fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Classic)
I'm behind on replies and catching up here, but I just need to have a moment because I have been waiting for this for years.

Nicobass, a renowned modder/3D artist in the community, has been working with a small team (with some unofficial assistance from Crystal Dynamics) to give Tomb Raider II a remake in the vein of Anniversary for the past few years. The demo was just released, and it is phenomenal.

For the most part, I enjoy Crystal Dynamics' first run with Lara (the "LAU" trilogy--Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld), but my 2 biggest gripes with them are 1) there is a lot of hand-holding when it comes to solving puzzles and figuring out platforming, and 2) in an effort to make the controls more fluid, they also lost a lot of precision and player control. Crystal also has a tendency to lean towards very desaturated environments, whereas the original games always had a vibrancy that made them so inviting to explore.

This remake really feels like it was made by someone who appreciates and thoroughly understands the spirit of the classic titles. Platforming requires paying close attention to the subtle visual clues in ledges, rather than just slapping white paint on them, and the player is encouraged to do a little trial and error when it comes to figuring out where to go. The puzzles actually feel satisfying to solve--They're actually something to accomplish, whereas a lot of the puzzles from the LAU era were pretty basic and didn't require much effort.

It's made in Unreal 4, so it's beautiful, but I really think Nicobass went the extra mile because it doesn't have that generic U4 look to it; it has just a touch of style and personalization that you can also see in his renders. I absolutely love Lara's model--She has the exaggerated long legs and big boots and wears her signature red glasses in the game. Her animations are natural and fluid; I love it when she crosses her arms if you idle, and her walk has a swagger rather than that hyper-exaggerated sway that looks so bad ass and confident.

It's not a 1:1 remake--The demo covers about the first half of the Great Wall level in the original game, but there are so many new areas to explore and additional secrets to find. But it still hits the most iconic areas, like diving into the pool to retrieve the key for the tower with the aggressive spiders. It's an expansion as much as it's a remake.

Because it's built on the same movements and combat system in LAU (Underworld, specifically, I think) some of the controls still have some of that slippery feel to them, but it feels substantially tighter than in Legend or Anniversary.

It is just an amazing undertaking, especially given that it was largely done by one person, and I just can't say enough good things about it. I can't wait for the full version to be released.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
Sort of... I forgot I started writing something more in-depth than my rambling after shortly getting into Rise. It only touches on some of the elements of the game, but dropping it here in case it's of any use/interest. Mostly spoiler-free.

Read more... )
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
Yes, I did see the big new yesterday: Alicia Vikander was signed on to play Lara in the reboot movie.

I'm not familiar with the actress, although I hear she has some serious acting chops and was apparently a ballerina. I can see a physical similarity and a reboot Lara-esque essence to her expressions. But I currently have no strong opinions on the casting choice.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with the movies. I adored the original title when it first came out, and it led me to having a major crush on Angelina Jolie until about my freshman year of college. (Karima Adebibe, the Lara model for Legend and Anniversary, and whom to this day I maintain is easily one of the most beautiful people in the entire world, picked up that torch shortly thereafter.) I'll still watch it every now and then, usually as a background while I do something creative, and the soundtrack is still great for getting me pumped up for a workout.

I choose to ignore the existence of the second one almost entirely. It also had a great soundtrack, and the stunts for Lara were fun, if not over the top sometimes. Who punches a shark in the face honestly? WELL APPARENTLY LARA FUCKING CROFT. I haaated Gerard Butler's character and surrounding arc, though.

One of my biggest gripes with the movies is not so much the movies themselves, but how they've influenced Tomb Raider's role in pop culture. Not to be a horrible fandom gatekeeper, but I just can't abide by people referring to Lara as "Angelina Jolie's character in Tomb Raider." -_-

I also didn't like how within the fandom, any real-life incarnation post-Angelina was constantly compared to her. Karima Adebibe and Alison Carrol got a lot of hate directed towards them for not being Angie, even though both gave her due props. There was also a lot of misinformation that they'd be replacing her, which just annoyed me because PEOPLE BEING WRONG ON THE INTERNET. I'm already seeing this a little bit towards Alicia, even though she's playing the new generation of Lara, not the one that inspired Angelina's incarnation.

(I've also been seeing bitching that her boobs aren't big enough. I don't think I even need to get into why that is such a stupid thing to say.)

I am somewhat relieved that it's not Daisy Ridley, though. I adored her as Rey, but I had a hard time picturing her as Lara. While her current build would be spot-on for reboot Lara, her facial structure is pretty different from any version of Lady Croft. Her face has a youthful cuteness to it, too, whereas Alicia kind of gives off the "old soul" look that I think is more appropriate for Lara, even untested.

