Tomb Raider EP5: Massive Bodycount

By Josh Posted Saturday Jun 15, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 63 comments

And we round out the week by making our way through a sprawling abandoned bunker complex, full of old fuel, equipment, and electronics. You know, on an island that’s impossible to set up supply lines with because every boat that approaches is destroyed by a storm and no one can ever leave.

Link (YouTube)

Don’t worry, things get much less plausible later.


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63 thoughts on “Tomb Raider EP5: Massive Bodycount

  1. Inwoods says:

    It implies the storms rise and fall at her will.

    People can certainly get to the island, and it’s pretty clear that the Japanese were able to get to the island freely for quite some time.

    It’s just a longer term trap, so she could bite more of them off.

    There are a LOT of nonsensical things in this game (i.e. any cutscene, any time anyone opens their mouth) but this seemed plausible.

    1. Inwoods says:

      This is stretching a point, but that also would have been the storm queen’s first encounter with modern tech.

      Maybe she just had a hard time figuring out how to stop Diesel and Electric systems.

      Going to go with “But this was my plan all along!” though.

    2. Tizzy says:

      Naah… Based on my experience, I’d say you’re giving the writing in this game way too much credit. As much as I liked the premise, as much as I wanted to like the story, there are so many holes in the whole story that I would put it down as yet another one…

      1. Inwoods says:

        Well this was the odd thing about the game. I felt like some things, like the journals, had a lot of thought to them. Like they gave the creation of them to a single person that cared. They made sense, sometimes they told interesting stories.

        But I swear, every time a cutscene started, I wanted to stab everyone with scissors. Continuity was out the window, characterization… I haven’t had my brain hurt this badly since FF XIII.

        1. mixmastermind says:

          I think the journals are Rhianna Pratchett just writing stuff. Her characterization is often really good, but the second the characters start having to do stuff, things get a little iffy.

    3. Alexander The 1st says:

      As I understand, the storms didn’t get crazy until *after* the priestess refused the ritual by killing herself mid-ritual, leading to the uncontrollable storms used. Before that point, people could get to the island with no problem, and may have been able to leave unless Himiko didn’t want them to. She wasn’t always “NO ONE LEAVES” for a while – which is why Mathias believes Sam becoming the host would let people leave.

      1. Inwoods says:

        But that refusal takes place before the Japanese arrive; no?

        1. Michael says:

          Yeah, long before they arrive…

          Okay, here’s a random convoluted explanation… the Japanese come during WWII, they find the island, they wake up the Oni. (We get this much from the journals.) They freak out, try to go destroy the Sun Queen’s corpse, and either waking up the Oni or trying to destroy her corpse kicks her back into high gear with the storms?

          I know I’m giving the game far too much credit, but still…

          1. SKD says:

            That actually makes some sense. If it were the reason and were alluded to in the story or somewhere in the journals I would find it plausible. Otherwise the Japanese would have had to have landed an entire construction battalion, all the necessary supplies, and been left alone by the Oni for a long enough period to construct all those bunkers and move the supplies in.

            As it stands, it is probably the biggest hole in the history of the island.

  2. broken says:

    So what you’re saying is that the island is like Lost’s: lots of infrastructure that doesn’t make a lot of sense and the only reason for it existing is that the writer finds it cool. With maybe a passing attempt at justification?

    (I don’t actually think it’s a bad thing provided the story doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Jury still out on if Lara Croft does or not…

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Except that the guy that wants to leave doesnt kill those that can take him away,and that in the end they arent just in heaven.

    2. Thomas says:

      If you change writers with level designers for Lara Croft essentially. I don’t think the game makes a big deal of it though, they just wanted some variety in environments

  3. Brainbosh says:

    It felt to me like the storms weren’t always a constant factor. It might have been that there were more storms recently because of Himiko’s anger at the cultists, or something.
    At least during WW2 there had to be enough calm to set up a base.
    Unless the Japanese were able to enter because of their shared heritage. Which I seem to remember there not being any Japanese members of the cultists shown. Not sure if that is significant, but an acceptance of Japanese vessels arriving would explain how they could build a functional base. They never left again though.

  4. Hieronymus says:

    Never underestimate the value of jackets.

