Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered (2024)

Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered (2024)

Remasters are a bit tricky, as they don’t really offer anything new besides a facelift on modern platforms, but the remastered collection of the first three Tomb Raider games also gave Lara not just a new coat of paint, but really captured the magic and interesting choices of what those games experimented with in the mid 90’s. I initially wasn’t really all that interested in the graphical overhaul, but after launching the game for the first time, I was transported back to a simpler time in gaming, and got to experience these games just like I felt like they were in my memory.

Tomb Raider 1

I actually never owned or played through Tomb Raider 1. My friend owned it on Playstation, but I didn’t get a Sony console until a bit later, so my only experience with the first outing Lara had was having my friend gush about it while I watched him play it when we would hang out at his house. It wasn’t till years later that I loaded it up on the PC via a Steam copy I got for like fifty cents on a Steam sale. I quickly remembered how I hated the tank controls and how obtuse some of the first few puzzles and platforming sections were.

Back in December of 2023, I was going through what I dubbed “Retro-Cember” which is a celebration of video games at the end of the year. I made a collections of videos on YouTube about memories I had, one video per day on a Playstation game. I did a video for Tomb Raider on the fifth day, and I ended up playing through the first couple levels as I captured footage for it. I had a good time but it did feel a bit rough still. Then I remembered they were making a new remastered version and I kinda got excited.

It also helped that in January I started taking streaming seriously as a side gig and couldn’t wait to make an event out of the new Tomb Raider Remastered collection. Once I loaded it up I couldn’t stop smiling at how much fun the game was. Going back and forth between the classic and new remastered graphics, and noticing how enjoyable the platforming and combat was. Even if a couple puzzles really confused me, it was rad being able to talk out loud to the chat and have a few people pop in to help me understand what the heck I was supposed to do.

Tomb Raider 1 also featured a emphasis on Egyptology and since I was always enraptured by the study of ancient Egypt I fell in love with the game. The beautiful upscaled hieroglyphics and iconography of the Sphinx and flowing sands… it all felt so perfectly crafted, like it was made just for me. I couldn’t have had a better time with the game, and having never really played the majority of the game, it instantly became a classic and one that I wish I could immediately wipe from my memory and replay again right away. A single nitpick or two is that while I loved the gameplay itself, the story really wasn’t existent and I mostly had no clue what Lara’s motivation for anything was. There are just a couple cutscenes through the entire game and most of it isn’t explained very well.

Tomb Raider 2

Tomb Raider 2 is where I actually came into the series. Our family just recently got a brand new Windows 95 PC and it had a CD-ROM drive in it and everything. Besides a couple shareware and demo discs, I ended up playing so many games on the PC that I ended up convincing my parents to let me buy the new Tomb Raider 2 game to play on it. Being a 12 year old boy, the gaming magazines did have a real influence on making Tomb Raider 2 appeal to me. I ended up playing through the game back then, but most of the memories faded away besides a couple parts in Italy and the Tibetan mountains.

As I played through the remastered version of the second game in the series, I realized that there was a much larger focus put onto the combat portion of the game. It felt like the producers said it “the focus groups say it needs more shooting” and the developers were forced to put in many more combat encounters and scale back on the puzzles. Which 12 year old me would have agreed with, but adult Ryan actually liked the more puzzle solving elements and I found myself really struggling with the combat in the much more confined areas the game contains. With the first game, every enemy encounter is in wide open spaces, but Tomb Raider 2 is much more closed off and claustrophobic.

I also had an extremely hard time with some of the level’s layout and design. This came to a head in the infamous “Shipwreck” section of the game. Lara ends up on the bottom of the ocean and has to find a way to survive, taking refuge in a sunken ocean liner. The labyrinthian layout not only confused me every step of the way, but a single puzzle took me over 2 hours to solve just because the camera angle didn’t allow me to see there were two sets of ladders. One going to an empty room, and another going to a lever to let water into a room, to let me continue exploring. It was my fault, but the design of the level and how cumbersome some puzzles were didn’t help matters. It was the first time in the entire series that I really questioned if I was just too stupid to continue playing or if it was bad design on the developers part.

