In honour of Tomb Raider’s 25th anniversary, and just in time for the spooky season, Square Enix has revealed some early development footage of a cancelled Tomb Raider horror game. Originally planned for a 2013 release, this game would eventually become the eponymously titled reboot that we’ve all come to know and some have come to love.
Personally, while I did find it difficult to look past the obvious similarities to Uncharted, I did still enjoy the 2013 Tomb Raider and its much grittier and cinematic take on the series. It was tense, and often brutal, but nevertheless a thrilling and fulfilling adventure. However, now seeing what the game could have so nearly become, I do find myself questioning whether the game we got was truly as good as I remember.
Don’t get me wrong, as shameless an Uncharted clone as the 2013 Tomb Raider was, it was still a very solid and enjoyable one, but now seeing footage of how terrifying the game could have been had it stayed as the horror game titled Tomb Raider Ascension, it’s hard to not now feel disappointed at the product we eventually got.
Instead of Tomb Raider meets Uncharted, we could have gotten Tomb Raider meets Silent Hill, and although i’m aware that gaming tastes are purely subjective from gamer to gamer…well, let’s just say I for one know which one I would have rather gotten.
Tomb Raider has always had a history of thrilling, tense, and monstrous moments, from battling a hydra in Tomb Raider Legend to fighting the hideous Abomination monster in Tomb Raider Anniversary. While the series has had its fair share of battling supernatural monsters and evil gangsters, it’s never steered fully into full-on fear-inducing horror…except for when it nearly did…
Given that the franchise is about raiding….well Tombs, it should probably come as a surprise that the series didn’t attempt the horror genre earlier, and more surprising still that it never let its one attempt see completion.
Ascension saw British explorer Lara Croft cast into the world of survival horror; roaming around underground caves, narrow watery tunnels, and misty fields, all the while fighting grotesque tentacled monstrosities. As seen through a recently released 7-minute gameplay video, Lara is seen fighting tree ogres, being chased by giant beasts, and setting ablaze to hordes of unnerving spindly creatures with fingers 17 times longer than the most expensive package at a nail salon.
The footage may only be pre-rendered, but the designs and eerie music are enough to give anyone a slight jump, and we honestly dread how endlessly frightening the full game could have been.
It’s also worth noting how interesting the gameplay looked, with scenes echoing that of Shadow of the Colossus with its open-world Horseback riding and enormous monsters to combat.
Other released videos included early concept art, which showcased other hideous-looking enemies and how the game seemingly revolved around Lara accompanying a young girl. Ico anyone?
So with interesting gameplay and frighting enemy design already laid out, what lead to the game’s cancellation? Well, according to Square Enix’s digital book Tomb Raider: The Final Hours, the game’s developer Crystal Dynamics, seemingly lost faith in the project after comparing it to Batman: Arkham Asylum, which resulted in them pivoting development towards the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot that we eventually got.
Personally, given how similar people noted 2013’s Tomb Raider to be to Uncharted, I fail to see how comparisons to Batman: Arkham Asylum was any solid excuse to cease development. From what we can see, the prototype footage shows real promise of a game that could genuinely have revitalized the Tomb Raider brand even more so than the successful 2013 reboot did.
With Halloween almost here, it seems that the real horror upon us is that Square decided to never let us enjoy this terrifying gem…