Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris: The Co-op Game that Hates Co-op

While playing Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris over the past week or so, our reviewer Jahanzeb Khan and I discovered an extremely troubling feature: Crystal Dynamics’ isometric call-back to the Tomb Raider games of yesteryear has been advertised as a cooperative adventure from moment one.  Sure, you can play through Lara’s Egyptian adventure alone, but this is an experience meant to be enjoyed with one to three other people. As our review noted, the fact that nearly every puzzle changes based upon the presence of other players is phenomenal and should, in theory, lend a significant amount of replay value to an admittedly short campaign. Unfortunately, if you’ve put any amount of time into Temple of Osiris, you’re forced to overwrite all of your progress before entering a new multiplayer game.

It’s fascinating to think about this phenomenon from an academic point of view. This is a current-generation exclusive; during E3, Crystal Dynamics claimed that Temple of Osiris couldn’t live up to its creative vision on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. You would think that such technologically advanced title would be able to support multiple save files. When that progress-erasing screen pops up, it immediately discourages you from playing with your friends.

TombraiderOST

In a generation increasingly focused on multiplayer gameplay, this is perhaps the biggest screw-you to single-player focused gamers yet. As a cantankerous misanthrope, I find the increased connectivity of this new generation alarming at best and obnoxious at worst. There are some multiplayer titles I find myself enjoying, such as The Last of Us‘ Factions mode and Halo‘s iconic matchmaking, but these tend to skew more towards the adversarial than the cooperative. If there’s an option to play something offline, like in Far Cry 4, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll check that box. There’s just something about having to accomplish a goal with someone else that cheapens the experience for me; it leaves you less than 100% responsible for your own fate. With all of this said, there was always something intriguing about how Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris geared its experience towards the specific number of players participating. I thought this would be the title that hooked me into the gripping world of co-op, but it does everything it can to push me out.

Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris is not a bad game, by any means. However, if you intend on playing it with others, you’d better hope that you can come up with a set playing schedule. If you’ve decided from the get-go that this is going to be a cooperative adventure, and you’ve done your due diligence in setting specific times in which you’ll tackle all of its labyrinthine tombs, you might find yourself quitting almost immediately. Why? Ball physics.

In one of the strangest design choices ever seen in a puzzle game, certain segments of Osiris require you to aimlessly bomb a large ball repeatedly in order to get it onto a higher ledge. The physics involved in these “puzzles” have little rhyme or reason, instead feeling like a dumb luck simulator (coming soon to an OUYA near you!). The first of these segments took me over 75 tries to complete, and the only reason I didn’t quit is my unwavering stubbornness. I couldn’t possibly imagine a group of four friends who gathered to play Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris over a few beers slogging through these obnoxious sections rather than doing literally anything else else. There are dozens of exciting couch co-op titles available to gamers these days, and most of them are more exciting than a hundred rounds of Reverse Egyptian Plinko.

This article isn’t meant to discourage you from playing Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. If anything, it’s a six-paragraph facade that I’ve crafted in order to write “Reverse Egyptian Plinko.” Those hoping to play Crystal Dynamics’ isometric puzzler/shooter should just go in prepared for the appearance of some incredibly anti-social features. Make your choice on how you’re going to play Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris from moment one; is it going to be a single-player adventure or a cooperative quest? Don’t expect to pop into a friend’s game to help him on a puzzle or boss, because coding more than one save file is apparently impossible