Once I got through the Shipwreck part, it was mostly smooth sailing all the way to the end. The cutscenes were a bit better laid out and more of them with more dialogue. Maybe it’s just that I had such a long time with these games splitting it up into so many play sessions and playing other games on stream too, but again the storyline just kinda ended up being the weakest part of the game to me. And I adore story in games, it keeps me going to see where I end up next, it being so poorly done didn’t have a massive influence on my enjoyment of it. I still really liked the entire experience overall and couldn’t wait to jump right into the third game as soon as I was done.

Tomb Raider 3

When the third Tomb Raider game was released, I finally had a Playstation; so I ended up buying the third game in the series on Sony’s home console instead of the PC. Bouncing back to the Playstation graphics after having the PC version of 2, I do remember being a bit jarring, but I wanted to play it a bunch and I had the Playstation in my room and didn’t have to stop playing just because someone wanted to use the internet.

Tomb Raider 3 is also the game that I had very vague memories of stored in my mind. I didn’t really remember much besides a few key parts, like the Nevada desert area and some vehicle sections. So getting to this one was on the top of my gaming todo list in March. The start of the game just pushes you right into action and really does course correct on the presentation of the story. Multiple minutes of cutscenes not even featuring Lara right out of the gate, and making the scale of the game much grander because of it. Not only are the levels absolutely gorgeous and enemy types more varied, but the environments ramp up in complexity.

The Indian Jungle, filled with tigers and monkeys and snakes and piranhas are all just as deadly as a mercenary with a machine gun. Once I was out of the Jungle section, I was greeted with a globe that allowed me to pick a destination to travel to. I’m not sure exactly why this is, as I do have to finish each of the three locations before moving on to the last continent in the game. But being able to pick from playing London, Nevada or the South Pacific Islands is an interesting choice to give me. I ended up going to London first, then Nevada then South Pacific Islands in that order before I was able to move onto the last area of the game in Antarctica.

I must say the only parts of this game I remember are Nevada and the Minecart section of Antarctica. I’m guessing I ended up either using a guide and blowing past all the maze like sections of the game, or if I ended up using cheat codes to progress, because I have no recollection of most of the areas in the game. Either way, the levels felt much easier to navigate and the combat much more refined than in Tomb Raider 2 except for in a couple small sections. Each level had a small part that I did end up getting totally lost in and especially near the end of the game several very frustrating parts that caused me hours of just being baffled on where to go next.

I’d be doing injustice to my review if I didn’t bring up two of the worst parts of the game though. The kayak and the final boss. Both sapped around an hour each of my life. With the kayak, as cool of an idea as it was, it just controlled horribly. Lara’s forward momentum is not only stunted every time she switches sides to paddle, but the kayak also slightly turns each time, making going forward in a straight line impossible. It’s easier and faster to turn around and pedal where you want to go, backwards. Along with the current that fights against Lara, it was nearly impossible to go anywhere I wanted and ended up missing a few key parts (again why it took an hour to figure out I needed to go UP stream to progress)

And the final boss fight that broke in such a frustrating way that nearing the end of a 5 hour stream after a very long exhausting day,just broke me and nearly got me to rage quit the game. I’ll never like boss fights in games and this is one of the reasons why, respawning health, unavoidable one hit kills and just a generally bad hard to maneuver area just was the straw that broke the camel's back for me and really soured my enjoyment of the third game overall. Not to the point where I hate it, but close enough for me to never want to replay the game ever again.

The Total Package

Overall, the Tomb Raider 1-3 Remastered series was one of the best gaming purchases I’ve ever made. It gave me a nearly 100 hour experience and brought new people into the streaming channels that has led to some great conversations and newly made friends. Not only does it collect three games that are unbelievably fun together in a single package, it makes each game feel brand new and fun to play. The controls always felt responsive, and the locations and platforming brought me back to a time when gaming was still figuring things out and always felt new and exciting. I miss these types of games, we don’t get them anymore. Sure it’s because the success of these games spawned lots of clones in the genre but there is a reason Lara was such a gaming icon, and these games prove why. I hope that there is a remaster of the next few games in the series… I just don’t know if I can wait that long.