Tomb Raider Chronicles (last updated 9 December 2007)
(This review, first posted 22 December 2000, is based on playing the complete, commercial release PC version in Virtual PC 2.1.3 Win98 with Voodoo2 graphics acceleration on my B&W G3/400 with MacOS 8.6! Of all the TR's I've played in VPC, TRC is probably the most stable! The gameplay in the Mac version is identical, and all these comments still apply.)
'Tomb Raider: Chronicles' is the fifth and latest adventure in the continuing story of Lara Croft, adventuress. It follows soon after the end of 'The Last Revelation', while Werner Von Croy is still searching for Lara in the collapsed tomb in Egypt. Meanwhile, Lara's friends gather after her memorial service to reminisce on four of her 'untold' adventures. Present are Lara's butler Winston, family friend Father Patrick, and 'Mr X' (possibly British secret service as his name is never mentioned, even in the storyboards...) They are awaiting news from Von Croy on Lara's fate.
TRC consists of those mini-adventures, set in Rome, Russia, Ireland, and the high-tech VCI Building. Each adventure takes place at a different time in Lara's life and is a complete game in itself. The action starts in the old city of Rome, and in the first level there is an area in a backstage warehouse where you can participate in some training.
Due to its structure of four short adventures TRC has something of the feel of a 'Gold' game, but don't get me wrong - that's not necessarily a bad thing! Even though there are only a total of 13 levels, by the time you complete the game it feels like a lot more due to the non-stop tension in the final adventure.
Each adventure has its own unique feel and weapons. In the Irish adventure we meet the young Lara from the TLR training again, with her only weapon her intellect, against a very spooky environment. In the VCI building she has only one weapon - a Heckler & Hoch silenced sniper rifle. Rome and Russia are more like the classic TR with the pistols and other additional weapons. Naturally the puzzles and trials are there in abundance as well, from a simple 'find the switch' to a devilishly difficult indoor target range which has to be beaten to access a secret.
The game uses the TLR style menus and inventory, so to those who've played TLR it will be familiar. The in-game inventory has an additional item - the Timex TMX watch - which keeps track of the game statistics. There are the usual goodies and secrets, but in the style of TR II the secrets are now artefacts in the form of Golden Roses and are included in the inventory, along with the number in the level (1 of 3 etc.) Most levels have three, with two exceptions which combine to make three.
Exploring the main menus, you'll also notice a 'Special Features' item in the 'Options' menu. These are four sets of images which are accessed one at a time by finding all 9 secrets in each adventure. The originals are 640x480, so it's best to view them with your game resolution set at 640x480. Also, they can only be viewed when you exit the game to the main menu, so you may need to load a savegame from after finding all 9 secrets in an adventure, then go back out to the main menu to view them. The sets which are available to view will be in white. (Check below for a neat Mac feature for viewing these and the Main Menu graphics without the text overlays!)
Interestingly, there is little new music in TRC, and no definitive theme as for previous TR's. One of the best aspects of TR has always been the quality of the music and sound effects, and this is continued, but I would have liked to hear a new title song rather than a re-hash of earlier music. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but the music has always been important to me (I still love the TR II theme tune :-)
New moves include tightrope walking, which is also used later for walking on a metal beam. Lara can also use horizontal bars to swing around in order to access areas, and this works well (the PC manual refers to them as 'parallel' bars but on the one occasion where there are two, they are far apart). The tightrope walking appears a bit contrived in the first level of the game, with ropes looking decidedly out of place, but this improves later. Another new innovation is a Grappling Gun in the final adventure, which has to be used to access a few places by placing a rope from which Lara can swing. And Lara can now exit a crawlspace by forward rolling, which both saves time and in at least one place saves her skin.
The final adventure also requires a lot of stealth, with Lara having to walk, crawl, stay out of sight, or put her weapon away to pass safely through some areas. Other new tactics include the disabling of some enemies with chloroform, and the use of a makeshift weapon like the crowbar as a club. However there is one thing late in the game which I found very disturbing - to find all the VCI secrets Lara has to shoot an unarmed and otherwise harmless opponent who begs for mercy. It's one thing to shoot a bad guy who is blazing away at you, but something entirely different to shoot a bad guy who is on his knees saying 'Don't shoot!' and who is not a threat (if you don't shoot him you still finish the game). I certainly hope that this concept isn't ever used again!
The gameplay is pretty much as we've come to know, with the necessity to solve puzzles, open doors, and generally spend lots of time searching and familiarising yourself with the areas. It is more linear than TLR, and thus more straightforward, but it's not necessarily easy. It was also very refreshing to play a set of levels with no weapons at all, having to avoid the dangers and traps. The bad guys are just as bad, and the worst of them are mechanical and require careful thought in order to defeat. The early levels are not so difficult, but it gets harder as you go, with the last three levels building to Expert rating.
