Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris review: loot cave

Game Info
Platform Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Square Enix
Developer Crystal Dynamics
Release Date

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris isn't for me at all but managed to earn my respect nonetheless.

After more than 15 years of pulpy, Indiana Jones-inspired adventuring and treasure plundering, last year's reboot — simply titled Tomb Raider — reimagined the series and its protagonist as more dramatic and emotional, though still badass. I understood the disappointment some felt at the loss of the traditional action hero in Croft, but she was now a character I found myself much more invested in.

As it turns out, Square Enix and developed Crystal Dynamics had a little secret: The death-defying, one-liner-tossing classic version of Lara Croft wasn't gone at all. While work on a sequel to 2013's Tomb Raider continues, The Temple of Osiris picks up where 2010's Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light left off.

It's focused on arcade action, avoiding deadly traps and solving puzzles, with very little storytelling, character development or lofty cinematic goals to get in the way. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris isn't really what I'm looking for in the series at this point ... but it's also undeniably skilled at what it does.

The Temple of Osiris embraces dime-novel action storytelling

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris finds our hero on a journey to the pyramids of Egypt. She discovers an ancient temple devoted to the god Osiris, but her celebration is short-lived, as rival archaeologist Carter Bell races her inside. In a short introduction, the two adventurers delve into the ruins and inadvertently wake up Set, the evil deity responsible for Osiris' death. They're joined by two more mythological figures, Horus and Isis, as they attempt to resurrect Osiris and stop Set from destroying the world.

As you may have determined by the number of living, breathing gods involved, this isn't a dark, dreary, hyper-realistic tale. The Temple of Osiris embraces dime-novel action storytelling — emphasis on the action, not the storytelling. No cutscenes in the game run longer than 30 seconds aside from the intro and the ending, and you won't miss much if you skip them aside from some bland witticisms from Lara and friends.

Temple of Osiris' sizable cast isn't just around to serve as a sounding board for Lara's jokes, though. Other players can take on the roles of Carter, Horus and Isis for up to four-player co-op multiplayer — up from two-player co-op in Guardian of Light. Co-op was a delight in that game; in Temple of Osiris it's simultaneously the best part of the Lara's new adventure and the part where its weaknesses are most evident.

The biggest issue comes from Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris' top-down view. This works fine for 90 percent of the game, but — as you might expect from the acrobatic Croft you'll need to perform some tricky platforming at certain points. The locked point-of-view makes it difficult to judge some of those jumps.

The unshifting perspective was especially an issue in co-op. Multiple characters bouncing around the screen makes it difficult to keep track of your own character. Rather than giving each player their own view of the action, you share a single camera that zooms out further and further as characters spread out. The camera works this way both during local and online co-op, and it has a limit to how far it will zoom out as well.

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When I played with three and four partners, I often found myself pushed by the "edge" of the camera if other players got too far ahead or behind. This led to multiple deaths, which are admittedly low-impact in multiplayer — as long as one of your partners is alive, you just have to wait a few seconds before respawn but it was frustrating nonetheless. The problem was far less common with two players, which makes me wonder why Crystal Dynamics bumped the total possible player count up in the first place.

While adding players makes life more difficult in some respects, it also introduces impressive changes elsewhere. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is split into separate temples, which serve as individual levels connected by a small hub world. But the layout and challenges within each level actually transform based on the number of players that you have.

playing with more players adds an element of teamwork to the puzzles
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The temples generally divide time between simple combat, where you aim your weapons with the right analog stick while moving with the left, and the much more complex puzzles, which are the real star of the game. But adding players affects both of these elements. If you have a couple of friends with you in the Tomb of the Ferryman, more supernatural enemies will spawn, and they'll be more tenacious. Likewise, playing with more players adds an element of teamwork to the puzzles.

The most impressive example in my playthrough was a challenge tomb — a one-room bonus area with a single, extra-difficult puzzle to solve. In the midst of a three-player session, my partners and I stumbled into a challenge tomb that involved standing on pressure plates to stop freezing ice from shooting from the floors. One of my friends had solved the challenge earlier solo, but what we found was a completely different yet equally brilliant puzzle — one that was designed specifically for three players and could not have been completed with any less.

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It's important that the puzzles are so smart and satisfying, because I often had to accept solving them as a reward in and of itself. The Temple of Osiris is packed full of bonus rewards going on in the background — a point tally and multiple "challenges" for each level but I never felt particularly pushed to pursue these.

Likewise, I was never moved by the game's needlessly complex loot system. As you move through levels, Lara and her companions collect gems, which can then be wagered at various chests to win a random piece of gear. The more ornate the chest, the more gems it costs to open, and the better the loot you'll win from it.

While the idea of an action-RPG-style loot system bolted on top of a Tomb Raider game may sound appealing, most of Lara's upgrades just aren't very interesting. You can equip amulets that affect her weapon fire and rings that give her defense boosts or increase the radius of her bombs, but there wasn't enough variation within these options to keep me eagerly opening chests.

Wrap Up:

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is a neat throwback adventure, even if it isn't groundbreaking

Given issues like the poor loot system and the occasionally awful camera, it's amazing how quickly and thoroughly Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris turned me around from my initial lukewarm feelings. It's not going to stick in my mind the way 2013's Tomb Raider has, but Crystal Dynamics has built a tidy, pleasant throwback to the more simple adventures of Lara's past.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris was reviewed using final downloadable Xbox One code provided by Square Enix. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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