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Lara’s Shadow Developer Diary Gets Released March 5, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfangirl in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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A developer diary has been released for Lara’s Shadow.  You can find it on the official Tomb Raider site here.  A big thanks goes to adventurerLara for reporting it on Tomb Raider Forums.  The footage from the level looks great and does not seem to spoil any puzzles.

The Doppelganger will have greatly expanded physical capabilities and the level designers seem to have used this as an excuse to make much larger and more difficult levels, which sounds fantastic to me.  Plus, I’m pretty sure I saw her jump at least as far as Lara could in the first six games, so I’m psyched to have that back.  The melee combat looks interesting too.

As a Tomb Raider fan I have to give the obligatory complaint that the people mispronounced Lara’s name repeatedly throughout the developer diary, but in all honesty I don’t care about that as long as they deliver on the level design and gameplay, which so far it looks like they have.  We’ll find out for sure on March 10th, which is only a few days away  😀

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Lara’s Shadow gives you ability to use “Shadow Powers” and “Shadow Fire” February 28, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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The official site‘s just put up an update on Lara’s Shadow, the second of two 360-exclusive DLC for Underworld. From the sound and looks of it, the doppelganger will be packing more than the twin pistols and Lara’s 13-year old acrobatic skills.

Now you’ll be able to slow down time and “massively increase the speed and force of her devastating melee attacks.” Gunfight will be replaced with the “Shadow Fire” feature, which is basically a weapon with “speed, accuracy and impact” that “shatters impossibly dangerous enemies into pieces.” You’ll also be able to go to places “too dangerous” for Lara to ever reach using the doppelganger’s “Shadow Power”.

It’s sounding like the most un-Tomb Raider-ish iteration of the series ever to be conceived. Funny thing is, that’s what’s getting us hyped for it. More screenshots through the official site jump.

Be sure to drop by the 360 DLC news bundle page to brush up on the latest on Lara’s Shadow. TombRaiderFangirl’s Beneath the Ashes review can be read here.

Tomb Raider Fangirl Review: Beneath the Ashes (It’s Epic!) February 26, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfangirl in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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beneath-the-ashes-preview

I just finished playing Beneath the Ashes, which is the first downloadable expansion pack for Tomb Raider Underworld (the DLC is exclusive to Xbox 360, although the main game came out on several other platforms as well).  I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the level.  As a general warning to everyone, you MUST make a manual save if you want to turn the console off, otherwise it will not keep your place when you turn it back on (unlike the main game which made permanent autosaves).  I will now give a more detailed review, but I will refrain from spoiling the puzzles or the storyline.

The level does actually have a bit of a story which seems to be setting the stage for the upcoming DLC entitled Lara’s Shadow.  This second expansion level is due to be released on March 10th (I am looking forward to that even more now!).  Lara’s headset is back, which I am not too thrilled about as it completely ruined the atmosphere of Legend and greatly spoiled my enjoyment of that game, but it was not too bad in Beneath the Ashes.  There was a cutscene at the beginning of the level and one at the end, and the headset was only used twice in between that I remember (and only a few lines of dialogue each time at that) so the level was essentially silent except for the wonderful ambient noises.  The sound effects were brilliant and really enhanced the experience for me.

As for the graphics, I cannot give an honest review of that.  I have not yet set up my Xbox 360 to use a high definition monitor so I had to make do with a tiny 13″ standard definition TV set.  Beneath the Ashes looked great anyway (about the same as the main Underworld game looks on this TV set) but I am sure that my TV did not do it justice.  Additionally, the game was obviously designed for a much higher resolution as I had trouble reading the words on the screen.  To make them fully legible I had to fiddle with my TV settings so that everything was dim and nearly black and white.  This was only really necessary to read the journal that Lara’s father wrote (accessible via the PDA).  It is an interesting read and adds a bit to the feeling of the level, but unlike the Underworld Journal, the BtA Journal gives away hints and tells you what you will see in advance.  I suggest reading it at the end of the level as I did so that you get the full experience without the spoilers.

In any case, aside from reading the journal, I played the level with my TV set rather bright with maximum color saturation.  The level was quite beautiful this way, which I was not expecting given that it’s a dank stone dungeon.  The floor was slick with water and gave a faint iridescent shine of red and green.  The walls had bits of green moss growing on them.  There were faint hints of color all throughout the level.  Everything was eerily beautiful.  Combined with the ambient sound effects and overall lack of distracting dialogue, this provided a fantastic atmosphere which really absorbed me.  It brought me right back to one of my very first experiences playing Tomb Raider, which was the Tomb Raider 3 demo in the South Pacific in which you have to traverse a partially water-filled cave.  I can’t explain it in more detail, but the feeling of exploration was the same.

