Tomb Raider Chronicles
|Tomb Raider Chronicles|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, Mac OS|
Tomb Raider Chronicles is an action-adventure video game developed by Core Design and published in 2000 by Eidos Interactive for PlayStation, Microsoft Windows and Dreamcast. Following Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, series protagonist Lara Croft is presumed dead, and a group of friends attend a memorial service at her home to recount tales of her earlier exploits. Gameplay follows Lara through linear levels, solving puzzles and fighting enemies. Some levels incorporate additional gameplay elements such as stealth.
Despite the presumed death of Lara Croft in The Last Revelation, Core Design was told by Eidos to continue the series; while a new team worked on The Angel of Darkness for the PlayStation 2, a veteran team developed Chronicles based on concepts cut from The Last Revelation. Chronicles received mixed reviews from critics, is remembered as one of the weakest Tomb Raider games, and at 1.5 million copies is one of the worst-selling games in the series.
The gameplay of Tomb Raider Chronicles is closely tied to that of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. Lara now can walk on a tightrope, grab and swing on horizontal bars, and somersault forwards from a ledge while crouching. Lara sports a new camouflage snow-suit and a black catsuit suitable for infiltration.
The crossbow and grenade launcher from Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation have not returned, but the MP5 submachine gun and Desert Eagle from Tomb Raider III are revived. New equipment consists of a TMX-Timex that Lara uses to track her statistics and grappling gun, which fires a grappling hook into perishable surfaces and produces a rope from which Lara can swing. It is used to latch on certain areas of the ceiling and swing across vaults. Only one vehicle (of sorts) appears: a high-tech diving suit designed to penetrate deep waters. The ability to save wherever one desires returns from The Last Revelation as does the combining system of puzzle items used to progress in the level. Lara also uses a crowbar and a torch to progress through the virtual world.
Secrets in Tomb Raider Chronicles are represented by a golden rose (much like the dragons in Tomb Raider II). In total there are 36 scattered throughout the game and when the player has found every one of them, a new special features menu is unlocked from the Options screen.
Following the events of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Lara Croft is presumed dead, buried under the collapsed Great Pyramid of Giza. At Lara's home of Croft Manor, three former friends and associates—Lara's butler Winston, Father Patrick Dunstan and Charles Kane—reminisce over some of Lara's early exploits following a memorial service.
The first story follows Lara's quest through the catacombs of Rome in search of the Philosopher's stone. She is pursued by Larson Conway and Pierre DuPont, adversaries she would later encounter during the events of Tomb Raider. The second story, recounted by Kane, sees Lara hunting the Spear of Destiny, lost on the ocean floor since World War II. Infiltrating Zapadnaya Litsa, she smuggles herself aboard a Russian Naval submarine commanded by Admiral Yarofev and his Mafia handler Sergei Mikhailov, who also seeks the Spear. Lara recovers the Spear, but she is ambushed by Mikhailov. The Spear's power is unleashed, killing Mikhailov, damaging the submarine and wounding Yarofev. Lara escapes the submarine, but Yarofev remains behind as the Spear destroys the submarine.
The third story, told by Dunstan, follows a teenage Lara when she secretly follows Dunstan to an island apparently haunted by demonic forces. Lara confronts several apparitions and monsters which inhabit the island, including a horse-riding humanoid demon called Vladimir Kaleta who was trapped in a prison of running water by the island's former monastic community. Dunstan is taken hostage by Kaleta, who forces Lara to block the river imprisoning him. Using a book discovered in the ruined monastery's library, Lara says Kaleta's demon name "Verdelet", taking control of him and banishing him from Earth. The fourth story, related by Winston, shows Lara infiltrating the corporate headquarters of her former mentor Werner Von Croy to retrieve an the Iris, the pursuit of which first caused the schism between Lara and Von Croy.
Their stories completed, the three toast Lara. In parallel to these events, Von Croy digs through the rubble of the Great Pyramid in a desperate attempt to find her. He finally discovers Lara's backpack among the ruins of the Great Pyramid but no sign of her body: he declares "We've found her!", presuming that Lara is alive.
Core Design, developers of Tomb Raider since its inception, had grown tired of the series after producing three games successively since completing the original game. The team had attempted killing off Lara in The Last Revelation, but Eidos insisted that the series continue. Core Design split into two teams; one new team worked on Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness for PlayStation 2, while a veteran team developed Chronicles. Most of the team from The Last Revelation returned to create Chronicles. Designer Andy Sandham, speaking in a 2016 retrospective on the Core Design Tomb Raider games, called Chronicles "a load of old shit", saying that the staff created the game to earn a living rather than having any passion for it. In a different interview, he called it the hardest Tomb Raider title he worked on.