TRC is designed around the TR: TLR game engine, with the extra enhancements mentioned above. It also includes a Level Editor - this is what the game designers used to build the levels, but tidied up for the retail market. See the 'TRLE' entry below for more details.
At a cursory glance it may be easy to label TRC as a bit of a stop-gap to keep interest up until the release of 'TR: Next Generation' sometime during 2001. The 'TR 4 Gold' feel might also give that impression, but looking back on the complete game, it's my belief that Core Design have done it again despite all the above. I was a little disappointed at first with the lack of difficulty but it certainly needs great skill and determination to complete. And the 'aftertaste' is great - it's a game I will definitely be playing several times to savour the full experience. Maybe it's not so much better than the previous games, but it is a lot of fun and is different enough to impress me. For an experienced classic-style TR fan like myself, it's definitely worth checking out and may even be one of the best! For someone new to TR, it may prove to be too difficult to finish - in that case I'd recommend starting earlier in the series and working through the games.
Note - The Mac version of Tomb Raider: Chronicles has a cool extra feature! When you're in the Main Menu screen, holding down the tilde (~) key hides the title overlay, giving you an unobstructed view of the cutscenes running behind.
And that's not all - a similar function can also be used when viewing the Special Features. These become available as you find all the secrets in each adventure - at the Main Menu, select Options, then Special Features, and those available are in white text. To view the Special Features without the text overlay, first open a set, hold down the tilde key, and press the right arrow key to advance to the next slide. The next slide will be clear of the text overlay! Note that you must keep the tilde key held down throughout the 'slide show' while you navigate back and forth through the slides.
For an even better view of the Special Features, switch your game resolution to 640x480 to match. Having done this, restart the game and load a savegame from after completing an adventure and finding all secrets, then return to the Main Menu and open the Special Features. The screenshot works here as well, if you'd like to save them.
Walkthroughs (last updated 9 December 2007)
These Walkthroughs and Tips are the result of my extensive experiences and have been carefully checked to give you the most direct routes. They give you enough information to complete each level, with hints or details about every pickup and Secret.
Look for the 'P' in these walks - it means there's something nearby. All the pickups I flag are gettable, but some are very hard! Search every corner of every area you enter, but get rid of any threats first. Please note that I don't generally include any pickups the bad guys might be carrying, so always check them out as well (they don't all carry goodies though...)
When you extract the download, if the walkthrough won't open in your browser automatically by clicking on it, then open it from within the browser, or Drag&Drop it onto your browser's icon!
The TR Chronicles download contains the following walkthroughs:
Tomb Raider Chronicles
Notes - TRC has fewer levels than previous TR's. They take place over four separate adventures set at different times and places, with a total of 13 levels.
I show pickups with a P, preceded by the total number. For example, 3P means a total of three pickups in the area. Secrets are Golden Roses, and I'll be calling them that throughout the game. Don't forget to check out the bad guys for stuff they might be carrying!
Credit to Tomb Raiders.com for the occasional hint where I needed it, particularly when VirtualPC tried my patience by crashing in some places that required a lot of investigation. Thanks Theresa :)
Hints and Tips
This Gameplay Tips download contains information on all versions of TR up to TR Chronicles, most of which is applicable to Mac, PC, and PlayStation!
Topics covered include the Weapons, Enemies, Moves, Vehicles, Bugs, and Cheats; as well as some Mac-specific information about watching the FMV's, and a neat way to see the TRC Main Menu Flyby and Special Features without that annoying text!
Downloads (Mac game only!) (last updated 9 December 2007)
Savegames should be dropped into the Save folder in your Tomb Raider folder. Don't forget to remove your own saves first, and keep them in a separate folder. If a ReadMe is included, check it so you know what to do. Note that you can use a maximum of 15 or 16 savegames in the Save folder at one time depending on the game.
All these savegames have every pickup and secret up to the point of the save!
tr5_levelsaves.zip (20k) This pack contains a savegame at the start of every one of the 13 levels in TR Chronicles, separated into the four adventures. Drop the savegames into your Save folder to play the level you want (remove your own saves first and place them in a safe storage folder).
tr5_02_boss_bugs.zip (11k) This pack contains savegames from level 2 'Trajan's Market' to get past two crashes experienced by a small number of Mac players. These are in the Floating Head room, and the Gladiator room near the end of the level, both of which can cause crashes, possibly as a result of graphics driver incompatibilities. Included are readmes for both these places.
tr5_03_gemstone2.zip (3k) This savegame is just after Lara has grabbed the second Gemstone piece from the retracting pedestal in level 3 'Colosseum'. Use this if you are unable to make the tricky running jumps required to reach the pedestal in time. Note that this savegame will only work in the full TR Chronicles install, not the demo!
