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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 19, 2000
What does a developer do if it wants to fashion the last release in a long-running series? Often you would want to put in elements that remind faithful followers of earlier installments, and yet introduce a few new wrinkles without straying too far from the spirit of its predecessors. You have to keep those who have played every release enthralled, while at the same time not leave those having their first exposure out in the lurch. In the end, you would want to make it the most memorable game of all. Looking specifically at Tomb Raider Chronicles, this is the fifth major installment in the famous series that began back in 1996; and while this is not the very last such offering ever to be released, it is clearly — as stated by the developers — the last one to be issued based on existing technology. So the question is: Is this a worthy finale?
Lara Croft, who is unquestionably the most recognized single figure of either gender in all of gaming, is at the core of Tomb Raider Chronicles even though she apparently died in the previous release — Tomb Raider: Last Revelation. The story follows immediately after the end of the plot in that title, and begins with those closest to Lara — including Father Patrick Dunstan the priest, Jean Yves Lara’s French friend, and Winston the butler — gathering at her estate for a memorial service in her honor. Those there recount a few of Lara’s exploits, and so the levels are based on a series of flashbacks about previously untold adventures in her past. The biggest drawback of this approach is that there is no unifying theme tying everything tightly together.
Tomb Raider Chronicles includes four separate scenarios containing around 13 levels in total, and indeed there is no continuity or interrelationship among the four adventures. The first episode in Rome has Lara hunt for the Philosopher’s Stone (involving two old foes — Larson and Pierre — from the original Tomb Raider); the second episode in a Russian submarine base has you search for Hitler’s Spear of Destiny; the third episode in the Black Isle in Ireland has a 16-year-old Lara confront demons (while weaponless and avoiding enemies); and the final episode in a futuristic high-tech, high-security office tower block has you attempt to steal the Egyptian Iris artifact (with constant guidance from your companion Zip). The last scenario is by far the best, with much more intricate and multifaceted challenges than the others. The disconnected adventures are more like the purposeless global meanderings in Tomb Raider 3 than the focus on one setting — Egypt — in Tomb Raider: Last Revelation.
During these exploits you may utilize a variety of weapons, including a pistol, revolver, shotgun, Uzi, HK automatic gun (with a scope), grappling gun (shoots out hooks with ropes), and chloroform-soaked cloth. But the combat is so deficient, as has been the pattern in this long-running series, that the distinctions among these arms in actual operation is often not that meaningful: even when dealing with some of the ominous enemies such as the metal octopus with green eyes in the beginning Rome episode or the mechanized foes shooting out lethal electroshock beams in the ending tower block episode. Most combat sequences necessitate simply firing nonstop until the danger has passed. Moreover, there is no substantial novelty in the weaponry compared to what we have seen before.
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