When I picked up Underworld, I hadn't played a Tomb Raider game since the awfulness that was Angel of Darkness was released. Prior to that I had played every Tomb Raider with the exception of Chronicles. Having been apart from Lara for so long, I got back into the franchise with Underworld, a game which follows up from the previous, Legend and also addresses some plot from Anniversary. So my entry into the game was met with some confusion having not played the previous installments however this didn't stunt my enjoyment of the game too much. The plot was simple enough to pick up and accept as it played out.
Having started the game with memories of the good old times had with Lara, I was confronted with a big change that had occurred in all gaming that had some how crept up on me. There was an obligatory tutorial level. In the original games, notably 1, 2 and 3, Lara's mansion had served this purpose, but if you chose to start the game directly you were thrown right into it. In Tomb Raider 3, quite literally I might add.
So Lara begins her journey with her house on fire, and once in control it becomes your duty to guide her through the blazing remains. After "accidentally" losing Lara to the flames a couple of times, I eventually got her out of there only for a supposed friend of Lara's begin shooting at her. It is found out why later on in the game after a cut back to that scene and some some cryptic dialogue. But before then, the scene fades to white and we join Lara two weeks earlier, on a boat, in some wonderfully impractical attire, out in the middle of the sea. Now that's more like it. In at the deep end *pause for groans*.
|Wearing barely anything, surrounded by sharks, bleeding from the ankle... I got this.|
My overall experience of Tomb Raider games has been that the game generally starts out in a normal universe, an adventurous girl exploring tombs and caves, doing a lot of climbing and finding ancient artifacts and then the whole thing turns on its axis and suddenly there are supernatural forces erupting from every one of the earth's orifices and Lara is doing battle against zombie-esque Atlanteans, Xian guards, mutant scientists... dinosaurs, the Kraken, Grecian/Roman gorillas... The list goes on. This installment doesn't disappoint on those grounds. The finale goes off with a massive "saving the world from supernatural destruction" bang, and with a pleasing and heart felt ending that I imagine satisfies the the story that this game closes on.
In Underworld, Lara has some new skill sets and gadgets, one of which is an 'Active Sonar Map'. I used it perhaps about twice in the whole game, the first because I was prompted to, and the second because I was a little stuck and remembered I had it. It didn't help me find the way out, however. It was supposed to present the player with an alternative viewing angle, the player can receive feedback from a large scope of local environment and spot potential secrets, items needed to progress, or openings to new areas. I didn't use it... but then again I bet I missed out on a lot of secrets. As a tool it was not essential for progression of the main story, but would be of great use to those combing every area for every secret.
|Lara is represented by a piece from the game Ludo.|
Lara was also sporting some new weapons, my favourite being the grenades. I used them a little too freely and against human enemies, I found them most effective. The big cats, lizards and other overly large nasties moved around too much for the explosives to be effective, but for some reason the human enemies proved to be too dense to move out of the way making them one of the easiest enemies encountered.
Now let's have a little chat about the combat. As previously indicated, I hadn't played a Tomb Raider game since the originals. My experience of the combat back then was erratic jumping left, right, forwards and backwards all the while hammering the Ctrl key or X button until the thing I wanted dead, stopped moving. So the new intelligence of the enemies and their tenacity came as quite a shock.
|That moment when you fill your pants.|
I also found the age old frustration at Lara's controls by this point, they were fluid and the animation of movement was fairly sophisticated, however they felt highly sensitive. Lara stuck to walls unintentionally and occasionally just let go from a hold, leading to either the repetition of a jump sequence or death.
|There she falls again.|
|My new definition of "lush" right here. Basically means "green".|
In games and films the music and sounds should be adding information and feelings to what your seeing and enhancing the experience overall. For me, I know a game or film has done this right if I don't remember the music later on after engaging with the medium. I don't remember a thing about the music and sound in this game, save for the high octave 'dingly' sound that plays when you have reached a check point (that is ingrained in my memory forever). Having gone back and listened to some tracks, it has further assured me that the music in the game worked. It feels like I'm listening to it for the first time, yet I am transported back into my memory of certain points in the game play. There are some lovely remnants of the original tomb raider sound track from 1996, and they are subtle enough to make it feel like new sounds.
I only played the main game on the disc but there are some DLCs available which contribute further to the story. 'Beneath the Ashes' and 'Lara's Shadow' are the titles available, in both we see more of Lara's doppelgänger and also a further encounter with Natla, the main boss. Having not played them I cannot comment on the value of the DLC and if they are worth playing. I felt satisfied with the content in the main game which is good however I wasn't left craving further story, so the DLC did not appeal to me.
Overall, the game felt like the Tomb Raider I've known and loved in my childhood, though with a little more emotion and humanity from our heroine. It's definitely a franchise that has matured and I'm glad to see it through my own older eyes. Ok, enough with me feeling ancient.
I hope you enjoyed the read, if not, I hope you gave up before getting all the way down here and finding out you've wasted a half hour. If you have any comments or feed back I'd love to hear, and also your opinions of this game if you have played it!
You can watch my full playthrough of Tomb Raider: Underworld here on my channel, its all in a handy playlist.
Thank you for reading, have a lovely day, happy gaming and I will speak to you all next time! Buh-bye!