Tomb Raider II
|Tomb Raider II|
Westlake Interactive (Mac OS)
Aspyr (Mac OS)
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation, Mac OS, iOS, Android|
Tomb Raider II is an action-adventure video game, part of the Tomb Raider series and the sequel to the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. Developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive, the game was released for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation in 1997 and ported to Mac OS in 1998. Eidos released an expansion pack, Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask for PC in 1999. The expansion pack includes four bonus levels.
The game sold over 8 million copies worldwide as of 2003, making it one of the best-selling games released up to that point and the second best selling of the franchise. The game is also the second overall best selling PlayStation title in the UK.
The gameplay of Tomb Raider II builds upon the basic set up of the original game. Innovations in Tomb Raider II include new weapons, extra moves, and a set of vehicles. The crystal saving feature on the PlayStation version was eliminated, and instead the player may save at any time like in the PC version, save for a few special locations.
Lara can now climb ladders and perform a mid-air roll used to land facing in the opposite direction. The range of weapons has been expanded to include a harpoon gun (though more correctly termed a speargun), a grenade launcher, an M16 rifle (which requires Lara to assume an aiming stance to fire), and automatic pistols, which replace the magnums from Tomb Raider. The inventory now includes pyrotechnic flares, which are used to light up dark corners. The two vehicles are a motorboat (in Venice) and a snowmobile (in Tibet). Both are used to travel long distances across the map and can speed up on ramps or run over enemies.
The object of the game is unchanged from the previous game: each level must be finished by reaching the exit. Secrets no longer immediately reward the player with weapons or medipacks. Instead, each secret is marked by a coloured dragon ornament: silver (or stone), jade, and gold, according to the difficulty of their location. Only when Lara collects the last of all three dragons in a level will she receive a bonus, which usually consists of medipacks and ammunition, and infrequently a new weapon.
The story of Tomb Raider II surrounds the mythical 'Dagger of Xian', a weapon which was used by an Emperor of China to command his army. By plunging the weapon into its owner's heart, the weapon has the power to turn its bearer into a dragon. The last battle fought with the Dagger ended when the warrior monks of Tibet removed the knife from the Emperor's heart, whereupon the Emperor died. The Dagger was then returned to its resting place within the Great Wall.
In the present day, near the remains of the Great Wall, Lara Croft investigates the legend of the Dagger. Upon reaching the door which leads to the dagger, she is attacked by a thug who claims to work for Marco Bartoli, a Venetian Mafia leader who has an obsession with the ancient lore of the Dagger. After travelling to Venice, Lara makes her way through Bartoli's hideout and an opera house where Bartoli's men are plotting a heist. Lara follows Bartoli aboard his aeroplane, but she is knocked unconscious.
The plane lands at an oil platform. The cult of Xian have killed all the rig's staff and are carrying out excavations on a sunken ship called the Maria Doria, a luxury ocean liner which was owned by Marco's father. When Lara regains consciousness, she retrieves her weapons and makes her way through the oil rig. She learns from an imprisoned Tibetan monk, Brother Chan, that the shipwreck carries an ancient Tibetan artifact called the Seraph. Lara dives alongside a submersible, arrives at the shipwreck, and retrieves the Seraph.
She heads towards the Barkhang Monastery in Tibet via aeroplane. There she is helped by monks in confronting the thugs of Marco Bartoli. She finds and uses five prayer wheels to open a room to hold the Seraph. She continues her journey inside the catacombs to find the Talion, a key used to open the door to the dagger. Exiting the caves, she takes off in a jeep. Two guards follow Lara, but she escapes, shooting the guard and causing their vehicle to crash into a tree.