tr5_09_lever2.zip (4k) This savegame is from just after passing (and not pulling) the second lever in level 9 'Labyrinth'. Note that pulling this lever in the v1.0 original release causes a crash. Use this if you have to backtrack too far to retrace your steps, after a crash caused by this lever lost your savegames. Otherwise, the solution to this bug is 'don't pull the lever', as it shouldn't be pulled anyway... (The TR Chronicles 1.0.2 updater should have fixed this bug.)
tr5_10_chalk.zip (4k) This savegame is from just after Lara has done the difficult second rope swing to reach the crawlspace leading to the Chalk in level 10 'Old Mill'. Use this if you can't make that jump from the rope to grab the edge of the crawlspace.
tr5_13_rangesaves.zip (5.5k) This is a pack of two savegames from the shooting ranges in level 13 'Red Alert!' - one is just before entering the second shooting range, and the other just after leaving it. Use whichever savegame is appropriate to your second shooting range problem. Check my Red Alert! walkthrough for more details of the shooting ranges - it's included with my TR Chronicles walkthrough download, linked from my Walkthroughs section above.
tr5_13_bugsaves.zip (10k) This is a pack of 5 savegames in the safe areas around the bugs in level 13 'Red Alert!'. Check my Red Alert! walkthrough for details of these bugs and the way to avoid them - it's included with my TR Chronicles walkthrough download, linked from my Walkthroughs section above. Use one of these savegames if you've fallen foul of the Red Alert! bugs and are unable to complete the game as a result.
Note that all these TR Chronicles savegame packs are also available from Stella's site as Binhex (.hqx) Mac archives if you have download problems here.
TRC 1.0.2 Updater (updated 1 September 2007)
As at September 2007 Aspyr Media no longer post the 1.0.2 updater, but it is available elsewhere. I don't have the bandwidth to post this updater, but it can be downloaded from Stella's TR Chronicles Downloads page (in the 'other patches' section).
Game Bugs (last updated 9 December 2007)
Note that the problems below with the TRC 1.0.1 updater should now have been addressed by the release of the 1.0.2 updater in September 2002! I've posted a link to the TRC 1.0.2 updater in the above Downloads section.
Problems using the rope swing near the leprechauns at the start of 'Old Mill' with the TRC 1.0.1 updater - (from Cekko) 'When I tried to jump and catch the rope (at the site in wich the two leprechauns are throwing stones to Lara) I encountered a quite big bug: Lara does not behave as expected, rendering the level unplayable. On the rope, Lara goes "offscreen" (let's say it this way!), and she cannot be controlled anymore. The level is somehow blocked! Then I tried (lucky intuition?) to use the "old" v 1.0 and it worked. I managed to use the rope and therefore to go further in the level.' Note - A new 1.0.2 updater has now been released - see the beginning of this TRC entry for more details.
Savegame bugs in the final
level, 'Red Alert!' - There are a series of
level-design savegame bugs in the second half of this level,
after Lara swings across the ruined stairwell to reach a
crawlspace on the far side. I've given full details in my
'Red Alert!' walkthrough, so check them out before
playing this section! These bugs are present in the PC
version as well, and are not a result of the Mac
Second lever in the rotating structures in 'Labyrinth' - There's a Mac bug which crashes the game if you pull the second lever you come to in the rotating structures. To continue the game, this lever shouldn't be pulled, so the fix for now is - don't pull it... Continue past this lever, across the next walkway, and up the spiral ramp in the next room. Find your way to the next rotating structure to reach the Bestiary book - picking this up opens the next door for you. For more details, see my Labyrinth walkthrough. Note - This bug has been addressed by the release of the Chronicles 1.0.2 updater (September 2002). See the beginning of this TRC entry for more details. (The earlier 1.0.1 updater was intended to address this problem, but was found to introduce some other bugs and was withdrawn.)
TRC Install problem in OS 8.6 - If you have a problem with the installer crashing in OS 8.6 with a type 3 error, or asking for CarbonLib when you already have it, go to Aspyr Media Support section for details of the fix (you need a specific version of CarbonLib).
Windows in level 1 'Streets of Rome' won't smash - The TR Chronicles 1.0.1 updater has introduced a bug, at least to the first level 'Streets of Rome', which stops Lara smashing some windows. This means that you can't progress any further through the level. If you find this problem here, or anywhere else in the game, replace the updated TRC 1.0.1 with the original 1.0 version. A new 1.0.2 updater has been released which solves this problem - see the beginning of this TRC entry for more details.
Lost savegames - this is not a bug, rather the way the game is designed. If you have been saving during play and TRC freezes, you are likely to lose all the saves made during the current session. If the game crashes to the desktop and the Mac is still functioning, then this shouldn't happen. The reason is that the savegames are only saved to RAM until you quit the game, then are written to the hard drive - a freeze will not allow this to happen, but a crash usually will. This also applies to screenshots taken during your current session. The fix is to quit out regularly to allow the games to be written to the hard drive. (This also happens with TR TLR, but I'm not sure about earlier games as they rarely freeze on me...)