Now we’re on to the fourth game in the franchise, subtitled The Last Revelation. Egypt is up this time, forgoing the globetrotting adventure in favor of a more focused experience. The Last Revelation made for the most fun I’ve had in a Tomb Raider game since the first, and it all came together in the end to deliver a solid narrative experience and a nice capstone to what was supposed to be the end of the series. It’s an interesting story, one I hope you’ll enjoy. As always, this is an abbreviated version for print, and a full version is available on the Juniper Berry website.
Development for Last Revelation ran in parallel to TR3, and the toll of developing so many games had begun to catch up with the developers. The team was tired, both mentally and physically. They were pumping out sequel after sequel with no end in sight, and their publisher Eidos wanted to keep the series on that pace for as long as it could. Lara was still a big deal, and a movie was in the works around the release of Last Revelation.
After dozens of hours alternating between solitude and fighting enemies who want Lara dead, the first moments of Last Revelation served as an antithesis of what was Tomb Raider’s greatest strength in my mind. It’s a brief moment where the game felt much more modern in its design and presentation than its 1999 release date would imply.
Spikes…Why did it have to be Spikes…?
A young Lara’s mentor, Werner Von Croy, reluctantly agrees to take her away from her classes on an expedition to Angkor Wat. This serves as the game’s tutorial and does away with the mansion in favor of this more narratively cohesive approach. Von Croy guides Lara through a series of obstacles strewn about the temple. Lara can’t fight during these stages, so it’s up to her mentor to dispatch the wild boars pervading the temple.
Keep an eye out for the spikes in this area for the bones of another adventurer, arguably the only one more popular than Lara herself. I don’t recall seeing an easter egg this blatant in any of the prior games. If there was one, it was so tucked away I didn’t find it. But this skeleton, bearing a fedora and whip, was only barely hidden behind a pillar in the center of a room that needs to be traversed. It’s an odd placement for such an elbow-jab of a secret, and strangely early on, too. But Von Croy will trod along and encourage Lara to do the same.
Smaller and More Efficient
Levels used to be long, sprawling affairs taking over an hour for some of the more elaborate ones. To balance this, the previous games had a small handful of levels — a dozen or so each. Last Revelation has 35, plus an extra one I’ll get into a little later on. Each of these levels takes no more than thirty minutes or so to traverse. The catch is that handfuls of these levels link up with each other. Backtracking through these levels to find a puzzle item I might have missed proved tedious, and the urge to look up a guide was strong here. After a while I needed to change my mindsets to these levels. They’re no longer huge one-offs. To be more precise, they’re segmented chunks of a larger stage.
There’s a lot of back and forth in the game, and a whole lot of MacGuffins for Lara to find in a whole lot of tombs. The story, while well-told and presented through the slickest pre-rendered cutscenes in the franchise, fell just a little bit flat for me. Another ancient threat is awakened and it’s up to Lara to stop it once again. I feel like that’s the only scenario that’s happened in these games and that the student versus master side narrative isn’t quite enough to make me forget that it’s been the same plot in every game so far.
The ending, though, gave a good strong gut punch which I appreciated. The stones on the Core development team to put out the game with this finale must be admired. After sealing away the threat of the Big Bad Set, Lara escapes the pyramid she’s in. Von Croy, her friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend-again, meets her at the pyramid’s exit. As Lara tries to leave, a pit opens beneath, threatening to swallow her whole. He does his best to pull Lara up, but he can’t get to her in time. Rubble blocks off the entrance, sealing Lara in her final tomb. As somber strings begin to swell, Von Croy removes his hat and mourns the loss of his pupil.
As the adventuring reader should know, this death simply did not stick. Not counting spin-offs, there are eight games after this one, with at least one more in the works. The good folks at Core and Eidos would never let their cash cow die such an undignified (and unprofitable) death.
Not Quite Final Tomb
So, this isn’t the end for Lara, in both the franchise as a whole and even in Last Revelation itself. There was one lone level released as a promotion in conjunction with London newspaper the Times. This level provides an interesting background for the short burst of action ahead, with an editor of the paper asking Lara to go to Egypt and confirm whether excavations of King Tutankhamen’s tomb have resumed over 75 years later.
I actually liked this use of brand placement in this context. It’s feasible that Lara would get a hot tip from a newspaper, and that use of an actual outlet people would recognize adds a little more authenticity to the scenario. It’s at least better than Lara chugging energy drinks on TV. The level itself doesn’t do a whole lot different from the core games. There’s no elaborate game of Senet that takes place and the puzzles which do exist are fairly stock standard. It’s just another Tomb Raider level.
So, we leave it off here, with the most satisfying game I’ve played in the series so far and the dread that comes with thinking of Tomb Raider: Chronicles, the next game and the last for this generation of console hardware. It won’t be a fun experience, but it will certainly be an experience.