A follow up to 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris takes everything that made the original great and expands on it. As a fast-paced, isometric, twin-stick shooter, puzzle-platformer, there is a lot going on in the Lara Croft games to begin with, but where Guardian of Light let you solve puzzle-ridden tombs and shoot mystical baddies in the face with a friend, Temple of Osiris ups that number to three friends. And that four player chaos is right where Temple of Osiris shines its brightest.
The premise is simple. While exploring a tomb in Egypt, Lara races against another archeologist, Carter Bell, to reach an ancient artifact first. When they get there however, they are cursed by Set, who then begins to rise and bring all the havoc you’d expect from a god of the underworld. To help put him down you are then joined by the wife, Isis, and son, Horus, of Set’s greatest, but unfortunately dead and dismembered, enemy, Osiris.
The four of you then charge forth, working together to reassemble Osiris so he can go toe to toe with Set. And while that’s really all the narrative you get, it’s also really all the narrative you need. It’s clear from the very beginning that the focus of Temple of Osiris is on putting as few things as possible between you and just having a great time with your friends.
To that end, the multiplayer is online and local, allowing you and three others in the same room to plunder the treasures of Egypt with a convenient drop-in, drop-out system. With how few local multiplayer games are coming out on current-gen consoles, this one feature makes Temple of Osiris well worth your time.
Playing alone however, is still a completely viable option. While at times becoming a bit too easy, the puzzles and the environment as a whole shift in subtle ways depending on how many players are playing. If tackling a tomb alone, Lara is given the magical staff reserved in multiplayer for the two gods, granting her a set of abilities she wouldn’t otherwise have. This, paired with the puzzles restructuring in slight ways, allows a single person to achieve what it would have taken four people to do in multiplayer. While it is unfortunate, the complexity and sheer joy of conquering a puzzle that requires four people all to coordinate and work together is lost in single player, there is never a point where you are locked out of content due to lack of players.
That said, Temple of Osiris is very much meant to be played with people, as playing alone actually leads to a couple awkward moments. Lara still carries on conversations with, and shouts orders to, followers whether they are there or not. And upon entering a new tomb the other three characters are simply standing there at the entrance, where they will remain as you charge ahead. But don’t worry, they all reappear at the end as well.
Beyond the bump up to four players, the other biggest changes to Temple of Osiris from its predecessor revolve around the change to a single open-world hub layout and an accessory inventory system. Instead of levels you play through one after another, the layout for the game is based around the Temple of Osiris, for which the game is named, a good size area with multiple tombs laid out around it. Like each individual tomb, the open-world even has challenges and collectibles to find, making it fun to run around and explore, more so than it simply being a way to get from one tomb to another. This is made even better by Osiris’ universe-controlling machine that, regardless of questionable narrative explanation, gives the player the power to change day to night, and even change the weather from rainy, to frozen, or to sunny, each actually changing the map in certain ways, opening new areas, or even closing some off.
While making the game feel much more like a cohesive whole, instead of a series of video game levels, each one to be beaten before you can go on to the next, the open-world format has an added downside. Unfortunately, running through the same hub over and over, makes the game feel smaller than it actually is. Even as the game delivers a solid helping of content, the simple fact that you never go anywhere, that there is no actual journey you are going on, makes the game feel stunted in comparison to other adventure games of a comparable make-up.
In a similar way, the accessory system adds a new and fresh loot-grind characteristic to the game, but still has aspects that could be improved. Upon completing each tomb, finding a piece of Osiris, the player is dropped into a treasure room, filled with chests, each one opened by spending a certain number of the gems that you find in the world. Elevating the gems beyond a simple leaderboard score, the ability to spend them to open the chests gives an entirely new side to the gameplay, especially as you and friends race to claim them. Within the chests, players find rings and amulets, each with affects that add or subtract to your general stats. Some even only have the affect depending on if it is day or night, sunny, rainy, or cold, tying the system in with the weather machine quite nicely.
As for where the system falls apart however, even as it offers numerous ways to customize your character and compare your loot with other players, the inventory system is a complete wreck. There is no way to get rid of the rings and amulets you don’t want, of which there will be plenty. By the end of the game, if you open enough chests hoping to find something good, you will end up with pages upon pages of accessories, with no way to sort them, and nothing to do with the dozens of pieces just sitting there. Even a rudimentary salvaging and crafting system would have helped elevate the problem, but as it is, I found myself flipping through my entire inventory of things I knew I didn’t want, trying to find the one piece I did.
These complaints however, are entirely marginal in what is otherwise a great game. Nothing compares to the craziness of trying to solve a four-person puzzle, or a boss fight with all four players blasting away while the demons of the Egyptian underworld rain death down on you. These are the things that Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris excels at, and everything else aside, that’s where the fun is.