The level design was quite good.  I never got thoroughly lost, but still it was a lot of fun figuring out how to get through the areas and I loved the fact that I had to go back and forth between different areas.  For example, I was in one room with a giant waterwheel (which is completely different from the Wii version’s waterwheel room) and I saw a place I wanted to go but it was too high to reach.  I went on with the level in another direction and eventually I found myself back up where I had wanted to go before.  That’s the same sort of magic that made Palace Midas so wonderful in the original Tomb Raider game, to have that instant realization of familiarity and accomplishment when I realize that I have managed to get somewhere that was previously inaccessible.  This sort of level design is so much better to me than a more streamlined approach in which the player has to solve one room at a time and then never return.  I truly hope that Lara’s Shadow and future Tomb Raider games will take this more complex, intertwined approach to level design.

Concerning the puzzles, there were only a few challenges that I would really consider to be puzzles but they were incredibly clever and I really enjoyed them.  I am a little bitter that one of the puzzles was spoiled in the Developer Diary (and the launch trailer as well, although I did not watch that one until after I had won the level).  I know that puzzle would have taken me quite awhile to figure out on my own, but I instantly knew how to do it from the trailer.  However, the other puzzles were really good too so I am very relieved that they were not spoiled in anything that I saw prior to playing the level.

The combat was essentially identical to the combat in the main game (same guns and same abilities).  As in the main game, you get a choice of which secondary gun to take with you.  As for enemies, we get a new type of thrall which seems to be a Crusader knight, plus we see the return of the bats, small spiders, and giant albino spiders.  I have played the Wii version of Underworld more recently than the 360 version, so I found myself getting a little annoyed at some of the enemies as I would rather be left to explore in peace without distraction (the Wii version of the main game has far fewer enemies than the 360 version).  However, the combat wasn’t too much of a distraction overall.  It provided a bit of action to the level without being overly frustrating, so it was alright with me.  Plus, I loved making the small spiders scream…

As for a few other loose ends which may be interesting, the game has 125 points worth of achievements, which you get for completing the level and finding all secrets.  There are 28 artifacts and 1 relic.  I didn’t keep track of an exact play time, but the level took me several hours to win since I tried to explore every inch and I found the relic and all but two of the artifacts.  I discovered that if you start BtA over again after you win it, then it keeps track of all the secrets you found the first time.

There are also six new outfits that come with BtA.  There is the awesome Casual Explorer outfit which can be seen in the official screenshots and trailers (it has a blue shirt, brown pants, and boots).  There is also a gray version of Underworld’s main shorts outfit which is alright I guess, and then there are four bikinis which aren’t my style.  BtA also lets you choose from a few of Underworld’s main outfits, plus the free DLC outfits, in case you don’t like any of the new ones.

That pretty much wraps up my review for BtA.  I was thoroughly impressed by it and now I am really looking forward to Lara’s Shadow, which comes out in less than two weeks.  Before I had played BtA, I expected Lara’s Shadow to be better based purely upon the general information and the concept of each one.  Now, I’m not so sure.  I would love for Lara’s Shadow to be even better, but BtA set the bar rather high.  I am now expecting Lara’s Shadow to be completely different because of the new gameplay mechanics which are supposed to be in it, so I don’t even know if it will be possible to compare them.  Honestly though, it won’t matter as long as Lara’s Shadow is great in its own way.

Beneath the Ashes launch trailer tours you through Croft Manor underworld February 24, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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Videogamer has posted the exclusive first-release launch trailer of Beneath the Ashes, and Lara Croft seems to have quite a few things to say about the new artifact she’s about to uncover.

Ron Rosenberg, senior producer of Ashes, has told Eurogamer that Lara will be “sifting through the remains of her father’s secret study which contains information about a hazardous artifact he was safeguarding,” and our heroine seems intent to unearth the dangerous relic, as, in her words, “nothing stays buried forever.”

Lara will have to go through the deadly traps in daddy Croft’s study though, and by the looks of it, it won’t be an easy task. Make the Videogamer jump for the trailer in HD to see for yourself. The DLC’s now out and Live.

Lara’s Shadow to feature superhuman game mechanics February 24, 2009

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Eurogamer‘s scored an interview with Underworld DLC senior producer Ron Rosenberg.

He unveils new details about Lara’s Shadow, sharing that “the release is a great example of using DLC to innovate and try new ideas and I can’t wait to hear what the fans think of it,” and that the Doppelganger’s abilities “make the experience different than any other Tomb Raider game.”

Rosenberg also shares new details about the story of both DLCs as well as other juicy bits of the exclusive deal and the content and length of the add-ons.