  5. Hitchmeister says:

    I hadn’t seen the graphics glitch Chris was talking about. But from the description it reminded me of one that almost made me crap my pants in Oblivion. I had accidentally committed some petty theft (stole an apple or some-such) and was just jogging down the road one night and ran past one the the mounted Imperial Guards. He of course grabbed my camera and forced me into a tight close-up of his face while he shouted “Stop thief!” at me. He had no skin — just eyeballs and teeth floating inside his helmet. I naturally surrendered immediately and spent the next several weeks sobbing into the straw matting on my cell floor. (Or maybe I just imagined I did that for role-play sake and paid my nickle fine and went on about my business.)

    1. Lachlan the Mad says:

      That’s actually a reasonably common glitch in video games and computer animation in general, because that’s how digital faces are built — the eyeballs and mouth are separate objects, so if the skin texture glitches, you’re left with that floating-eyeballs-and-mouth look. I’m pretty sure that I saw this once in the “animation blunders” reel in the special features for The Incredibles.

      1. McNutcase says:

        It happens quite a lot as random pedestrians walk through the camera in Saints Row 3. It can be rather distracting…

  6. Tim Charters says:

    One of the logs you can find is the diary of a WW2 Japanese officer. It talks about how they were able to get a few cargo ships to the island and they built bunkers and set up research bases, and stuff. It mentions that 2 ships got sunk by storms, but the rest got through fine. Which would apply that the storms weren’t quite as severe back then, for some reason.

    Maybe Himiko goes through different moods every couple of decades. Or maybe the Japanese scientists did something to anger her while they were there, and she’s been on a several decades long tantrum ever since.

    1. Michael says:

      The Japanese tried to destroy her, once they realized they couldn’t control her powers for themselves. That might have irked her a bit.

  7. silver Harloe says:

    In the first camera scene:

    Sam: She’s on the hunt for the lost kingdom of Yamatai, home to the fabulous Himiko, mythical sun-queen… And ancestor of yours truly.
    Lara: Sam… this is serious.
    Sam: Oh sweetie, I know. I’m just trying to lighten the mood here.

    that’s where I got the impression that no one, even Sam, really thinks she’s a descendant of Himiko and that claim was just some new-age crystal-hugging woo.

    Lara: look going east will take us directly into the Dragon’s Triangle. That’s where we need to go.
    Jonah: Lara, my Little Bird, I’d follow you almost anywhere, but that place has a bad energy.
    Alex: Bad storms more like. Makes the Bermuda Triangle look like Disney World…

    While not this island, this part of sea is what Josh describes as “specifically known and infamous now for being like this ship graveyard that you can ever leave.”

    It clearly has had periods of calm, like during WWII, when they set up a research station to study precisely why it has weird weather (as well as some bunkers and related WWII stuff – though if they had know the Sun Queen had a thing for destroying non-Japanese ships and planes, they probably would have just led the US Pacific fleet here instead of bunkering it). So why is there a record of the Dragon’s Triangle but not of the island in the middle of it? Arguably: because of the research station, the presence of the island was a military secret. That’s all I have. There’s a lot missing (like why none of this was mentioned more directly in game — EDIT: Tim Charters, above, posted while I was posting about some records I forgot that do mention more of it. Maybe, like the Bermuda Triangle, the Dragon’s Triangle has never been a guarantee of disappearance, just an increased probability of it)

  8. Hmmm. I just had an idea. If I was writing this, I’d make it so that Himiko controlling the storms is just what seems to be keeping people here, but then reveal that people are staying because they want to – anyone who spends more than a day (or so) on the island slowly becomes enamoured with her (and her island) and doesn’t want to leave.

    The whole game would probably have a lot less shooting and a lot more conversation and degradation into insanity (so, in other words, it would be a completely different game. But whatever, I like this idea.) Maybe it could even have some psychic abilities and weather controlling abilities – just go full on fantasy, rather than bothering with Indiana Jones type stuff.
    The game would end with a psychic battle with Himiko herself, where you have to resist the temptation to stay on the island and try to get out of there.
    …I think that I just went so far from the original game that you wouldn’t recognise it if you saw it. Oh well.

  9. Chamomile says:

    The Japanese built all kinds of bunkers without bothering to keep track of exactly what happened to them after WWII. If they found a speck of land in the Pacific, they put a bunker there. It strikes me as entirely plausible that a Japanese fleet might have gone into Dragon’s Triangle, found an island, built some facilities, and then been unable to leave, and the Japanese government just shrugged their shoulders because the US was embargoing their oil and they had bigger things to worry about. That’s probably why they made it all WWII-era stuff. The Japanese seriously did fortify islands and then just forget about them during that time period.

