Thread: Make Lara Poor
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Old 15-09-19, 19:02   #1
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Default Make Lara Poor

This is just a thought experiment. Let's assume the following:

1. There's another reboot. I mean, why wouldn't there be? Not even Lara is enjoying these things.
2. We still insist on this nonsense that a Tomb Raider game must have a "story" and "relatable characters" and such things, even though all the great games with the Tomb Raider name had only the barest outlines of either.
3. We want to go back to raiding tombs and having adventures (but the bow or the shooting sections are entirely up for grabs).
4. We want it to be fun and lighthearted, going back to an adventure that is fun for everyone, including Lara.

The problem here is that the last two are kind of incompatible in the modern day and age, because as many people have pointed out, classic Lara Croft is kind of evil. She's not an archeologist, she's a thrill seeker going to foreign places, destroying most of their historical artefacts and taking the rest home to hide them in her basement. She does prevent the end of the world a couple of times along the way, but that seems to happen mostly by accident, and she usually inadvertently helped the villain cause it first anyway. This is not really a problem in the classic games, because the writing in those doesn't try to portray Lara as a good person, or as a bad person, or as a person at all. And obviously that's ideal for this franchise, but I guess we're not going to go back to those times ever again.

L/A/U tried to increase story focus but keep Lara the same, which just made that whole dilemma more visible and problematic. I'm still sad that I had to kill the Octopus at the start of Underworld. He didn't deserve Lara Croft happening to him.

The reboot games tried to tackle this problem pretty much the same way as AoD did, weirdly enough: By making it really clear that Lara Croft doesn't actually want to have this epic amazing adventure, and is very sad about all the awesome stuff she does. She just does it all because she's "got to" do it, even if the thing is clearly marked as an optional challenge tomb that she totally does not "have to" do. This just jettisons the whole "we're all having fun" aspect of the game. I hate that and I want it to go away.

There's no resolution here - as long as Lara Croft is rich. Lara Croft is the typical 19th century British explorer brought into the 1990s without thinking about it. She's entitled to do all the damage she does because, well, she's British and rich and that's what rich British people do. Also, she's opposed to the end of the world, which is the level the game's stories have to get to in order to give her any sort of moral high ground. There's a whole discussion to be had about how Lara Croft represents 100% standard colonial attitudes, but bringing that up would just give me another visit from the "political correctness is out of control police", who insist that we can't talk about these topics.

But here's the thing: We want Lara to be likeable and to have fun. We don't necessarily care if she's a bad person. Many fun video game protagonists are unrepentant bad people; thieves and murderers whose only saving grace is that at least their doing their crimes for an understandable reason, like clear their name or feed a starving family or something. Lara Croft, who is rich and does her crimes only because she'd be bored otherwise, doesn't have that. But if we take away her money and make stealing priceless artefacts her job, the whole situation changes immediately. Yes, she has no moral right to take that artefact, but she does it anyway because it gets money on the table and she's really good at it and enjoys it. She's still evil, but at least she's no longer chaotic evil, if you will.

This also immediately solves the age-old question of why Lara doesn't just bring all the guns from her previous game to her new one, or why she has to look money in the levels or similar. No, it's not a real problem, but it's still nice to have that loose end tied up.

It's a massive change in Lara's characterisation, of course, but in the reboot, the only thing the "she's from a rich family" part of her backstory has ever provided was daddy issues, and I don't really mind if we got rid of those.

I think what I'm describing might be similar to Uncharted. I wouldn't know, I've never played those games (I don't have a console and have no plans to ever buy one as long as there are still model railroad trains I could buy with the money instead). But either way, so what? People will keep making these comparisons anyway. Just make the gameplay fun and the level design amazing.
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