Monday, April 17, 2017

Uh-oh, someone's been feeding the bunny

Yesterday's plot bunny is getting fatter and more aggressive.

I diss on the Tomb Raider reboot but I do like the character and her arc. I just don't like what happened when the story was gamified. Not just the stock AAA elements and gameplay, the formulaic action, the ridiculous shoot-em-ups that help to make for a huge ludonarrative disconnect, but the way the other characters and plot threads and gimmicks are crammed in sideways, wrecking whatever narrative flow there is.

So, Endurance. There's a mystery, and it both starts on and involved the "Yamatai" expedition ship. Mystery shrouds the true purpose of the expedition, and its true backers.

And enter our young archaeology student. This is the "Nine Bells" Lara, only she didn't chose to work late nights at a pub because she refused her family's money. She doesn't have that family. There is no Lord Croft, no manor. She is on Endurance without that whole support structure, without a built-in best friend and a father-figure/mentor to sacrifice himself later and a puppy-dog geek and a Magical Polynesian waiting in the wings to join her.

Yes, not even Sam. She was roommates, but they never bonded. Captain Roth and First Mate Grim are distant authority figures, a closed masculine world that laughs off her fears when she dares try to express them. Reyes is their security, primed for violence, similarly unapproachable. And even Sam seems to be up in the First Class Cabins with the expedition heads (despite her lack of strong credentials) and thus similarly unapproachable.

The game, I remind you, got Lara out alone to struggle to survive, then suddenly paraded the rest of the cast by her before yanking them away again -- in hopes you'd care about them when they showed up a second time largely just in time to get killed off. Oh, and you might stumble across various diaries and so forth which expanded on their characters. Which sort of works for a game like Bioshock but is a pretty solid failure when, a) the people in question aren't (generally) deceased yet, and b) you are supposed to know them already and consider them friends!

In any case. In Endurance we'd discover these people tentatively, as Lara has to risk her trust on them based on far-from-satisfactory conversations. And get them to open up to her in turn. Possibly the ally she wins first is Alex, and that one is a mixed blessing.

And, no, not all of them are trustworthy. Grim, Roth and Reyes are definitely far enough outside the curve that it will take a strong shock to make them step back and rethink their life choices. And Whitman is completely across the line. If there is anything like the Himiko plot going on, he knows damned well what the Queen needs and pretty much brought Sam along for the sacrifice.

And as for the mystery? Well, it is probably Amanda's ship. Still. She's probably in uneasy partnership with Natla, with both looking for the best moment for betrayal. And only Amanda's incompetence (she's good, but she's not original-model Lara Croft) has kept Natla from gaining the full powers of the Scion.

Or perhaps another McGuffin. We're so off model already there's no use quibbling that it didn't work that way in the game. (One is reminded of L. Sprague DeCamp's comments about changing the gender, nationality, key dates, and other minor details and voila, the "real" King Arthur was obviously Cleopatra.)

(The comment was aimed at people who apply a similar surgery to Plato's Atlantis).

The bunny just fed again. Richard Croft -- as revealed in Tomb Raider: Underworld -- made a lot of progress in finding Mjolnir for Natla. So there's no problem at all with a Croft having worked for Natla and having left interesting clues around for our new protagonist to discover. Mansion included. Ah, but was there an original child of Richard and Amelia? What if she never left Nepal? What if, in fact, young Lara went to Avalon and a heartbroken Amelia had to struggle out of the mountains alone? And Richard dying in his attempts to find her instead? 

So now we have a mysterious figure who both aided and fought Natla, and a reclusive widow in a massive manor filled with dark secrets (seriously -- have you PLAYED that damned house?) 

The question is, of "our" Lara actually "that kind of a Croft?" Aka the original kid, thrust through time and space by the travel stones?

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