    1. Zombie says:

      They also kinda forgot about the people sent to those islands too. I mean, we still find people on populated islands like Guam. Imagine how many might have been/are on the unpopulated ones like Guadalcanal or some of the Atolls. So its pretty likely they could plausibly all just be there with no records of them being there.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Not so much forget as ended up with all records destroyed/never made and all witnesses KIA.

        But even if they forgot people and bunkers, Japan did not have enough ships in WW2 to be able to afford forgetting where they left those.

        1. ? says:

          Wouldn’t they assume they were lost in battle? Or to regular storm? Ships sink on the Pacific without hostile submarines and aircraft hunting them. There is no guarantee that sinking ship can get a distress call out and even when it does it might not reach any other friendly ship, get lost in static or general chaos of war.

  10. Nano Proksee says:

    You cannot sneak pass the guys at the beginning of the video, but you can sneak kill them. And that happens throughout the rest of the game, is kind of a sneak-puzzle, in what order I have to kill them to not get spotted.
    The way Jonah ask “Is he coming back” while awkwardly holding a knife and a fish had me rolling on the floor. Rarely a game cracks me up.

  11. HiEv says:

    And we round out the week by making our way through a sprawling abandoned bunker complex, full of old fuel, equipment, and electronics. You know, on an island that’s impossible to set up supply lines with because every boat that approaches is destroyed by a storm and no one can ever leave.

    Well, obviously the whole supply line only needs to get stuff to the island, not from it. ;-P

    Don't worry, things get much less plausible later.

    They find out that it’s Gilligan’s island?

    1. Zombie says:

      They’re just there for the three hour tour. That should have totally been an easter egg. Find a ship named the Minnow and then see stuff that the characters wore and some coconut radios or something.

  12. hborrgg says:

    I think that’s a really interesting problem that I’d like to see more games try to tackle: How do you include lengthy periods of combat without resorting to bullet sponges or absurd body counts? Neither are realistic.

    1. Lachlan the Mad says:

      A game which focuses on one-on-one melee combat could get away with low(ish) body count and no bullet sponging if properly coded (I’m thinking something like Shamus’s old “duelling gameplay” post).

    2. Chamomile says:

      There’s some options.

      1) Don’t use bullets. If you’re fist-fighting, it’s expected that each individual opponent can take a ton of punishment before going down.

      2) As Lachlan mentions, use something like Shamus’ dueling gameplay to have lengthy swordfights or other one-on-one/small group melee combats where actually getting hit is usually instantly lethal or at least cripples your ability to continue fighting, but wherein hits are finishing moves and most blows are dodged or parried.

      3) Drop accuracy on both sides to crazy low. Make it so that you either have to get very close or shoot a ton of bullets at an unprotected person to kill them. If you’re doing the “get very close” option, you need to be the one to shoot first, so ambushes and flanking attacks and such are important. Then leave lots of cover lying around in open battlefields (and not linear ones, this is an important distinction). The real fight is in maneuvering around your enemy. Most bullets are fired to prevent the enemy from leaving cover, not to kill. When you do shoot to kill, it’s a single three-shot burst to the chest and then maybe a death shot to the head. Obviously you need to be either playing co-op or controlling multiple characters simultaneously for this to work, elsewise you end up with NPC allies who either do everything for you (they’re competent and one man on a six man team only makes a small difference) or get you killed every time (they’re incompetent and one man on a six man team can’t make up for five underperforming allies).

      1. Michael says:

        The original STALKER game went with three. Guns would practically shoot sideways if you aren’t really careful to line up your shots just so. It actually worked pretty well, and I think the (human) body count for the entire game barely pushes out of the double digits unless you faff about.

      2. Syal says:

        4) have most fights involve concealment and lots of obstacles that could conceivably be eating the bullets you send in. When you aim at them they duck behind something and you have to shoot their cover. Have the “kill” be damaging their cover enough to pin them down/force them to retreat, with the goal of just getting past them. That way you can have as many fights as you want while only having a dozen or so enemies.

        (Or you can go with my actual idea and just use immortal enemies that feel pain and will run away but won’t die.)

      3. Lachlan the Mad says:

        Spec Ops: The Line felt… a leetle bit like Chamomile’s #3 for me. Maybe I’m just bad at cover-based shooting (it was a genre that I had never touched until everyone and their dog started singing the praises of SO:TL), but I sprayed a lot of bullets into cover and died once for about every 10 enemies I killed. Still a high bodycount overall, but fairly low K:D ratio, and part of the point of the game was that you were a mass murderer…

        1. Michael says:

          Spec Ops is stupidly lethal to both the player and the enemies. Weapons tend to be pretty accurate though. It’s not as bad as Rainbow Six, but it’s close.

