The most enjoyable Tomb Raider experience since the original.

User Rating: 9 | Tomb Raider Chronicles PC
Tomb Raider: Chronicles isn't widely regarded as a classic. In fact, it got mostly lukewarm reviews along with a decent, but not spectacular, fan reception. Personally, I can't see why. Having played every Tomb Raider game since the original, I found Chronicles to be the most enjoyable game since that old classic. It may not have been a revolutionary step forward in the series, and it may also have been a tad too short, but the 4 mini-stories in Chronicles are all terrificly constructed and very well executed, and end up providing 4 unique and very cohesive gameplay experiences.

Chronicles doesn't necessary follow the story from Last Revelation (where Lara was thought to have died), but rather dwells on Lara's past adventures, as several friends of Lara sit down to pay a tribute to their presumable deceased friend. The 4 stories in Chronicles are very varied, starting in Rome (with a visit from some old foes), going to Russia, where you infiltrate a base and later attempt to escape from a sinking submarine (my favorite level in the game), later moving on to Ireland (where we get to play as the very cute teenage Lara), and finishing with an encounter in a high-tech facility with Lara's mentor/enemy, Werner Von Croy. All 4 chapters succeed in delivering immersive game worlds and the stories are all very interesting as well as easy to follow.

In fact, I'd say that one of Chronicles biggest strengths is, ironically, it's length. Previous Tomb Raider games have felt a bit too long, making it somewhat hard to keep up the tempo of the story, as well as including a lot of "filler" levels, which while not necessarily bad levels, weren't on par with the rest of the game in terms of quality and ended up breaking the pace of the game. The 13 levels in Chronicles are all very memorable and they never take you out of the context of the stories. In the end this contributes to a much more cohesive and enjoyable experience.

The gameplay in Tomb Raider: Chronicles hasn't evolved much from previous games, but it's still as enjoyable as ever. There a few twists, such as new moves for Lara, a couple of new weapons and gadgets, and different ways to interact with the game world. Chronicles feels like classic Tomb Raider, and that's certainly a good thing.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Chronicles, while certainly a hard game overall, feels much more manageable than previous games. It still requires some clever thinking, but the answer to the puzzles is usually just a few steps away, whereas in previous games, a strategy guide had to hold your hand while you played the game.

Chronicles does have a few significant faults, and pretty much all of them reside in the game's final level. This level is littered with bugs, nasty bugs, the kind that will prevent you from finishing the game. Having heard all the warnings, I played that level with a strategy guide by my side that pointed out all the potential bugs. I managed to finish the level avoiding all the bugs, but being forced to play in such a cautionary mode really hampered the experience.

Also, the ending itself is quite underwhelming. Bugs, aside, the final level is very challenging and it seems to be setting up the stage for a spectacular ending, but Lara's actual exit is relatively insipid. The stage was set for a grand finale, but it never materialized. It's my view that the Sinking Sub level would've made for a much more appropiate ending, being that it was a highly challenging level that did provide a climatic closure.

But those issues are relatively minor once you take the whole experience into context. The success of Chronicles lies in how well it manages to tell it's story (or stories), something were previous Tomb Raider games had struggled a bit, as well as delivering a much more accessible and playable experience. It's not a revolutionary game by any means, but for me at least, it was the most fun I had playing a Tomb Raider game since the original.