Considering that Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris takes place almost exclusively in a series of Egyptian tombs, it’s more than a little amusing that here, of all places, the Tomb Raider moniker has been dropped from the title. And while it’s understandable that the developers didn’t want hapless consumers to mistake this isometric action and co-op puzzler as a canonical entry in the series, given the quality and charm, it’s safe to say that there are far worse “mistakes” one could make this holiday season. And to fans lamenting that its excellent 2010 predecessor Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was a one-off, Temple of Osiris comes as a veritable Christmas miracle.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Lara Croft franchise is the way it accommodates either on- or offline play, with each dungeon’s puzzles adapting to the number of players present (which has been increased from a maximum of two to four). With a group of friends, the game is blast, with Lara and her fellow archeologist Carter Bell using their grappling hooks to create temporary bridges for their partners, and the imprisoned gods Horus and Isis wielding a time-slowing staff and magical barrier that doubles as a platform for the others. If your preference is to shoot things, you can be the hero holding back the waves of skeletons and scarabs while your allies angle mirrors to reflect beams of purifying light or scramble to shift rolling balls atop pressure plates. If you happen to be stuck playing with malicious and random strangers who would rather spend their time blowing one another up, however, you can play the entire game alone as Lara, which is just as enjoyable, albeit a bit more time-consuming in boss fights and reliant on your ability to multitask.
In addition to the increased player count and the additional puzzle challenges that brings, Temple of Osiris introduces a system of controllable environmental effects. Over the course of the quest to resurrect Osiris and defeat Set, you’ll gain the ability to change the time from day to night and cycle through snow, rain, and clear weather. It’s a cool conceit, but these six combinations are used more to gate the four main environs of the temple’s outskirts than to hide any real Zelda-worthy secrets. The same can be said for the game’s new loot-based system: Rather than simply serving as score-based rewards, the gems in each level now serve to unlock treasure chests of varying value. This makes earning the more powerful Legendary and Epic weapons and the best status-boosting rings and amulets subject more to grinding the tombs and praying to the random-number-generating gods than as a reward of your skill at the optional challenges offered in each level. Community challenges only reinforce this misguided addition, as you’ll stumble upon better loot in a chest than by contributing to the world’s quest to kill 1,000,000 scarabs with bombs within a week.
Temple of Osiris is best when it remains focused on the action-oriented gameplay, shining brightest in boss battles that combine puzzles and gunplay. You must find a way, for instance, to feed time bombs to the giant crocodile god Sobek, and when facing off with the insect-like Khepri, you’ll have to maneuver atop a fiery ball, looking for the moment to strike. Even smaller encounters, such as the battle with a ghostly Pharaoh, have entire sections that are reliant on dodging spike traps as opposed to simply unloading an entire clip of ammunition. The one complaint is that Temple of Osiris clings too much to the middle ground between the two genres. Still, while the puzzles aren’t head-scratchers, and the fighting isn’t nail-biting, the game itself manages some couch-jumping moments. Here’s praying to those Egyptian gods for a third entry.