Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
A new Tomb Raider may be off the horizon (until at least 2011, rumour has it), but Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix aren't resting on their laurels. Instead we're being given the download-only Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - an action focussed romp which cuts away all that pesky 'story' in favour of all-out action. We sat down for a chat with producer Forest Large.
Thanks for talking with us - how long has Guardian of Light been in the works now?
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is about a 16 month production.
Why Lara Croft, rather than Tomb Raider? Is this the start of a whole new series of 'Lara' games?
It was important to us to very clearly differentiate this digital title from our AAA releases. We wanted to make it very clear that this is a digital offering between pillar releases, and to help with that, we called it Lara Croft.
As for if Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is the start of a new series, we absolutely loved making this game and would love to make another Lara Croft digital title if it is the right next step. The team is really looking forward to see how this game is received, and we will need to look at reviews, fan feedback, and sales, as we figure out what the next steps are.
Does this subtle name change suggest this game is to be taken as a spin-off from the main franchise?
The gameplay experience we offer in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is very much tailored to the digital space and is entirely different and new from anything we've ever done before. We think of the Lara Croft digital experience as something with its own unique flavor, something distinct from, but connected to Tomb Raider.
Is story still important - given the more arcade-focussed gameplay?
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is story-light. There is a story component to the game, but it is not as extensive and in-depth as in past games. It was important to us that story supported, rather than motivated gameplay for this title. We experimented with stylized motion graphics-style cinematics for the beginning and end of the game, and we have ingame cut scenes peppered throughout the game. We wanted to make sure that even though the camera is pulled out during gameplay, that when we cut to story moments, that we are showing Lara and Totec, as well as the enemies, up close and personal.
How big is the new title, and what is the balance between combat and puzzling?
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light has full co-op and single player story modes and each offers 8+ hours of gameplay. As for exactly how many levels we created, you will just have to play and find out for yourself. We worked really hard to find the right balance of combat and puzzling, and we made sure that players could really have a tailored game experience depending on if players prefer puzzles, combat, or both. We do have puzzles and boss fights that players need to play in order to progress in the game, but a lot of our puzzles and combat are optional. This way, if a player loves puzzles but not combat, they can choose to do all of the puzzles and run past enemies, and if players love combat but not puzzling, they can fight all of the enemies and bypass the optional puzzles. Most of the dev team members love puzzles and combat. We play everything in the game and find the balance to be just right. What puzzling and combat share in Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is that we are always trying to keep the players moving and trying new things.
How do you go about pricing a downloadable title like this?
We took a look at the hours of playtime and pricing of other digital titles, and we knew that we wanted to offer a good value in the digital space. So, with fun, high-quality gameplay, detailed and polished environments, and 8+ hours each of co-op and single player experience, we feel that at 1200 MS points, our game is a great value.
Which colourful characters will Lara meet on this new adventure?
Lara is joined by her co-op partner Totec, a 2,000 year old Aztec warrior known as The Guardian of Light. Totec uses the spear and shield (in addition to modern weaponry) and is the long-time protector of the artifact known as the Mirror of Smoke. Xolotl is the main enemy in the game, and has stolen the Mirror of Smoke in his efforts to bring back the return of an Age of Darkness and rule the world. Xolotl looks part human, part zombie, and part dog.
Visually, what has guided your work on the game?
We wanted to ensure that we achieved visual variety and drama. As the story progresses and Lara and Totec catch up to Xolotl and the Mirror of Smoke, the environments get progressively more and more sinister. We move from majestic temples at the beginning of the game through lush jungles, and then through increasingly challenging and dangerous environments. Colour and lighting is an area that we really pushed, and the variation and contrast in environments is definitely worth checking out. Because we were taking risks and trying new things in so many areas of the game, we decided to really push ourselves out of our comfort zone of realistic-looking environments and move towards more stylized and moody environments. Lastly, something that we were really excited about in the interior tomb levels was to push verticality. To do this, we have players start of the top of a level and wind their way down, or start at the bottom of a level and climb up through the level. This allowed us to include some really neat and dramatic vistas and we feel this is something that really sets our game apart when compared to other isometric games.
Lastly can we expect news on a new 'Tomb Raider' outing while Guardian of Light is en route?
I cannot comment on that-you will just need to watch this space.
Thanks for your time!