— The following post contains spoilers.
Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris has a paper-thin story, a plot hole you could ride a dinosaur through*, and dialogue so cheesy it should probably come with a warning for the lactose intolerant — but none of that matters, because Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is also an excellent game.
From the moment you enter Osiris’s temple until the moment you leave it, Temple doesn’t slow its pace. It’s a fantastic, mayhem-filled and outright fun race to send the villainous god Set back to Duat — and, for the most part, I loved every second.
Temple sees Lara Croft… no, not that Lara Croft —
— but this Lara Croft —
— head to Egypt in search of — you guessed it! — the Temple of Osiris.
Serving as a successor to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Temple of Osiris opens with Lara having already reached the titular temple — but not, as is usually the case, alone. Instead, she’s locked in an all-out race to the finish with rival archaeologist Carter Bell.
Bell is a new addition to the Tomb Raider roster, and, really, there’s not much to say about him. The best things he brings to Temple are the back-and-forths he and Lara share when collecting treasure at the end of each tomb. Things go awry for the tomb raiding pair when Bell tries to snatch the Staff of Osiris from right under Lara’s nose, triggering an ancient curse.
Now bearing the Mark of Set, Lara and Carter are doomed to be pursued by the crocodilian god Ammit — also, not too encouragingly, known as the Devourer of the Dead — until they either face her judgement, or break the curse.
Unfortunately, though, Ammit is just one of the pair’s problems. The curse also set Set — ahem… — free from Duat, and the only way to send him back is to gather the various pieces of Osiris’s dismembered body, allowing Osiris himself to be summoned from the Land of the Dead. It’s all very dire, but Lara and Bell don’t have to face their trials alone. Also freed by Carter’s attempt to seize the Staff are Osiris’s wife, Isis, and his son, Horus. Odds evened.
Like Bell, there isn’t very much to say about Horus. In fact, playing through Temple solo — as I did, first time through — he’s pretty much a nonentity. Isis, on the other hand, is very much present throughout the game, guiding Lara and co. to their various objectives and proving herself to be quite the badass as she stands up to Set time and time again.
On top of this, Isis also provides one of my personal highlights of Temple. When Lara and Bell engage in the aforementioned treasure-triggered bickering, Isis will coolly remind the pair that said treasures don’t belong to them, but to Osiris, and that our heroes will lay the god’s possessions at his feet when he returns. I love this. I’m not entirely sure if it was intended as such, but it’s an interesting commentary on the rights of archaeologists to take whatever they find, and proves that even a game with a story as straightforward as Temple’s doesn’t have to be completely without depth.
Unfortunately, however, the rest of the story is thoroughly lacking in the depth department. While the premise of Temple of Osiris is sound, Set, the villain of the tale, is executed as a complete and utter stereotype. From his dialogue and how it’s delivered, to his animations, and even his eventual demise, everything the god does is exceedingly corny with an extra helping of cheese.
As I said above, however, this doesn’t change the fact that Temple is an exceedingly enjoyable game. I am, perhaps, being more forgiving of it than I should because I liked it so much, but it is arguable that a game like Temple doesn’t need a particularly intricate story. Here, it’s more about the gameplay than the narrative — and gameplay is where Temple of Osiris doesn’t just shine. It gleams.
Equal parts twin-stick shooter and platformer, it moves along at a breakneck pace whilst very rarely making you feel as though you might loose control. As you’d expect from a game marketed as having more in common with the classic Tomb Raider formula than the current, rebooted series, it features a plethora of puzzles and challenges, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t find a single one of them to be off-putting or tedious.
I’ve dabbled only briefly in the co-op experience, and so can’t really comment on that side of things, but playing solo, I found that the puzzles are just challenging enough to get you thinking, but no so much that they’ll take hours to figure out, or have you turning off the game in frustration.
Temple’s gameplay is very well balanced, too. Aside from a few slightly invasive moments towards the beginning of the game —
— it teaches you what you need to know to progress without ever feeling as though you’re in a never-ending tutorial, and constantly finds new ways to put your skills to the test. It isn’t one of those games that presents you with a new mechanic, only to never have you use it again, or disable it to make certain areas more challenging.
That’s not to say that Temple is mechanically flawless, however. The physics — an important aspect of many of the game’s puzzles — can be frustratingly out of whack, and, in an oversight more annoying to completionists than to casual players, when lighting braziers close to the edge of the map, the gems they provide will occasionally shoot off in the wrong direction, to be lost forever. This can be very, very frustrating, especially when going for some of the tombs’ Gold Point Challenges.
So the game isn’t without its drawbacks, but — for me — these were few and far between, and outnumbered ten-to-one by its positives.
The icing on the cake comes in the form of the visual presentation. The little corner of Egypt in which the action takes place is fantastically well-realised. Come rain, shine, night or snow — and Temple lets you experience all of them — it never fails to impress with its visuals. A smattering of awesome particle effects — perhaps a little too much, because the frame rate is, at times, distractingly inconsistent — well and truly raise the bar.
I remember staring at the screen in awe as ash rained from the sky as I guided Lara to her confrontation with Khepri, and the game’s final tomb, that of Set himself — which you would expect to be a bleak, desolate place — is jaw-dropping in its beauty.
All this is complimented by a soundtrack that is far, far better than it could’ve been expected to be. Composed by Wilbert Roget II, that soundtrack is a tour de force in adventure-inspiring music. From the incredible Lara Croft Overture —
— to the rousingly epic One Last Chance —
— and the nostalgia-inducing Throne of the Mad God —
— Temple’s soundtrack is incredible. If the game’s visuals are the icing on the cake, then its soundtrack is the cherry on top.
I remember being thoroughly off-put when I saw the direction the Lara Croft brand was taking with Guardian of Light, but I’ve learned to love it. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is not the longest game in the world, and nor does it provide the most compelling of stories, but it’s fun — and in a world where there are so many games opting for gritty hyper-realism, it’s a breath of fresh air.
I can’t recommend it enough. And do keep in mind that it’s always best to avoid being skewered…