But I generally try not to go into casting announcements with a set opinion. People often seem to forget that these people are actors who will go through training and make-up and be given a character to perform--Even if an editorial photoshoot doesn't automatically scream Lara Croft, it doesn't mean that she won't be given the tools to evoke that in the film. I'll be following the updates with a cautious optimism.

ETA - I'm also having nerd rage at every dudebro who says Camilla Luddington should have done it because she was the "face model" for the new Lara. No, she was the mo-cap model and voice actress, but Crystal specifically made sure Lara didn't look too much like her.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Comics)
Man, my boycott of Tomb Raider stuff after the initial exclusivity announcement did me right when it came to enjoying Rise spoiler-free, but I missed out on some good shit.

Like missing that Dark Horse released comics based on classic Lara (specifically with influences from the "Lara Croft and..." game series) that came out in October.

I haven't been terribly impressed with the reboot comics so far--The writing is all right, but the artwork in most of them (excluding some of the phenomenal covers by Andy Park) is very bland. Michael Turner and Andy Park's artistic contributions might have spoiled me in the Top Cow series. And to be honest, I tend to go more for art than story when it comes to comic books.

Anyway, I saw some panels out of Frozen Omen, and it looks reaaaal nice. Will probably be purchasing after my upcoming move.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
Last post for today. (Sorry, I'm probably clogging up everyone's feeds. IT'S SLOOOWWW AT WORK. I need to amuse myself.)

Linky to Rhianna Pratchett's Polygon interview. Interesting stuff about game writing in general.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
Dragon Age was the first fandom I participated in that had a shipping culture. I guess an argument could be made that Star Wars was my first shippy fandom--That was were I actually first read "OTP"--but where and how I participated in those communities didn't have much emphasis on romantic or sexual pairings, and when they did, it was mostly about a few high-profile canon relationships. Dragon Age was kind of an eye-opener for me when I realized that you could take two canon characters who never even spoke and then have them bang, aw yiss.

But shipping was never really a thing in Tomb Raider fandom. In the first five games, there was no indication that she had any kind of romantic/sexual partner or was even interested in pursuing that kind of relationship. Every now and then a quiet voice might pop up to say that they liked the idea of her and Larson, the blond cowboy out to foil her plans with his French boyfriend Pierre. In TRIII, villain Sophia Leigh for whatever reason generated some shipping interest (possibly just for the sexy factor). But that was about it.

Angel of Darkness brought a little bit of that shipping drive to the fandom, with the introduction of Kurtis Trent. He and Lara never have any kind of explicit romantic scene in the game, but for some fans, there was enough tension between the characters that the ship was born. The most notable and active group to support the ship and Kurtis himself was the KTEB--The Kurtis Trent Estrogen Brigade. I guess they've maintained a close relationship with his VA, and it looks like they're still active on Tumblr.

I didn't know what aromantic or asexual was when I first got into the series, but that's always how I read classic Lara. I didn't see her as having any interest or desire in those sorts of relationships, and to this day, one of my biggest gripes with the movies and Top Cow comics was her stupid, forced straight pairings. AoD is actually the only TR game I have never finished so I can't speak to the full arc of their relationship (although I'd guess it was unfinished anyway given that AoD was supposed to kick off a scrapped trilogy), but I always hated the idea of Lara and Kurtis.

When Crystal got Tomb Raider, they dumped any indication of romantic interests, but they did give her more friends and professional acquaintances. Zip and Alister (voiced by Greg Ellis, btw) didn't generate too much shipping interest--They were just barely tolerated, and a lot of players found their yammering to Lara atmosphere-ruining.

In Legend, there was the odd comment again about a potential relationship with her male adversary, Rutland, although her friend-turned-antagonist Amanda never received the same treatment. Anniversary reignited some Larson feels for a few people, but when he became Lara's then canonical first kill, that did a lot to squash the whispers. No new characters were introduced in Underworld, so there wasn't much opportunity to pair her up with anyone else.

Shipping just really wasn't a Tomb Raider thing. For a lot of fans, Tomb Raider was just about Lara and her solo adventures.

TR '13, with its more complex story, fleshed out characters and relationships, and a new Lara, did spark some interest in romantic pairings. Canonically, Alex (male) has a small crush on Lara, although it's not really reciprocated. Lara and Sam (female) are best friends, but there is a lot to read their relationship as something more; writer Rhianna Pratchett said she'd be open to writing Lara as a lesbian, and I think somewhere else she said she actually feels like Lara is attracted to Sam.