Back in China, Lara opens the chamber holding the Dagger. Before she reaches the artifact, however, Lara is plunged into the catacombs beneath the Great Wall. She makes her way back to the chamber, but Bartoli has already used the dagger and is carried through a portal. Lara goes through the portal to a realm with green floating islands and warriors which come alive when triggered. She moves to the room where she witnesses Bartoli transformed into a dragon. Lara renders the creature unconscious and pulls the dagger from Bartoli's heart, killing him. The whole tomb begins to collapse, and a part of the Great Wall is destroyed. Lara escapes and is knocked unconscious upon landing outside the tomb, but she regains consciousness the next day. Lara returns home and is cleaning the dagger when an alarm goes off. The remainder of Marco Bartoli's men have tracked her down to England and are invading her mansion. She overpowers them. The final shot is of Lara, disrobing before entering the shower. She breaks the fourth wall as she turns to the player and says: "Don't you think you've seen enough?" She then blasts her shotgun at the player.
Development of Tomb Raider II was in its conceptual stages before the first game was released. As Core Design came to the home stretch of Tomb Raider's development, additional ideas and suggestions for the game had piled up, some of which were still able to be incorporated in the first game, and others which would form foundation for the sequel. According to Jeremy Heath-Smith, co-founder of Core Design, development took "probably about eight months" as the team worked "long, long hours."
While two key members of the original team had left – most notably Lara's creator Toby Gard – most of them remained on board for the sequel. Graphic artist/level designer Heather Stevens recounted, "We had invested so much time and creativity into Tomb Raider that it would have been unthinkable to just walk away from it. It was action stations again for most of the team, and time to get our heads down again." Developing the original Tomb Raider had been an arduous task requiring the team to put in long hours to get the game out on time, and the sequel was assigned a much tighter deadline, less than a year for development. The design team for Tomb Raider II was expanded to more than double its original size. A decision was made early on to keep the engine from the first Tomb Raider, adopting a tweak-and-improve approach, rather than starting over from scratch. This, combined with the larger development team, allowed the team to meet the deadline. Minor camera issues and polygon glitches were fixed, while new features were added, such as dynamic lighting and a more flexible control system. With the improvements to the graphics engine, a larger number of polygons could be rendered on screen, allowing large outdoors areas.
Lara's appearance in Tomb Raider II was given a make-over by the new designer, Stuart Atkinson, giving her a free-flowing ponytail, smoother features, and several new outfits which changed over the course of the game. Atkinson has also claimed credit for introducing vehicles to the gameplay. While in China and Venice Lara sports her signature "Tomb Raider outfit" (a tanktop and shorts), in the ocean-based levels she dons a half-body wetsuit and in Tibet she wears a flight jacket. Lara's revolving wardrobe would become a trademark of the series going forward.
Nathan McCree was allotted much more time to score the game than he was with the original Tomb Raider, allowing him to not only write twice as many tunes, but also plan out ahead of time how his music would be used in the game and generally become more directly involved in the game's development. He spent three months working on the score for Tomb Raider II.
The original plan was with the game to end with the dragon battle, but as development neared its end the developers felt it made an unsatisfying conclusion and decided to add an epilogue. Because the deadline was now looming near, Croft Manor was reused for the epilogue. According to programmer Gavin Rummery, the shower scene "was our response to the enquiries about nude cheats!"
Core Design used a custom built level editor that made it possible to explore each stage as it was being created, allowing levels to be play tested on the fly and eliminating glitches. A team of six playtesters continually tested the game up until the final hours before it was sent to Sony for final approval.
While the original Tomb Raider was released on both the PlayStation and Sega Saturn game consoles, Tomb Raider II was no longer designed for the Sega Saturn despite having been confirmed as a target platform for the game in the first place. Following the cancellation announcement, Adrian Smith cited technical limitations of the console to program an adequate conversion. Core Design had been planning for a Saturn version of Tomb Raider II to use the 3D accelerator cartridge designed for the Saturn conversion of Virtua Fighter 3; this cartridge was cancelled before Tomb Raider II was completed. In September 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment signed a deal with Eidos to make console releases for the Tomb Raider franchise exclusive to the PlayStation, preventing the Sega Saturn or the Nintendo 64 from having any Tomb Raider game released for it until 2000, a deal that would prove very beneficial to Sony both in terms of revenue and also in further cementing the PlayStation's growing reputation as the go-to system for must-have exclusive titles.