          Blind fire is completely inaccurate, though. That could be what you’re thinking of.

    3. Tom says:

      Have enemies fall back to other cover if you can send enough firepower in their direction. You could get a real pitched battle that way.

  13. Heh! At about 3:27 when Shamus say “No fair, their fighting with fire!” My mind for s second thought I heard “my life for aiur”…

  14. Michael says:

    Shamus, which DLC? There’s two different jacket skins, the mountain climber and the aviator jacket. I’m still kinda disappointed that the clothing deterioration doesn’t apply to the alternate costumes, I know it would have been a lot of work, and probably doubled their price… but I would have been pretty happy to drop two bucks for a new outfit that gets mangled up like the default one.

    1. Tim Charters says:

      Yeah, I would have really liked that too. It was really distracting when Lara got dropped in the river of blood, but didn’t get any blood on her because she was wearing a DLC outfit.

      1. Mormegil says:

        I found the DLC outfits detracted from the game – particularly in the cutscenes. Why is she shivering – she has that awesome jacket? She doesn’t look vulnerable here – she has her badass combat vest on.

  15. X2-Eliah says:

    That initial gunfight, where Josh laughed at the enemy not reacting properly to his buddy’s death… that made me think a bit.

    What if, in these kinds of games, the enemies react to you suddenly killing one of theirs in the same was that normal people / videogame npc protagonists react? I mean, massive panic, fear, wtf screams, all that general commotion that would identify them as humans and not mooks. Heck – if a player suddenly snipes someone in the head, the buddies should not grunt and take up positions for assault, they should freak out, call the now-dead buddy by name (can be completely generic – have a list of names and assign them as reaction audiocues). Think about it – wouldn’t it feel more real if, when you shot someone’s head off with an arrow, the surrounding folks would a) start panicking, b) scream out “oh god JEFF NO no no no JEEEFFF!”, “Who is there?! Stay away! I-Ihave a gun!”. I’d say that would a) humanize the opposition, and b) push the point that maybe, just maybe, you as the protagonist are not exactly in the right, too.

    1. Syal says:

      I mean, massive panic, fear, wtf screams, all that general commotion that would identify them as humans and not mooks.

      It would work for amateurs, but a professional group of killers are more likely to react by shooting you to death first. You might hear a “They got John!” or a “WTF” as they get into position but I think panic is more unrealistic than indifference. (All that stuff comes after combat, and if the Player is still alive at that point, the mooks aren’t.)

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        That’s the thing, though. I don’t want mooks. I don’t want professional groups of killers. I want HUMANS.

        1. Gruhunchously says:

          Both kinds of enemies could work, especially within the same game. You could escalate the diffuculty of fights by starting with enemies that bolt and run after taking a few casualties, and ending it with more disciplined enemies that would stand and fight to the last man. Actually, one thing I’ve always wanted to do in a shooter is scare enemies away just by shooting in their general direction. The only game seen that does that is Halo (and maybe Deus Ex, I can’t remember).
          I wish more games would integrate panic into their gameplay mechanics

          1. Tom says:

            Seconded. It’s the fact that enemies never, ever fall back or rout in most games (they might displace or flank a bit if it’s a good one), but always stand their ground til you put them down, that forces all those other unrealistic mechanics such as nerfing the guns or having to slaughter countless mooks to make it last a decent amount of time.

            1. Nick says:

              Arkham Asylum/City do a pretty good job of this, where the mooks get progressively more and more freaked out as their buddies disappear or stop answering in the stealth sections.

              1. Tom says:

                It’s a shame they didn’t actually reflect it in the gameplay, but there was a nice bit of lampshade-hanging over that sort of response towards the end of Max Payne 1 – you hear the incredulous boss berating the mooks, whom you’ve slaughtered in simply ludicrous numbers by this point, over the PA system: ‘What do you MEAN, “he’s unstoppable?”‘

              2. StashAugustine says:

                Sleeping Dogs had moves intentionally designed to be so over-the-top that nearby enemies would cringe.

                1. Michael says:

                  Yeah, that actually annoyed me though. Joint breaks are a temporary stun so you can execute an actual finisher on a fighter? O.o The hell?

          2. Bubble181 says:

            Diablo did it – Fallen and the like run and scatter when an ally dies; some others are unfazed, some go berserk/get angry at you.

