Friday, 22 March 2013

Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics. Story.


Crystal Dynamics put a lot of focus on the story, and the emotional journey we are supposed to experience, following Lara Croft’s rite of passage. I am always dubious of games that are so heavily story driven, and usually for good reason.

The general story arc of the Tomb Raider reboot is well paced, even if there are a few too many cut-scenes breaking gameplay in the first hour or so. Rhianna Pratchett was brought on board to scribe the reimagined origin of Lara; however, I struggle to see what exactly was brought to the table. The characterisations are typically clich├ęd, and all archetypes are present and correct. The dialogue is very amateurish, embarrassingly fan fiction in nature. This is evident from the opening monologue, and a personal highlight is the following exchange between Lara and her ‘mentor’ Conrad Roth (name courtesy of the videogame-name-o-matic generator):

ROTH
You can do it, Lara. After all, you’re a Croft.

LARA
I don’t think I’m that kind of Croft.

ROTH
Sure you are. You just don’t know it yet.

I’ve not heard it yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before I hear “It’s just a flesh wound”.

The voice actors are fine, and do the best with the script they have been given. Camilla Luddington, the voice of Lara Croft, has a particularly mesmerising voice, yet somehow, through no fault of her own, it doesnt quite fit the character.

Now, I always take gameplay over storyline, and I am willing to give story a chance, but as soon as it starts falling apart, I start skipping cut-scenes. A prime moment of when the story falls apart is Lara’s first human kill (I won’t go into details, there are no spoilers, what I am about to say was discussed during the pre-release hype). Lara’s first human kill was supposed to be emotionally draining, both for Lara and us, the so-called protective observer. However, with minutes of taking someones life, Lara doesn’t even bat an eyelid as she goes on a gung-ho trigger-happy killing spree, ploughing through a few hundred ‘human beings’ for the rest of the game. (For a lone standout example of the pinnacle of drawing emotion from gamers, I highly recommend playing through ‘Journey’, developed by ‘thatgamecompany’. A game which has no real characters of note, and absolutely zero dialogue, yet managed to tap into every hope, fear, and love and hate lying in your subconscious).

If a developer puts so much focus into the story of their game, there is absolutely no excuse for not pumping more of their budget into the best writer willing to sign up. Much of the games industry is so desperate to be Hollywood, it’s about time they started signing up Hollywood screenwriters. Until then, story-driven games will never get the respect they crave.

Do you agree? Disagree? Please join in by commenting below.

2 comments:

  1. I agree - don't boast about the story line when it doesn't match the hype. I had the same disappointment when I played The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct before reviewing it. Yeah, the graphics were mediocre, but the bad review came from the lack of experience and story line that were promised. Maybe these games should spend less on marketing and more on writing.... :-\

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  2. Absolutely. The problem with many story driven games is that the experience seems disjointed. The developers want the story to be so emotionally engaging that they dont realise how contradictory it can be to the gameplay at times. They should focus on making a coherent seamless experience between story/cut-scene and gameplay, even if it is at the expense of some 'emotional depth'.

    "Maybe these games should spend less on marketing and more on writing.... :-\" - I agree 100%

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