Each area was designed around a different gameplay theme; Rome emulated classic Tomb Raider platforming, Russia was focused on action and stealth elements, Ireland forced players to handle a version of Lara without weapons, and the fourth area brought more stealth elements and new elements such as a companion helping Lara remotely. Several level ideas were originally pitched for The Last Revelation before Jeremy Heath-Smith, the head of Core Design, insisted that the latter game focus on tomb-based environments. As with The Last Revelation, a separate tutorial area based in Lara's home was removed to reduce the workload. Several gameplay elements were expanded and refined, including new moves including the tightrope walk and refining the inventory UI. For the PC version, Core Design released the level building tools as a level editor on a second disc. This was done as Chronicles would be the last game using that generation of technology, and they wanted to allow fans the freedom to create levels of their own.
Chronicles continued the narrative from The Last Revelation, continuing to assume that Lara was dead. Due to this style, the narrative structure broke away from the linear style used in earlier titles in favour of an anthology format, with four separate adventures loosely tied together by framing sequences. Sandham wrote the game's script after the game's level structure was finalised. There were several continuity errors in the Rome segment of Chronicles related its chronological placement and Pierre's death, attributed by Sandham to not referring to the original game's script beforehand. The use of flashbacks rather than a continuous contemporary narrative allowed Core Design to create very different levels without being tied together with an overarching story. It was also designed to close off the original era of Tomb Raider—including its technology and storyline—prior to the release of The Angel of Darkness. The Irish levels were included by Sandham, who had a love of Irish folklore and was inspired by the cover art of The Black Island, a book from The Adventures of Tintin.
The music was composed by Peter Connelly, who returned from The Last Revelation. As with other his other projects, Connelly used early level builds as inspiration for his compositions. Taking inspiration from the narrative's gloomy tone, Chronicles used a darker musical style while retaining established Tomb Raider musical motifs. The main theme is very short compared to earlier Tomb Raider games, but Connelly had wanted something "epic". Time constraints meant that Chronicles did not have a proper main theme, with the closest being an opening segment that was inspired by Connelly's original plans.
It received mixed reviews from critics, although some reviews for Tomb Raider Chronicles were highly positive. Games Radar gave the game a score of 88/100, saying "Excellent, albeit lacking in revolutionary intent -- but c'mon, how many games really differ in that respect?" Another positive review came from Total Video Games, who awarded the game an 80/100 rating. Even so, they did comment "Unfortunately the game will be over before you really get into it, which is a crying shame." IGN were primarily mixed, rating it a 6.5/10 and saying "Lara Croft's last adventure on PlayStation is also her very best. Still, it's just more of the same." They went on to add "If you haven't liked any of the games or got tired of the series after the 2nd, 3rd or 4th games, then there's nothing here in Chronicles that will revitalise your passion for the series or get you to like it for the first time. Tomb Raider Chronicles is basically more of the same, so you probably know better than anyone else whether or not it's something that you'll like.
GameSpot were mixed, claiming "The main problem is that the Tomb Raider series hasn't grown with the times". They were particularly complimentary of the graphics and said "Regarding the PlayStation version specifically, the graphics look better than ever before. The environments in the first Tomb Raider were very sparse and bland, but over the years the developers have been able to squeeze more and more out of the PlayStation. For a game on an aging system, there's a surprising degree of detail in Tomb Raider Chronicles -without a significant sacrifice of level size." One particularly scathing review came from Electronic Gaming Monthly, who said "It should be illegal for you to own money if you even considered buying this crap." While, GamePro awarded the game a score of 3.5/5, echoing the view that Tomb Raider was somewhat in need of an update, remarking "Despite the improved graphics and imaginative story, Tomb Raider Chronicles has the same controls as previous Tomb Raider games, and they feel as antiquated as any relic Lara ever unearthed."
Retrospective staff opinions of Chronicles have been mixed, with many staff feeling it was their worst Tomb Raider project at that time due to a lack of enthusiasm and franchise fatigue. In journalistic retrospectives, Chronicles has been ranked as the weakest 32-bit entries, and one of the worst Tomb Raider entries prior to the notoriously poor The Angel of Darkness.
In their financial report in February 2001, Eidos included Chronicles among the successful titles published during the late 2000 period. The game has sold 1.5 million copies worldwide; this made Chronicles the worst-selling Tomb Raider game up to that point and the second worst-selling main title in the franchise.
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