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Some spoilers for Shadow of the Tomb Raider plot and combat

Butch:

So did the bit in the mountain temple. You know, the bit where the entire narrative point was to say “Did we say the kid was kidnapped? Our bad. It’s the mother.”

Well….”did” is a stretch. “Completed” is more like it. Here’s why.

So there’s that bit there where you have to get to a gate and there’s all sorts of Qevin (sticking with it until the game is over) between you and it. Well, died, maybe, six times. Couldn’t figure out groups, wished I could whistle, got found when I was in cover but there were two dudes near me, etc. So eventually, after screwing up AGAIN I just decided to run like hell, find a place to get some cover that was a good point to shoot from, and do it the Uncharted way. So I ran, and I hit circle and I panicked and eventually said “High ground! I will get me some high ground!” and found a place to go up! UP I SAY!

And then, turns out that wasn’t high ground, no, that was where I had to be. And cutscene.

So the mighty battle that was designed never came to be. It was six times of Qevin winning a very short battle, and one time of Lara running like holy hell, getting to the top and somehow making Qevin disappear.

Now….bloggage.

I THOUGHT, last night, that today’s post was going to be me worrying that, as I didn’t really DO the fight, that I missed getting stuff. Like a shotgun. I’m still a little worried. Was there stuff in the aftermath of that fight?

But then I realized why the fight was so hard.

It was because I didn’t realize I had a ton of new skills that would have made it FAR easier.

Two, three guys clumped up over there? Yeah, I have flare rounds. Which I had totally forgotten about. Two guys near me when I’m in cover? Yeah, I have “chain takedown.” Which I had totally forgotten about. Those guys who got close with melee weapons? I have the thing where you can dodge counter. Which I had completely forgotten about. Had I REMEMBERED that shit, I might have done it on the first or second go, and done it how it was likely designed.

So that’s on me…..to a point.

We talked a bunch about how Mafia doled out skills and how we liked it. Here….Hmm. See, often when a game gives you a skill or an item, you use it right away. Get used to it. See if you like it. Here, the stuff that would have made this fight…well…work was stuff I got a long time ago. That’s especially true for magpies like us. I had NEVER used any of it! Shit, it had been so long since I had used ANYTHING in combat it took me a while to remember how to switch weapons, let alone do fancy stuff I had never done (I felt like there hadn’t been a fight in forever. Symptom of magpie.)

So on one hand I’m annoyed. I feel like, “Hey, thanks, game, for not teaching me or at least reminding me about those skills. Woulda been handy.” But on the other hand, I’m not sure I see a way around this problem. If you dole out skills in a non linear way (player choice, things that ONLY come from tombs, etc.), then it’s hard to plan a linear way to teach them.

Maybe they just allowed too much magpie. I feel like I had five or six skills in this fight that I didn’t have in the last big fight. That’s a ton. And why? Because there was so much opportunity to magpie, to get XP, to get tomb skills. And I took the opportunity. Maybe if they paced it so you really only had the chance to get, say, two or three new skills before the next fight it would have worked better.

But this kinda didn’t. And what’s really annoying isn’t so much that the frustration of dying happened. It’s, after going back over it in my head, it would have been REALLY cool and satisfying to play had I remembered all the creative ways I COULD have done it.

I’m not gonna replay it, because I’ve now hit a save point past it, so there’s that. But, I guess if you’re gonna be annoyed about something in a level, it’s not that bad of a criticism to say “Oh man, had I played it correctly, that would have been SOOOOO cool.”

I didn’t miss anything, did I?

Feminina:

You didn’t really miss anything. I died several times in that area too, but finally wound up scampering around ducking behind things enough to stay alive until I could kill everyone. Then I looted the bodies, searched the area. Got some loot. Pretty standard.

I agree that it seems like we’ve done, so far, A LOT more exploring/tomb raiding than we have combat. I was just thinking last night how long it had been since I’ve been in a fight. Several game sessions, anyway. And that’s fine, I like the exploring and the climby bits and the tombs, but then, as you say, when you DO get into a fight it’s kind of hard to remember all the things you’ve picked up recently that might help.