What's interesting, in that kind of frustrating, why-does-everything-have-to-be-straight-when-doesn't-even-work kind of way, was how often I'd see people say they shipped Lara with Conrad Roth. Roth. Her mentor who was a close friend of her father's. Who's more of a surrogate father figure to her than anything. There wasn't a lot of it, but just enough to make wonder why that was the pair they wanted to see. Not with Sam, with all their love and admiration for each other. Not even Alex, the cute nerdy guy at least in her same age bracket. They want the man who's probably about 30-35 years her senior and has only known her in a familial capacity to smooch her. ugh yuck I feel gross even typing that

Most of this, for the record, was on the forums I used to frequent. Outside of running a TR blog for the models and cosplayers, I don't really engage with the TR fandom on Tumblr.

That said, while I was doing some searching on Tumblr, I saw the same thing happening with Lara and Jacob while I'd browse the Rise tag. Their relationship is again very similar to what she had with Roth--Jacob is actually the father of Sofia, a young woman who's probably just a little older than Lara. He's kind and compassionate towards Lara, and obviously has a great deal of respect for her, but there's nothing in their relationship that suggests any kind of romantic interest. Yet I see these gifsets with tags like "ugh look how they look at each other they're so in love." ????? I see two people with mutual respect who will set aside any wariness to achieve the same goal.

Peeking in at AO3, the Lara x Sam ship does dominate all the other pairs, and I don't think it'd be fair to say ships like Lara x Jacob or Lara x Roth have taken any kind of substantial footing in the fandom at large. I've just always found any pairing with Lara and a man to feel sosososo out of character for her that I'm always surprised when I see it. Lara x Sam have the most canonical potential, I think. Lara x Sofia has a lot of slow, reluctant-allies-to-friends-to-lovers potential. If this is gonna become a shippy fandom, just let Lara have her healthy platonic male relationships.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
For the past four or five years, Dragon Age and Tomb Raider have alternated between being THE fandom for me. Currently the pendulum is swinging back towards Lara and her bad ass self.

I have a lot of (mostly overwhelmingly good) things to say about Rise of the Tomb Raider; I've been working an indulgent and excessive review over the weekend that I had wanted to post over the weekend, but I got sidetracked after I started playing the 2013 game for comparative purposes. I'll still be sharing my waytoolong thoughts later this week, but in the meantime, I need to spew a little about how Tomb Raider 2013 (just called Tomb Raider from here on out) and Rise feel like such different games.

Specific spoilers for the 2013 game below. Mostly spoiler free for Rise, just some talk about gameplay mechanics and very generalized mentions of the story.

Read more... )

If you don't read anything else, just know that there's been a like a 97% reduction of QTEs in Rise SO PRAISE JESUS FOR THAT.
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
The delayed release for PC and underwhelming CE was not doing much to bolster my excitement for Rise, but I started my pre-gaming weekend mega clean of the apartment last night and began the pre-load this morning... The excitement is finally here, folks. Not quite like it was with Inquisition or when I came home to see my CE for TR 2013 waiting for me, but it's here.

Currently debating if I want to dive all in and go with the survivor mode, or just stick to normal like I usually do when I first play a game. I think I'd be fine with the additional scavenging for food and gear--I'm a very thorough TR player who has been waiting patiently for the return of a TR game that doesn't hold your hand while exploring--But I'm not quite as confident with my combat abilities. Although I was substantially better at playing TR 2013 recently than I was the first time around.

I'm also happy to report that I have remained largely spoiler free. I skimmed a couple of reviews (hence knowing about survivor mode) and some of the early trailers, but being bitter about PC's delayed release had some benefits.

RISE UP

Jan. 5th, 2016 04:11 pm
fereldanwench: (Tomb Raider - Rise)
The good news: Rise of the Tomb Raider has a PC date. January 28.

The great news: that's the Thursday before a three-day weekend for me. LONG GAMING WEEKEND!!!

The disappointing news: I am wholly unimpressed with the PC Collector's Edition.

It's actually identical to the Xbone CE... which is a part of the problem. Pray tell, Square-Enix, what exactly am I going to do with a collectible game case for a game that doesn't have a hard copy? You couldn't have given us a print instead? A mini art book? An inflatable pickaxe? Something that demonstrates a little awareness for your product and specific audience?

And that is a hefty price tag compared to the CE I got for the PS3 Tomb Raider in 2013. $100 got me the game, some extra skins and weapons, Play Arts Kai Lara, reversible poster featuring the cover art and map, a mini collector's print, CD copy of the soundtrack, 3 embroidered patches, a mini artbook, Lara's jade necklace, and a big case to keep it all in.

The statue and journal piqued my interest, but bundled with a necklace I already have, a case I have no use for, and a season pass (a concept I have more issue with than DLC or pre-orders by themselves)?

Passing on this ended up being a lot easier than I would have expected.

And there is no way in hell I'm giving them an extra $30 upfront for some season pass bullshit. They should be giving us access to at least one DLC for free after that exclusivity shit.

On the positive side, that means I'll have an extra $90 for my cruise in February.

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