Shelley Blond was asked to reprise her role as Lara Croft from the previous game, but was unable to do so due to other commitments. Blond gave permission for Tomb Raider II to reuse the clips for Lara's grunts, cries, and monosyllables from the first game, while Judith Gibbins voiced all of Lara's speaking parts.
Versions and expansions
Tomb Raider II was released for Windows 95, Macintosh and PlayStation. There are slight differences between the three versions. The PlayStation version has a loading screen with a picture of the current country when loading levels. The Mac version has a loading bar in the same style font as the rest of the game text. The PC version has no loading screens. Tomb Raider II is available for download for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network store. On 27 October 2011, it was released for Mac OS X and sold via the Mac App Store.
Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask
In 1999, Tomb Raider II was re-released for PC as Tomb Raider II Gold in North America and Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask elsewhere. The game comprises the scenarios of the original Tomb Raider II and four new bonus levels in a separate mini-adventure entitled "The Golden Mask". Unlike the other two Gold games, however, The Golden Mask contains no story ties to its corresponding game from the main Tomb Raider series.
The story involves Lara Croft coming across some clues referring to a small island in the Bering Sea: a faded photograph showing an Inuit whale hunter holding what looks like an ancient golden mask, an old newspaper from 1945 referring to a conflict over an Alaskan gold discovery, and a secret kind of fortified military mine base. Lara is primarily interested in finding the mask, as it is rumoured to be the famed Golden Mask of Tornarsuk, a greater spirit said to bestow powers of resurrection on the mask wearer.
Tomb Raider II received highly positive reviews from most critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100, the game received an average score of 85 for the PlayStation version, based on 13 reviews, which indicates "favorable reviews". As one of the most hotly anticipated games of 1997, Tomb Raider II was an immediate commercial success, quickly surpassing the sales of Tomb Raider. As the first game, the game was critically successful, though not as much as its predecessor. The UK GameSpot gave the PC version an 8.2/10 saying "Taking its cue from the previous game, Tomb Raider II sees Croft becoming embroiled in a brand new globe-trotting hunt for treasure. Again, levels are lushly appointed with colorful textures, taking you on a visual voyage from the waterways of Venice to eerie subterranean catacombs, this time in search of the Dagger of Xian, a relic that supposedly bestows great power upon its bearer." The US GameSpot gave the PlayStation version a 5.7/10 indicating "mediocre", saying "Most of Tomb Raider II's improvements are cosmetic, and even those aren't really anything special." somewhat complimenting the games graphics stating "The graphics have been bumped up a bit, but are still terribly pixelated. This is forgivable, however, considering the sheer size of some of the levels. The enemy characters are a bit smoother looking (and definitely more of them), but it's obvious that most of the development cycle was spent making Lara look better. This year's model is a lot more curvy, a bit skinnier, and sports a fully functioning ponytail (I shudder to think how many hours were spent getting her hair to move just right)." Other reviews were more positive, such as IGN, giving the game an 8/10. Saying, "If you played Tomb Raider, you know how vast and complex the levels can be. Well, Core has pushed the game even further this time, adding 25% to each level, making it more of a challenge. Puzzles are less obvious this time, and require some definite backtracking and exploration to figure out." They rounded off their review answering the question if Tomb Raider II is superior to the first game, saying, "That still leaves the question open: is it a better game? In my humble opinion, no, but it is just as good, and makes a worthy sequel." The other review websites gave similar reviews and scores. Of particular praise from other critics were Tomb Raider II's improved graphics, the use of vehicles to add variety to gameplay and the more action oriented objectives.
Macworld's Michael Gowan wrote, "While gunplay is involved, it's exploration and problem solving that keep you riveted for hours." He highlighted the game's "impressive graphics".
During the late 1990s, Lara was at the height of her fame. Talks for a screen adaptation of the series were in progress, Lara Croft was featured prominently in several SEAT and Lucozade commercials, and U2 used her image during their 1997 PopMart Tour. Like its predecessor, the game was eventually made part of PlayStation's "Greatest Hits" line. A sequel, Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, would follow in 1998.
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