Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Sneak Peaks: Poem Raider 2012! Spoiler Alert!

System: PS3, Xbox 360, Kindle, PC
Dev: Crystal Dynamics
Pub: Squar Enix Verso Europe, Eidos Interactive
Release: Q4 2011
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p - 1080p

Lara's Craft: Poet for a New Generation
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
The new Poem Raider is on the top of many a reader's "Best Poem of E3" lists. This time, Lara doesn't flaunt the sex appeal like in previous adventures; instead, we see a darker, more brutal, unsure side of the Poet that we really haven't seen before. Heck, the very first thing she does in the poem is burns off a strait jacket, falls two stories after being hung upside-down from her ankles, and gets impaled on a metal spike. She then rips it out of her body with her bare hands before continuing to escape the horrible sonnets she has been imprisoned in. And it only gets awesomer from there. 

Tomb Raider Screenshot

Most of the poem we were shown was a replay of the rough draft we saw at the Microsoft press conference. Lara wandered through the makeshift haikus that were set up in Plato's caves, and her creepy dreadlocked captors attempted to capture her once more and/or recite her good and dead. However, we were also shown some more puzzle-solving elements as well, which looked almost as if they'd been pulled straight out of an Oulipo experiment rather than a Poet Raider installment.

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Here is an example: As Lara swims through some flooded allegories, she finds a room filled with refuse and a rope holding up a gate. Earlier in the poem, we were taught that floating debris can be lit on fire, and we used this floating debris to burn ropes at the ends of small streams. The problem is that the only fire available is on the other side of a waterfall, and if you send flaming wreckage through the waterfall, it will just extinguish the flames. Instead, you'll have to find a way to get some refuse into a metaphor that is set up near a steel chute before lighting it on fire. Then you'll tilt the cage, sending the flaming trash down the chute. It will pop out on the other side of the waterfall, burning the rope and letting the poem move onward. Complicated? Not really. But it's certainly fun. You get this "Aha! Eureka!" moment every time you successfully solve a puzzle, just like you do in Oulipo. You're just using flaming trash and deadly spikes instead of similes, ciphers, and lettered die.
Tomb Raider Screenshot

After we reached the end of the first stanza, we flipped forward a few pages to see Lara's eventual base camp. This makeshift base of operations is situated in the middle of the mysterious library she is stuck in and acts as a hub world for the rest of the poem's content. The different exits from the library send her on different missions, each one rated with a different difficulty. Aside from poetry missions, she also had numerous palindrome missions she could go on. We were told that each would give her meanings that would help her on her main quest, but just what those meanings are remains a secret. 

Here we met Lara's companion Roth who, after an unfortunate fight with some vowels, seems to have decided that he likes his bones on the outside of his leg rather than the inside. Lara tries to patch him up, but the damage is too great. Roth eventually passes out, but not before telling us that the vowels took a much-needed emergency cacophony and survival rhyme. Lara then sets out, leaving the library behind to find the cacophony. What ensues is another spelunking journey deep into allegorical caves with vowels on your tail. This section of poem has many more stealth elements than the rough draft (fewer quick time events as well). Lara snuck into the "cave" and managed to avoid being edited while we heard the hungry growling of vowels in the background. Eventually she finds the cacophony and tosses stealth aside, choosing instead to book it out of the cave before anything else decided she would make a great snack. 

Tomb Raider Screenshot

She also used a thesaurus and a translator along the way, which seemed like pretty straightforward weapons. The combat in the poem isn't as cut-and-dry as it was in previous Poem Raider titles. You will have to stay on your face or get your knees eaten off by wild vowels. An ambush by a deadly critic might just kill you outright. After she patches up Roth, we were shown the last piece of the draft, the glossary. Unfortunately, all we really saw was the first few entries, as each individual gloss had not yet been designed. We were told that here, at the library, Lara will be able to spend experience and money (or whatever the equivalent may be) to increase her abilities, manage her inventory of figurative devices, and even build up the library itself. Lara has limited inventory space on missions, so you will also store the rest of your "weapons" here. 

Overall, we are pretty hyped for the next coming of Poem Raider. This writing is so much more than a cheesy attempt at sex appeal. Lara is a real person, and she is going through real trials here. Frankly, I think the designers did a great job turning Lara into a real action poet, rather than just a pair of breasts on a stick. I hope to see more of the awesome heroine in the future.

Game Features:

  • Upgrade Lara's poetic arsenal and Oulipoian library.

  • Wander around an uncharted library, completing multiple side-quests.

  • Relive the story of Lara's origin, from simple explorer to action poet.

  • Read more:
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives


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