Tomb Raider’s second era is totally underrated
Tomb Raider legend screenshot

Today sees the tenth anniversary of the release of Tomb Raider: Legend, an oft-forgotten entry in the long running Tomb Raider series.

It’s often forgotten because it kicked off the ‘second era’ of the Tomb Raider franchise, a time which is seen by many as a low point for the franchise, removed from the classic PS1 games of yore and not in the same league as the contemporary reboots.

But far from it. In many ways Legend, Anniversary and Underworld are among the series’ best, straddling a divide between dated originals and divisive reboots.

Here’s why.

It’s the best puzzling of the Tomb Raider franchise

Tomb Raider Underworld screenshot

While the current ‘third era’ of Tomb Raider is no doubt the best for an all round, graphically pleasing blockbuster experience, for unadulterated puzzling it’s the second era for me.

It seems you are constantly trying to figure out your way to the top or bottom of some massive ancient structure, through some truly ingenious environmental puzzles designs that will have you guessing until a solution light bulbs into your head like a real revelation.

The recent Tomb Raider puzzles seemed to be comprised of one-step solutions which, while satisfying to finally solve, didn’t really go anywhere, and the original era’s technological limitations led to simpler brain teasers too.

It’s the best combat of the Tomb Raider franchise

Tomb Raider Underworld promotional artworkTomb Raider Underworld promotional artwork

While the Raider reboots’ combat is obviously the most exciting – with modern day features like destructible environments, ragdoll physics and particle effects really adding to the cinematic carnage – for pure satisfying gameplay you’ll want to dip into the mid-00s collection.

A simple lock-on mechanic keeps the action fast paced and easy to wrap your head around, and the maneuvers you can pull off remain slick and expressive.

There’s not as many games

Chalk it up to a lower financial return compared to the first era, or the inability to spark quite the popular culture frenzy that the original series of games managed, but there just isn’t as many games in the second era for you to plough through. And that’s actually a good thing.

Quality over quantity is the key here. You could easily blast through Lara’s oft-forgotten second carnation in a week – and have a damn good time doing it too – and considering all three have a subtle, though interesting, interweaving narrative, you’d be best advised to play them in order of release.

They were developed by the same people behind the newer Tomb Raider reboots

tomb raider anniversary screenshot

The last two Tomb Raider games received a great amount of critical appraise upon their releases in 2013 and 2015, and with good reason.

Reinventing the franchise for a new audience with a grittier feel, Crystal Dynamics delivered an origins story for Lara which felt natural and somewhat believable (if you can call surviving the elements with nearly zero training as believable).

Sure, the two ‘eras’ of games feel entirely different (the latter with a focus on combat and spectacle over puzzling), but there are still a lot of subtle similarities shared between them.

So if you are a fan of Lara’s latest adventures, give the slightly older ones a go to. Chances are you’ll enjoy them!

Lara’s the badass we know and love

Of course, 2013’s Tomb Raider took a much needed fresh approach to the story of Lara Croft, painting her not as a murderous killing machine, but as a naive and enthusiastic young archelogist finding her way through some pretty traumatic experiences.

Of course, by the time last year’s Rise of the Tomb Raider rolled around any form of lingering guilt left over from her first kill just two year’s prior had vanished, and she was offing goons with the kind of carefree abandonment we see in every other action franchise.

But badass Lara is the one we’d rather play as isn’t it? And the second era allows you to do just that.

They’re dirt cheap

In this economic climate, it’s always nice to find some new games you can play on the cheap. Picking up any of the new Tomb Raider reboot titles will set you back at least 30 quid, but you can pick up a Tomb Raider Trilogy pack of the three second era games for your console of choice for around a tenner!

Not a comment on the quality of the games themselves, but something that keeps the wallet happy is always preferable. Happy gaming!

More:

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Rise of the Tomb Raider: one of the best action games

How Lara Croft redefined the gaming landscape