          3. False Prophet says:

            It’s a 2D platforming stealth game, but Mark of the Ninja has great terror mechanics. There are situations where with the artful display of slain enemies, you can terrorize one guard into killing his buddies for you.

        2. Syal says:

          But if they aren’t professional killers, the hero looks like an ass for gunning them down. It seems like it would take a very specific situation to apply, like a speaker having whipped people into a frenzy, but you can kill a few of them and the whole crowd breaks. Spur-of-the-moment violence.

          (Any enemy that’s not expected to be a challenge is a mook regardless of personality.)

  16. Josef says:

    Q: Why doesn’t Lara take a jacket from one of the dead guys?
    A: They are too riddled with bullet holes.
    I think that it’s nice there is jacket DLC, other games would probably sell, like, leather dominatrix outfit, but this game lets you put some more clothes on her :)

    1. Zukhramm says:

      Even with holes, they’d make going through the pipes a lot easier. Having worked in places with lots of steam boiling water and hot pipes, I’d definitely take a jacket.

    2. Michael says:

      They might have lice?

      1. Felbood says:

        I think we’ve already established the the writers are not interested in keeping Laura clean and sanitary.

    3. Syal says:

      I appreciated that, until I realized it meant the devs knew she was underdressed and decided to charge extra to fix it. It’s the same old idea, just in reverse order.

  17. Weimer says:

    (Let’s write a friggin essay again for no reason or gain! Wooooo!)

    Shamus did bring up an interesting talking point – enemy initiative. The problem is that most games (and indeed most entertainment media in general) requires the protagonist to have the initiative. If the villain has an evil lair, the hero will storm it. If there is a macguffin, the hero will try to gain it to destroy the evil. The thing is, the inversions of these examples almost never happen. The evil forces are usually just passive resistance to the hero’s actions.

    Why is that? Wouldn’t a creative and active antagonist be memorable and exiting? Well, they are! A good example would be Kane from Command&Conquer games: a fan favourite and definitely the best part of the series. The sad thing is that villains like Kane are far and few between.

    I think the main problem of enemy initiative is that it requires the bad guys to be and act intelligent. The thing is that most stories wouldn’t happen if that was the case. Incompetence is THE saving grace of a writer trying to get the hero to win, which is bad for “smart” antagonists.

    C&C4 was a massive load of poo-poo, and I’m still miffed about it.

  18. Spammy says:

    So… that radio tower… did it give anyone else a “Dear Esther… sometimes I feel I have given birth to this island,” vibe?

  19. Tizzy says:

    Re: the game ramping up around this time, three related comments: (1) I had a really tough time figuring out how far in the game I was, starting round about this time. (2) the sense of game progression was further hindered by the total lack of plot mystery. I felt that once You meet Mathias for the first time (why have this meeting at all, btw!), I’d figured out the essential structure of the plot, and the only question that remained was what path would the resolution take. And indeed, there was very little in the way of surprises down the road. (3) at some point, I really started resenting all the combat. The combination of no lot progression and no geographic progression (can’t see a new place until I’ve butchered all these dudes) was devastating: the feeling that you were inching towards a resolution, which could be around the corner or very far away. (the game ended up being two or three times as long as I expected, based on how many times it looked like we were building towards some sort of final confrontation.)

    On a second playthrough, none of this will matter (but then, you lose the pleasure of discovery as well), but in the first one, this was agonizing.

  20. RTBones says:

    I never had an issue with the length of the game. For me, the problem was always tone. I felt like the early part of the game had a lot going for it, and the latter part of the game had the Laura of old just fancier graphics. As has been mentioned previously, the game never really figures out what it is trying to be. I much preferred Laura the archaeologist, trying to survive and solve a riddle over Laura immabadazzchickgonnakillallyouse. I’ll take “ok, I can do this” over “i’m coming for you all!” every day and twice on Sunday.

    1. Yeah, pretty much this. The beginning of the game was the highlight for me, because that’s where the “Lara the Survivor” idea manifests itself. Post-radio tower, it kinda dips.

  21. Jakale says:

    Huh, I wonder, now, how many ways the guy crushed under debris can play out. I didn’t kill him, but he never called for help and no guys ever ran into the room. I just stood for a bit debating killing him from a character standpoint, then a exp reward standpoint, then deciding it might be a game trap to get me to break stealth by shooting him with his rifle, and finally, as I was lining up my bow shot, he just died on his own.

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