The Tomb Raider Trilogy Review

tomb raider trilogy

I had forgotten that the Uncharted series was unoriginal until I returned to Lara Croft’s temple-trekking trio of games in HD, The Tomb Raider Trilogy. Uncharted 2 ushered in high-polish, interactive set pieces combining climbing challenges and agile gunplay; Tomb Raider thought of it.

Tomb Raider did not, however, do it. Competing mercenary archaeologists, a wide tour of global locales, complicated climbing, and physics-oriented puzzles that no ancient society had the technology to manufacture — all the Indiana Jones elements — are there, but as is often the case with nostalgia, the memory favorably tints the actual experience. So while I remembered fighting a T-Rex with twin pistols and winning, I forgot that it was too easy.

Tomb Raider Trilogy feels like a throwback pack since all three of its titles, Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: Underworld, follow the same basic formula as the original 1996 Tomb Raider on the PlayStation. Anniversary is even a direct remake of the original. Legend and Underworld are new adventures (2006 and 2008 respectively), made for current-generation systems, but some of the stodgy sensibilities of 90’s Lara creep their way into attempts at modernizing the series.


Legend represents the transition of the Tomb Raider series from original developer Core Design to its current owner Crystal Dynamics, and it shows. Blocky textures, glitchy ledges, and bland motorcycle gunfights dot Lara’s globetrotting expedition, featuring as many different levels as overtly sexualized outfits. Legend is a tribute to the series’ notable legacy and begins the story arch that spans the entire trilogy.


Though a remake of the 1996 title, Anniversary released a year after Legend in 2007. Within that year, Crystal Dynamics honed the craft of Croft, smoothing out the edges and recreating the original environments to high-definition standards. The plot diverts from the search for Lara’s mother to follow in her dad’s footsteps, but remains relevant to the larger story. Small touches show the evolution of current-gen Tomb Raider in Anniversary, like fully built levels dedicated solely to cutscenes and dynamic combat options that discourage the roll-shoot-roll tactic essential to previous titles.


Underworld is clean, cinematic, and matured. The learning gloves are off, replaced by light, leather gloves that preserve high-action while exploring the use of downtime. The combat, clambering, and puzzles all return, but bigger. Instead of meandering right into an inexplicably untouched ancient sanctuary, Lara dives through fathoms of ocean thick with predatory sharks. Flashback storytelling adds intrigue and the conclusion to Lara’s three-game mom search. The sonar map in the menu is nothing short of brilliant. The mechanics are tight and the aesthetics impress.

What doesn’t change from Legend to Anniversary to Underworld is the frustration. I blame Uncharted 2 and its ilk for going easy on gamers, shifting our expectations for leading camera angles and well-lit paths (or glaring, pop-up hints). Jumping inhuman lengths across pagodas no longer requires precision, just a vague show of intent. While this streamlines the experience and removes the "gamey" quality that retrying a ledge-leap for the sixth time implies, it removes the need for precision, or put another way, skill.

Tomb Raider Trilogy requires keen observation, quick reactions, and exact thumb movements, both to its credit and discredit. Some gamers may annoy quickly, unable to enjoy the supernatural cave-diving beyond the first tough gap. Those willing to battle the mechanics a bit will find a lot to love from both a nostalgic and critically modern point of view, and not to reiterate, it’s three full games for the price of one.

4 out of 5


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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