Tomb Raider Anniversary returns to its classic roots in a remake of the first Tomb Raider, which was released in 1996. However, updated models and environments are not the only changes and although Lara visits the same locations and deals with many of the same puzzles, there are new animations, more interactions, a broadening of the storyline and mechanics that use the enhanced game engine from Tomb Raider Legend. Also new to this iteration is the adrenaline dodge, which unfortunately has some dodgy rules for successful execution.
The story starts in 1996 with Lara being introduced to Jacqueline Natla who wants Miss Croft to locate an artifact in the Peruvian mountains called the "Scion". As an artefact she and her father searched for unsuccessfully, she agrees to accept the challenge. The Scion has been broken into three pieces and after perilous negotiations through traps and puzzles, Lara ultimately discovers one of the pieces in a tomb belonging to the Atlantean king, Qualopec. After an unsuccessful attempt by the mercenary, Larson Conway, to steal it, Lara discovers that Natla has hired another archeologist, Pierre Dupont, to retreive the second part of the scion, located in Greece. Once Lara beats Pierre to the second tomb, Dupont ambushes her and takes the artifact, but is soon killed by the centaurian guards. After defeating them, she joins the two pieces together and receives a vision that reveals the location of the third piece in Egypt. Once Lara possesses the final piece, its revealed that Natla was the third ruler of Atlantis, but was sentenced to 1000yrs of imprisonment by the other two after attempting to violently bring about something she refers to as the Seventh Age. Natla intends to try again by resurrecting the army of Atlantis and when she steals the scion, Lara follows her to the top of the Atlantean pyramid to wage the final battle.
Although the Tomb Raider series was highly popular, with yearly releases it started to suffer from fatigue and reached its low point with the release of Angel of Darkness. The poor reception of this sixth game spurred a change in developers and Crystal Dynamics took on the making of the trilogy Legend, Anniversary and Underworld. After having lost its way, these games were a nod to the type of gameplay that made the series so popular to begin with and are credited with getting the series back on track.
Anniversary returns the emphasis to platforming, which might have left lots of room for the camera angle problems of previous games, but surprisingly, it doesn't suffer from this to any game breaking extent. There was, however, a couple of places where keys were not registering, Lara would not perform the jump, or the view was limited. Some of this was fixed by some tweaking and on the whole, it also performed quite well using the keyboard and mouse. It did however, suffer from jerky camera movements in some places, particularly going up and down stairs.
Unfortunately, the quality of the graphics is rather mediocre and the enemies quite lame, although the environmental visuals are as spectacular as usual with death defying heights. Boss fights can prove quite long as Lara doesn't take a lot of damage during them, but some can be shortened by using the environment. She also takes more damage from creatures as opposed to human enemies and bosses. The new mechanic adrenaline dodge needs to be spot on and can sometimes fail if enemy gets too close to finish the targeting move. Lara's confrontation with a T-Rex proves interminable if not executed in a certain way, thus pointing to a flaw in the game. If you don't do it the way the devs intend you to do it by using the spikes, it can get stuck in environment and not take much damage with bullets. However, the game is still enjoyable in other ways. It is Lara Croft after all and the game was well received as another step in bringing the Tomb Raider games back to life.
The game uses a manual and checkpoint system of saving, but there are lots of them. There are also collectibles, artifacts and relics for unlocks. Some of these require some challenging timed sequences. However, these are optional. Part of the game can be played in the manor, but the puzzles are not nearly as intricate as in some other games.
Opinions are all over the map about various Tomb Raider games, but I came to this series with Angel of Darkness, which got really panned. Regardless, it was interesting enough to peak my interest and spur me to buy succeeding games. I suspect it's because Lara Croft presents an intriguing character. I've enjoyed all of them and don't feel the need to analyze the comparisons between them. If you need a Tomb Raider fix, this game, although not particularly memorable, is enjoyable enough.
In Tomb Raider 2013 we see a very different Lara. One that is dragged into the modern age of gaming. A sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is due to be released in the 2015 Holiday season as a "timed" Xbox exclusive, but is expected to hit the PC at some point.