For a number of years Lara Croft was the hottest thing in the gaming industry, both literally and figuratively. Her curvaceous figure appealed to legions of male gamers, particular those in their teenage years, who didn’t seem to care that those famous mammaries were the result of a programming error that saw the dimensions increased by 150% of what they should be. Thankfully, the quality of the early Tomb Raider games meant that she managed to pull it off regardless.
Those first three games in particular were revolutionary for their time. The first offered a fully 3D world the likes of which was rare in any game during the early months of the PlayStation and Saturn era. The second smoothed over the rough edges and offered gamers bigger and better, while the wealth of environments and weapons made the third game a must-have. Things were going well for Lara Croft, as she became the face of the Lucozade soft drink in addition to having a movie made about.
However, the wheels were slowly starting to come off the franchise. Core Design were doing a pretty poor job of updating the main game engine that ran behind the games, which meant that they really started to show their age on a new generation of consoles. She was killed in The Last Revelation, with fifth game Chronicles being framed around flashbacks during her funeral.
Both did little to enhance the series, particularly with the lead character now being dead, but it was with 2003’s Angel of Darkness that seemed to have killed it off entirely. The game received the poorest critical response of any of Lara’s adventures and the public weren’t any kinder. Lara Croft’s flame had blazed brightly but it looked like it was finally snuffed out.
At least that was the story until 2006, when Core pitched an anniversary edition of the first game, which would be released alongside a new adventure developed by Crystal Dynamics. Unhappy with Core’s efforts, publishing house Eidos ended up kicking them off the project together and released Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider: Legend, which brought the series back to prominence. A new version of Anniversary and the later released Underworld helped the cause a little further, that Lara was still not the mainstream draw the she had been just a few years prior.
Flash forward to 2010 and Tomb Raider’s future was in flux again. Eidos was in the process of getting bought out by Square-Enix, meaning the future of some of its more famous franchises was no longer certain.
Thankfully for Lara fans, Square were all set to take advantage of the franchise and a successful 2010 reboot finally saw the series regaining the critical and commercial adulation that it had enjoyed more than a decade previous.
Today we find ourselves in a position where timed exclusivity of Rise of the Tomb Raider is being seen as a fairly large selling point for the Xbox One. With the reboot being so successful, you have to imagine that this can only mean good things for the series. She may have struggled and even died for a while, but Lara Croft is still a very important part of the fabric of modern gaming.
Lee Price is a freelance writer and general miscreant who enjoys video games, movies and making dreary situations better by adding copious amounts of alcohol. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_Lee2112 to read his random musings.