Tomb Raider Remastered I-II-III Review – Upgraded Treasures

Tomb Raider Remastered I-III Review 

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered by game developer Aspyr is a respectful upgrade to the original Tomb Raider games. The original Tomb Raider trilogy was the pinnacle of action-adventure, platforming games of the late 1990s. Before Uncharted, before the recent Tomb Raider games, there was the original Tomb Raider trilogy of games. The Tomb Raider games were the next step up from the traditional point-and-click Indiana Jones 2D adventures of the 1990s.

The remastered version of the Tomb Raider trilogy includes the secret levels and expansions for each game. So this package includes:

1) Tomb Raider I + the “Unfinished Business” Expansion

2) Tomb Raider II + the “Gold Mask” Expansion

3) Tomb Raider III + “The Lost Artifact” Expansion

Lara Croft is a name that is as synonymous with adventure as Indiana Jones and Nathan Drake. And all three have made the jump to the silver screen with varying degrees of success. The original Tomb Raider game landed in 1996 and was developed by Core Design. It received great aplomb for its then-innovative 3D graphics. Tomb Raider sold 7 million units worldwide and remained the best-selling title in the Tomb Raider franchise until the 2013 reboot.

Three Dimensional

The game was also praised for its controls and gameplay. The ability to move in three dimensions was a big breakthrough in video games. No longer trapped in one plane of a game world, Lara Croft could scale heights, which leads to more complex game mechanics. Exploration and game combat became both more challenging and engaging.

While the controls received praise for their time, they are definitely tied to the era of tank controls, which were the best solution possible for transitioning two-dimensional controls to handle an added dimension. Not only do tank controls make movement through three-dimensional environments clunky, but they affect combat too.

In the Tomb Raider games, Lara faces a variety of enemies, man and animal. However, while the game is rendered in three dimensions, Lara can only interact two dimensionally. This means that when you fire a gun at an enemy like a wolf or bear, your aim only matches the x and y axis. The enemy could be above or below you. As long as you aim where they are, regardless of vertical location, you will hit the target.

So with weapons drawn, Lara automatically locks onto targets. Weapons have infinite ammo and, when in use, prevent her from doing other actions that need the use of her hands. So she cannot interact with the environment to stop from falling or using switches to open doors, etc. The game handles verticality as an action. When Lara jumps or dives, the x and y axis reset to the new height once she lands.

New Graphics, Same Gameplay

Each game has Lara traveling around the world to exotic locations in search of treasure and artifacts. Each location contains secret areas that don’t affect the main quest, but usually provide Lara with perks. These games also include the now-familiar tropes of ancient legends tied to archaeological items such as masks, idols, goblets, etc.

The temptation to bring these games up to current-day standards of fully realized three-dimensional gaming must have been strong. Aspyr wisely chooses to leave the gameplay nearly untouched. The level design would need rework to handle such a change. They did change one aspect, though.

They allowed the option for a modern control scheme. Tank controls are a thing of the past. Once you have played games that allow you to control the camera, it’s very hard to go back. Recent remakes of the earlier Resident Evil games that made the same decision are a testament to including the option for modern controls.

Each of the three games includes Lara Croft’s mansion. The mansion does double duty as the training ground for the game mechanics. It is here you can practice Lara’s move set. There are areas for tumbling, jumping, climbing, swimming, and, of course, gunplay. If you venture here first, the scope of the remaster is revealed. You can see it in the graphics and experience it with different control schemes available.

Tomb Raider Environmental Upgrades

For the remastering itself, the graphical enhancements are most noticeable in the environments themselves. Sure the Lara model is updated, but it’s the details now revealed with the higher graphics and textures that really bring these games to life. The enhancement is easy to see in the comparison photos in this review. You can witness the difference on the fly in the game with a simple button press.

The remasters also include some other quality-of-life enhancements, such as a new photo mode, achievements, and a camera lock. Speaking of the camera, it remains an issue. Inherited from the original design, you will often find clipping to occur when Lara is in tight spaces.

These games are the intermediary step between 2D point-and-click games and today’s fully realized 3D games. There is a lot of pleasure to be derived from replaying these games with a fresh coat of graphical paint. The Tomb Raider and Uncharted games stand on the shoulders of this trilogy.

Tomb Raider I comes with the Unfinished Business expansion that adds four bonus levels in two extra chapters. In Tomb Raider II, the Golden Mask expansion adds five bonus levels in a separate mini-adventure. In the last game, Tomb Raider III, the Lost Artifact adds six bonus levels that add to the adventure.

Top Notch Trilogy

For veteran gamers, Tomb Raider Remastered I-III is a great time capsule of a very popular trilogy of games that moved the action/adventure genre forward. For recent gamers, this collection is an excellent way to experience the games that the modern action/adventure games of today evolved from.

You can consider this a true labor of love as Tomb Raider Remastered I-III starring Lara Croft will be fittingly available on all platforms on Valentine’s Day.

***Tomb Raider I II III Remastered PC code provided by the publisher.***

The Good

  • Respectful Graphical Upgrade
  • Tank Mode now an option
  • Environments look so much better

The Bad

  • Legacy camera issues persist
  • Legacy wonky weapon aiming persists