Written by  :  Jeanne (76593)
Written on  :  Jul 19, 2004
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars2.86 Stars

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Worth playing ... despite its flaws!

The Good

I finished playing Angel of Darkness only 5 minutes ago, and I must admit that I enjoyed quite a lot of it. I feel elated that I actually did it! And using a laptop keyboard no less! Don’t ask me how I managed it because I got so very frustrated and almost quit at least 4 times. Keep in mind that this is my very first Tomb Raider game and my inexperience with action games like this was probably the reason for my anguish!

I played the fully patched version of Angel of Darkness, remember, so I don’t know how many things were changed from the original release. That said, I agree with some of the comments made by other reviewers, but not all of them.

The story stands out as the best thing about AoD and what kept me playing. An evil man intends to reincarnate the only remaining member of an ancient and potentially deadly race (the angel of darkness, I presume). Of course, Lara is the only one who can stop that from happening. Although the plot is not new and has been used many times (in movies as well as games), it is still good and is told well in this game.

While graphics are nothing exceptional, and occasional programming and design glitches were noticed, I still thought they were nicely done overall – colorful, varied and interesting. Of course Lara looks good, but so do the other characters.

And speaking of the NPCs, there are plenty of them – and the actors do a fine job in portraying them – especially the actress who voiced Lara. I got a real feel for Lara’s personality from that voice and from the dialog written for her part. I was surprised how well the lip-syncing came off – very good indeed.

The musical score adds quite a lot to the mood of the moment and the game in general. Sound effects blend in and are appropriate to your location or the actions you are taking. (Lara’s screams as she plummeted to her death time after time will be remembered for a long while. Ha!)

As far as action elements go, I expected more tomb “raiding” and fighting off monsters –and while there was some of that, not nearly the hack and slash I thought it would be. Close-combat moves (supposedly introduced in this game), were great and stealth was fun to do. The majority of gameplay is spent jumping over bottomless pits to far-away platforms, climbing up ladders and walls and shimmying across ledges. “Adventure” type puzzles were more mechanical than anything else – pulling levers in a certain order, for instance. Lara’s “power-ups” were simply a means of stopping you from doing something too early until she became “stronger”.

The interface is fairly simple. A touch of the ESCape key puts you back at the main menu for saving, loading, options and exit. Pressing the TAB key accesses your weapons and items. Loading your weapons with ammo “manually” seemed like an unnecessary step to me, though. If you didn’t plan ahead, you could run out mid-fight! (Why not just equip the ammunition automatically?) Not counting the one Quick Save slot, there are only 14 save game slots, but I found that adequate. The only annoying part about the interface was when I chose to Exit – it asked me two times if I was sure!

I chose the full installation so I didn’t need either of the 2 discs in my drive while I played. Nice. AoD has a decent length and it took quite awhile for me to finish (especially with my fumbling fingers). And the end game sequence was great!

The Bad

Yes - the game has some bugs, and it even crashed to my desktop a few times on me. I was able to continue afterwards, though, so no big deal. (Sometimes I wished I had saved more often, but that’s not the game’s fault!)

Yes - Lara (and Kurtis) run too slowly, which is especially noticeable during one or two of the major fight sequences. “Running” actually starts out with a few walking steps before going into a sort of trot. Although Lara can eventually sprint faster, she must be running first.

Yes - the camera angles are weird at times, especially if you have no clue where you want to go.

In three of the “levels”, you get to play the part of Kurtis Trent, a street punk type of guy who becomes Lara’s ally. Rather than being an asset, though, he came off as the opposite – clunky, unattractive and, well, haphazard. I think they should have left him out completely – especially since Lara could have done all of what he did – even better. He has some “special abilities” and one great weapon, but you don’t control when those assets are used. Unfortunate.

Bosses are supposed to be the hardest, but because of your character’s movement deficiencies (mostly in running and dodging), at least one of them is nearly impossible to kill. (Even though there are PS2 cheats, too bad Eidos didn’t create any for the PC version. A god mode would have been a godsend, pardon the pun.)

Otherwise, it didn’t help that the manual was incomplete, as if it was printed before the interface design was finished. Some of the keyboard keys are not explained at all, or explained incompletely. There are dual uses for several of the keyboard keys of which there is no mention in the manual. (For instance, your Sprint key is used also for “looking around” (sort of a freeze camera), and the “duck down” key is used for exiting some special zoom-in and computer screens.) The manual also mentions an option to turn subtitles on or off. In my game, subtitles were set on permanently and nothing appeared in the options about them.

The Bottom Line

I can’t compare this Tomb Raider with others in the series, because this is my first one. If you’re like me, you’ll find the story engaging enough to hold your interest and keep playing. Alongside practice, patience, persistence and luck, thank the stars for walkthroughs and one saved game, which helped me tremendously, I’ll admit. (Kudos to you, Stella!)

As a game, Angel of Darkness (patched) has more good going for it than bad, in my opinion. It’s worth playing .. period.