other than that was amazing episode. xD

    Well, I did think it was odd we got a new bow so soon after Jonah gave us the one he found. It felt like I was spitting on his gift. ._.

    EDIT: Oh yeah, and GOLLY I hate Reyes.

    EDIT 2: And Shamus appeared before the crew, fair of form, and he taught the Spoiler Warning crew many secrets, and gave them many gifs. And he was known as Annatar, Lord of Gifs.

  17. AdmiralCheez says:

    I’m still trying to figure out what that weird flying thing is around 00:45. Upper left corner, something gently flops down from above, hovers a second, and then gets launched out of frame.

    Actually, it looks like it could be the ghost from the outhouse!

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Seagull. By the sea they often do that faux-hover by gliding into sea breezes, when a particular gust peters out they can go from more or less motionless to flying forward.

      • AdmiralCheez says:

        Ah…. So it is a seagull. Well, now I just feel silly. I didn’t expect to see one from that angle drop straight down. Not sure why I thought it was anything else now.

  18. patrick johnston says:

    On non episode related tomb raider news. Currently the game is 29.99 on xbox and 49.99 on steam. Dare we hope that Microsoft is learning that digital media need not stick to it’s 60 price point forever? Probably not but we can always hope.

  19. Tim Charters says:

    Re:”Warrior Within did to the Prince what Mass Effect 2 did to Commander Shepard: it made him less interesting and more ‘brooding badass.'”

    That seems right about Warrior Within, but I don’t recall Shepard being particularly brooding in ME2. Nor was he/she particularly interesting in ME1. In both games, he/she was pretty much just a flat blank slate player-insertion character. Maybe you could say that about Shepard in ME3, but I don’t think “brooding badass” is an accurate description of the forced melodrama with the kid and whatnot.

    But yeah, I’ve only played the first level of Warrior Within, and even knowing nothing about the rest of the series, it was just embarrassing. It’s like they took all the worst aspects of 90s comic books and stapled them onto a cheap Aladdin rip-off.

    • Tse says:

      I liked the game. It’s not as bad after you get off the ship. The gameplay is great and even the story has its moments, like the prince saving himself/causing his own death.

    • Hydralysk says:

      Well Shepard didn’t really start brooding, he/she’s pretty much a static brick, but ME2 did really push the Darker and Edgier tone just like Warrior Within.

      Think about how many of your squadmates in ME2 are introduced by having them kill someone. Miranda, Samara, Thane, Jack, Legion and Garrus all waste someone before we even get to say a word to them. We are even forced to cooperate with a terrorist organisation for some reason.

      In the original game we met most of our squad by having some kind of initial conversation with them rather than seeing them blow some mook away to establish badassery, and we were an agent with legitimate backing from the galactic council.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        In ME1:

        Ashley takes on a bunch of geth ships.

        Garrus takes a pot shot at a hostage-taking guy.

        Tali throws a grenade at a group of assassins.

        Really, aside from Liara and Wrex*, everyone kills something in ME1 before they join your team.

        *Really, that’s just weird. The violent mercenary has the least violent entry that any of the characters have?

  20. Josh’s death (caused by Jarenth) at 10:45 seems less like Lara died of her injuries but more like the game decided to punish the player for trying to uncouple themselves from the plot. If Josh managed to open a door that was supposed to be a decal, I’d imagine the game would drop a ten-ton weight on him the second he stepped through.

  21. Duoae says:

    I agree with you, Shamus. If only they had made Prince of Persia a Final Fantasy-esque travail that echoed certain types of gameplay and themes throughout each iteration I think it could have been as big as the Assassin’s Creed series that it ultimately indirectly spawned.

    To be fair to Warrior Within, I also hated it like yourself, but came to love it in it’s second act through to almost the end (when it nose-dived off a cliff into a shark-tooth infested hole). The combat and platforming were, I feel, superior to the original in every way but unfortunately the tonal dissonance between the Prince we left behind at the end of TSOT and the one we found in WW was so profound that I can never forgive the designers for either that game or the third, pretty much totally terrible, third game in the series (chariot sections, anyone?).

    I don’t even really like The Forgotten Sands which tried to shift the series back to its roots and, IMO, spectacularly failed – especially with respect to the combat.

    I actually really liked 2008 Prince of Persia. The tone was perfect – just the right side of whimsical – but the shift in gameplay (unfairly decried, IMO) was too far for some people even though its principles have been copied by many successful games to date without the same criticisms being aimed at them (Prince Elika interactions and the death mechanic spring to mind!). This game came closest to the whole, Final Fantasy style release I’d like to see for the series…

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