Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PAD #31: It Can't All Be Good

While I'm enjoying Tomb Raider over-all, I have to admit that I do have a few gripes.  I think most of them focus around the fact that the game tries to wear a face of "realism", but then so-much about the game feels "video-gamey", so to speak.  Here's an example; early in the game Lara realizes that she's going to need to get food somehow.  The game conveniently drops a Bow on you with plenty of arrows around, but I'm willing to chalk that up to luck, so whatever.  It then has you hunt a deer with the bow so that you can get used to aiming and firing it, but also so that Lara can get some meat from it.  Goal achieved, Lara now has food, and you learn that you get experience from harvesting them.  So at this point, rather than some form of hunger system, the game just has Lara waging this one-man war against all the fauna of the island.  It stems this somewhat by sometimes saying that an area is "hunted out", and you get minimal experience for killing animals in that area, but it often quickly forgets this and you go back to getting full experience for every kill.

Another example of what I mean is in the way that you have to do certain things.  Through-out the game, you find these storage nets that you can burn-down to find a crate that can be looted for "salvage" (which is used for upgrading weapons).  Why Lara feels the need to burn these down instead of using an arrowhead or her axe, two much more rational techniques, the game never really explains.  You burn them down because that's just how the game wants you to do it.  Then there's the village early in the game where you find these containers hanging just a little bit higher than Lara can reach.  To get these, you have to light the hanging sconces that are conveniently located right next to them, then use the rope arrow to get them swinging so that they swing up and ignite the nets.  Why Lara can't just get up on her toes and reach up with the torch that she usually uses is an issue that the game tactfully avoids.

Then there's some of the barriers.  Again, you would expect Lara to just use her prying axe that's been perfectly adequate for ripping doors open up until now, but instead for the sake of barring-off areas until you have the right tool, she just won't.  Rather, you need to use things like the rope arrows to shoot doors and pull them open, or the shotgun of all things to blast-down another type of barrier.  Granted in the latter case the barrier has barbed wire, but it still doesn't look like anything that should be too difficult to take down with her prying tool.  The game does sometimes place these barriers in areas that would be out of reach, so you NEED the range afforded, but that's a case of using level design to excuse otherwise arbitrary barriers.  When you first acquire both of the mentioned "keys" to their respective "doors", you're mostly using them against barriers where the axe would be fine, or you've even gone passed these barriers and need to backtrack and now need to backtrack now that you have the arbitrary key.

They feel like petty niggles, which is why I don't let them ruin the game for me (I did already say I'm enjoying the game), but when a game seems to be trying to go for a more realistic aesthetic with everything it does, it just makes these video-gamey barriers feel rather jarring in contrast.  It's like the developers are trying to have their cake and eat it too, and the resulting paradox just causes me to get pulled out of the experience.  Again though, I am enjoying the game on the whole.

Thanks for joining me on today's PAD, and I hope you see you come by again tomorrow.  Until then, game well.

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