Make the Eurogamer jump for the full interview. Also, check out Tomb Raider Chronicles for the latest screenshot release for Beneath the Ashes.

BTA Countdown: Albino arachnids lurk Croft crypt February 23, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfanboy in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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Still counting down to Beneath the Ashes. Yesterday’s screenshot showed a massive wheel mechanism in Lara’s basement, today’s show a massive spider lurking the depths of Lara’s manor. The DLC goes Live on February 24, by which time you’ll have the chance to shoot the arachnid to its death.

As always, you can hop on to Tomb Raider Chronicles for the full image.

360 achievements list suggests new combat system for Lara’s Shadow February 22, 2009

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It’s no secret that you will be playing as Lara’s doppelganger in Lara’s Shadow, the second of two downloadable content for the 360 version of Tomb Raider Underworld. We’ve seen her superjumping abilities in the full game and we’ve caught glimpse of her superfast hand-to-hand combat skills facing off with Lara in Croft Manor. Needless to say, fans have been wondering if they will be of any use in the actual downloadable add-on.

Well, we might just have the answer.

Jack Croft of Tomb Raider Forums has posted the Achievements list for Lara’s Shadow. What’s worthy of note is that you will be speed-running through a certain Transformer and a Refinery, earning you the “Right of Passage” and the “Refinery Speed Run” achievements respectively. But what really caught our attention is the “Shadow Combat Master” achievement, which becomes unlocked when you “complete the combat tutorial in Lara’s Shadow.

Make of that what you will, but we’re pretty sure we won’t just be using pistols and Lara’s high kicks in this shadowy excursion. We’ll find out for sure come March 10.

Countdown BTA screenshot shows massive wheel mechanism February 22, 2009

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As part of the four-day countdown to Beneath the Ashes (yesterday’s screen here), Keir Edmonds has released another screenshot of the 360-exclusive DLC, this time showing a massive wheel mechanism…in Lara’s basement. Raiding Croft Manor’s underworld should be an opportunity not too far away now, as the add-on goes Live on the 24th.

Tomb Raider Chronicles has the full image. Make the jump.

New Release Date Announced for Beneath the Ashes February 19, 2009

Posted by tombraiderfangirl in 360 DLC, Underworld.
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bta-pistols-cropped

Eidos employee Jason Walker announced on Tomb Raider Forums that Beneath the Ashes is now due for release on February 24th, which is next Tuesday.  There had been some trouble with Beneath the Ashes if a user downloaded the DLC then attempted to move the harddrive to another Xbox 360.  This is supposed to be allowed since the DLC should be associated with the Gamertag, not the console.  Consequently Microsoft required Eidos to fix the issue prior to allowing the DLC to be released.  Now the issue is fixed, so Microsoft has given a release date which seems to be final, assuming everything goes smoothly. 

Beneath the Ashes will be 948MB while Lara’s Shadow (still scheduled for March 10th) will be about 1.07GB.  There will be an update to Underworld that will fix several bugs in addition to allowing the DLC to work properly as an add-on.  Finally, there are still no plans to bring the DLC to other platforms.

It feels great to finally have a real release date for Beneath the Ashes after nearly two months of delays.  I am really looking forward to this and I will have to go out and buy some Microsoft Points before Tuesday.  Each DLC will cost 800 MP, so that’s a total of 1600 MP to buy both DLC’s.

Lara’s Shadow Packshot NOT Revealed — Update – it wasn’t genuine after all… February 11, 2009

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laras_shadow_cover

Update:  Justin now says it’s not genuine, so we will still have to wait to see what the real packshot for Lara’s Shadow looks like.  Too bad, this one is kinda nice.  Although honestly I’d rather see some in-game screenshots than a packshot, but even more than that I want to play the damned levels already 😀

KC Mraz reports on Tomb Raider Forums that the Spanish distributer for Eidos has revealed the packshot for Lara’s Shadow in the middle of a press release reporting the delay of Beneath the Ashes.  Justin confirms that the packshot is genuine. The press release also apparently says that Beneath the Ashes is delayed until March for a simultaneous release with Lara’s Shadow, but at present moment that is unconfirmed.

Gamestop had offered a token pack on their website awhile back which purported to contain cards that would allow the customer to download Beneath the Ashes and Lara’s Shadow when the levels were released.  The date kept getting pushed back, and now the token pack did not appear at all when I did a search for “Tomb Raider” on their main site.  Clicking on the direct product link from the forum post reveals that Gamestop is not bothering with a release date anymore and simply says that the product is “Currently Not Available Online.”

Oh well, this is disappointing but hopefully the levels will be fully polished and worth the wait once we finally get to play them.  In the meantime, the Doppelganger looks as awesome as ever, so it ought to be a great new experience to play as her with her inhuman abilities.