“Wait, a fight? How do I fight again?”

I also didn’t really think to use much of the stuff I’d learned since the last fight, although I did make some corpse-bombs. (You know, when you set a trap on a body.) LOVE the corpse bombs.

But take heart, you’re in for quite a bit of fighting in the next bit! Remember all the things you wanted to use in the last one and have them ready! Especially the corpse bombs. (Or whatever trick you particularly like. I suppose it doesn’t HAVE to be corpse bombs.)

And you have not missed the shotgun. It’s up ahead a bit. Have no fear: you’ll see it.

It’s also true that this disorientation is kind of on us as players–we’re the ones who decided to spend 10 game sessions poking around at every spot on the map instead of following up on the main objectives where the combat is. We could have charged straight ahead and kept our fingers in practice!

But in that case, we wouldn’t have half of these new things in the first place, and also, when are we SUPPOSED to do all that poking around (which they obviously want us to do–they didn’t hide documents and artifacts everywhere because they’re really hoping people will ignore them), if not in between story objectives?

So I guess it’s just kind of a hazard of the way the game is so split between combat/story and exploration/tomb raiding. I like both of those things. I want them both in the game. They do require a somewhat different mental approach, and maybe dealing with some lag time in making that transition is just what we need to deal with.

That or learn to pause the game when we see a fight ahead and take a moment to thoughtfully review all our equipment and moves, but whatever.

Butch:

“Wait, a fight?”

Dude that was so me last fight. And I’m still very much in Mafia mode. I tried many times to whistle and wound up switching weapons. Learn to whistle, Lara. It’s a thing.

Dude I don’t think I have corpse bombs! I GOTTA get corpse bombs! Those would have been so handy last night!

Now I’m thinking maybe I already DO have them and it’s another thing I forgot about. Cuz that’s the kind of skill I’d take….

Like we’re gonna pause thoughtfully.

I do want both things in the game, but that balance has been an issue since the first reboot. People were all “Where are the tombs? This is just an Uncharted game with Lara Croft! (which isn’t a bad thing but) Where are the tombs?” So they put in some tombs in Rise, and people were all like “Those were good tombs! MORE TOMBS!” So they did, and that seems to have tipped the balance.

It’s the problem we had with Mafia. Because it was a “mafia game” there had to be all this mafia stuff, even if it didn’t fit. Here, it’s “Tomb Raider,” which means “raid tombs.” The problem is that the original games were a LOOOOOONG time ago. They could be just some simple fighty and tombs and people wouldn’t be all “Why’d I pay 60 bucks for this?” Today, games are a different thing. There’s skills, and open worlds, and exploration, and story and cutscenes, and, if you insist on cramming all these tombs into that, something in the balance is gonna give. Either people will be bad at the reboot (WHERE’S THE TOMBS???? IT’S TOMB RAIDER!!!! ) or you encourage too much magpie.

Feminina:

You’re right: it’s a line that the game is trying to walk, being all packed full of fun tombs and puzzley goodies and big areas to explore, AND being a fast-paced adventure game. Somehow.

But honestly, I’m fine with it. I like both parts of the game. I don’t exactly wish there were fewer tombs in this one (yet). I’ve had fun with them. (Except when they have annoying wolves or annoying Spinny Giant Robots.)

It’s a switch to go from that to a session of fierce combat, yeah, but…that’s fine. I make the switch. And we always do have these experiences, though not necessarily in exactly this way, where we spend a bunch of time for a while just poking around and selling things and crafting or whatever, and then we spend a bunch of time just getting into fights. It’s how games play out, when they offer a combination of things.

And I don’t really want a game that doesn’t, because too much of anything risks becoming dull.

I mean, not necessarily. It always depends. There can be a good game with nothing but puzzles and exploration, with no combat…that was basically The Witness, or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, or Gone Home….

And of course there are lots of games that are just combat. An entire genre is dedicated to the concept! I don’t find those games appealing, I want some story, but plenty of people love them.

And then in the middle we’ve got our story/exploration/fighting/adventure games that try to do a little of everything, and sometimes do it better than others.