Crystal Dynamics' latest Tomb Raider hit shelves yesterday amid general critical enthusiasm. As our own review observes, it's an accomplished, beautifully put-together action-adventure that "pays tribute" to a classic while striking out in a new direction.
The big question now is whether Crystal can do it again. In some ways exploring Lara's young adulthood was the easy part - this, after all, is a story that's never been told outside of a few prologue sequences in the original PS1 series. Past the point where the timid juvenile archaeologist becomes a lethal adventuress, we're on well-trodden ground indeed. How will the developer go about situating its new interpretation of the heroine alongside the older vision? For answers, I spoke to creative director Noah Hughes.
You've made the Lara Croft prequel. Will you go on to pursue this alternative Lara into her adulthood?
Without knowing exactly what adventures she's going on, our intent is to carry forward from here. Other than a brief detour into her origins, we kind of like the idea of taking her story forward from this point.
Will you explore some of the more fantastical aspects of the original games - like Natla, for instance - in a more believable way?
Yeah, anything we do we'll run through that lens of really trying to... I mean, what's important for me is that we don't really chase reality per se, but chase grounding and credibility and try to create that version of the experience that you can see as someone being real. It's about grounding things so that you believe in the world and the characters, but still celebrating some of the elements of Lara's universe from the past and envisioning them in new ways.
I suppose Guardian of Light is your outlet for the more fantastical side of Tomb Raider. Can you say anything about where you're taking that sub-franchise at present?
No, Guardian was a great opportunity to explore things that we may not have done in the pillar franchise titles, but in that case it was co-op. There are no plans to do anything in that series but it was a great opportunity to do something a little bit outside of the core.
Speaking of co-op, did you ever consider attempting that in the reboot?
We looked at the integration of multiplayer in Tomb Raider. We're anxious to continue to play with ways that people could tomb raid together. With Guardian of Light, the tone and the story supported side-by-side play in the campaign; this time around, it's less appropriate and we tried to do more of a complementary experience, hoping it would have a lot of replay ability and people can just jump in and have fun. Those are just two of our explorations into multiplayer in the Tomb Raider universe, and we are anxious to see what else we can do in connected play.
Will you expand the competitive multiplayer in future games?
The key point is that neither will represent the single blueprint that we'll iterate on, looking at what's appropriate for the time, but in the competitive context at least in the asymmetric modes, we tried to focus on cooperation in a team. Even though you're competing against another team, we've chosen mechanics that really intensify and reward working together - being able to revive the other survivors or needing to guard someone carrying something. Generally, in a lot of cases, we do like the idea of competition and cooperation, but they're not mutually exclusive.
I understand the plan was once to have Lara escort a much younger female character, to create a feel comparable to Ico or Enslaved.
That's absolutely true. What's also true is that we explored much more broadly than what was exposed to the public. People often bring up the little girl or some of our horror-inspired character design, those were really part of a concerted effort to put into lots of different directions and some of those learnings started to narrow where we really wanted to go.