Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris Review (Xbox One)
Lara Croft has been on many adventures over the years. Even though the recent reboot has taken the character back to her roots for an all-new origin, the Lara we've all come to know over the course of the last 18 years is still alive and kicking. Before the gritty refresh, Crystal Dynamics ditched the straightforward action/platformer mold we'd come to know the Tomb Raider series for in favor of an isometric twin-stick shooter style in 2010.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light breathed some new life into a franchise that had been shaking cobwebs off for years. However, not only did Guardian of Light put Lara in a new genre, it also added co-op for the first time in the character's long history. It's not often the same franchise can sustain two drastically different game styles. Other companies have tried with middling results, but Crystal Dynamics has somehow found a way to craft multiple Tomb Raider games from the same cloth. Though Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris varies quite a bit from its more serious sister series, Tomb Raider, the bite-sized action with a classic twist is just as enjoyable.
Taking place in this new alternate timeline/universe where Lara Croft is still the tank top and shorts-wearing badass of yesteryear, Temple of Osiris finds her exploring the ruins of, you guessed it, Osiris' tombs. Carter, a rival archaeologist, is racing her to the goods, and inadvertently curses himself and Lara upon seizing the treasure. Unwittingly, the duo release evil Egyptian god Set upon the world, and must race to stop him from fully coming back to power. With the help of Osiris' wife, Isis, and son, Horus, Lara and Carter must revive the spirit of Osiris to banish Set back to the underworld. It's a fairly basic adventure plot, as the focus in Temple of Osiris is more on puzzle-solving and action than it is crafting a memorable narrative. There are appearances from all manner of creatures from Egyptian mythology, but the story never steps above "stop the bad guy." That's not a bad thing, but most of the interaction between characters is done to explain new objectives and crack wise about the circumstances.
Fortunately, all that puzzle-solving and action happens to be pretty darn good. Everything about Temple of Osiris is built around the idea of co-op. Temple of Osiris is best experienced with a friend or two (up to four can play at once), as Lara, Carter, Horurs and Isis have been built to be complementary to one another. Both of the Egyptians come with a mystical staff that activates special platforms and can fire a beam of light to dispel Set's spawning portals. Lara and Carter come equipped with grappling hooks, which are used for traversing otherwise fatal chasms and unscalable cliffs. The game's difficulty scales to the number of people playing, meaning more enemies spawn the more people you have playing, though the challenging puzzles remain identical whether your playing alone or with a few friends. As such, there are multiple ways to approach each solution, and you'll never have to worry about being stuck if you are all by your lonesome.
What sets Temple of Osiris apart from its predecessor, beyond more players, are the new customization items you can equip. Throughout the adventure, you'll be picking up gemstones of various values from dead enemies or uncovering them in the ground or pots. At the end of every tomb, there will be a series of chests you can unlock, but you'll have to pay with the gems you collected. There are various tiers of chests and gear, from common to legendary, and you'll be able to spot the differences based on the cost to open. The legendary chests do give out some really nice items, like super-powered weapons, but you can get some good amulets and rings, which offer status effects like better ammo efficiency or explosive range, in any variety of chests. Equipping these will help you tackle the more difficult waves of enemies when you're playing with more friends, and allow you to put a bit of your own touch on each character. These items stay in your inventory even when playing with friends online, so you'll always have your own gear at your disposal no matter how you choose to play.
There are more than a dozen different tombs to explore, each with its own theme and length, though typically it will take you 10-15 minutes to clear each one on your first pass. Others might be a bit longer depending on how many players you have helping you advance through the more complicated puzzles blocking your path, but Temple of Osiris can be beat in just a handful of hours for the truly devoted. However, the game doesn't merely end once you've defeated Set. Each tomb has a series of challenges to complete, which unlocks more customization items, and there are special challenges that will unlock once you finish the game's main chapters as well. Factor in some leaderboards, where you can see how you stack up against the rest of the tomb raiders across the world, or just on your friends list, and it's easy to become addicted to topping your own time and score. It's also easy to make things difficult for your co-op partners if it looks like they're going to do better than you. A nice well-placed bomb or accidental release of a grappling hook should help even the odds, and help ensure your name rests above theirs on the charts.
Despite being set in Egypt, there's some surprising variety in the environments. While most of the tombs are of the same ilk, Set's used his powers to alter the weather and day/night cycle of the immediate area. That means you'll encounter some rain storms and flooding right alongside the snowy cliffs the deserts are so known for. It gives Temple of Osiris some needed diversity, as just running around the sandy pyramids could have grown tiresome rather quickly. The isometric view offers Crystal the chance to really showcase some impressive tombs and world design; however, at moments when the game zooms in, a bit of that fidelity goes out the window. Character models are decent, but not all that detailed, though environments retain their luster. It's a shame Lara and the rest of the gang don't look better up close, but it's also understandable given that Temple of Osiris is meant to be played with the camera quite a bit away from the action.
With two solid franchises exploring varying aspects of one of gaming's greatest leading ladies, Crystal has plenty of opportunity to give every Lara Croft fan something different. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a great adventure with loads of replayability. It's much more fun to play with friends, but you can still get some mileage out of solo play. Most importantly, the game is good, and shows just how much flexibility this character and franchise has when in the right hands.
This review was completed with a download code of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris provided by the publisher for Xbox One.