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Tomb Raider III: Upping the Ante

This one was tough...

By Greg SeebregtsPublished 4 months ago 6 min read
Ah, India (MobyGames)

The first two Tomb Raider games were ridiculously successful and it wasn't long before the third entry in the series went into production. This game was well-received, but there were several criticisms to it which we'll get to in a bit.

A Shortened Development Cycle

Developers at Core Design initially wanted a 2-year development period, but the game's publisher - Eidos Interactive - insisted on having it done in one year instead in order to meet the high demand for a sequel from fans. Needless to say, the guys at Core weren't too happy about this.

A separate team of Core Design developers was subsequently pulled from other projects to work on the new Tomb Raider. Development started in December of 1997 alongside a major marketing campaign that included press tours with English model Nell McAndrew appearing in TV shows, on radio stations, and on various gaming magazines.

Tomb Raider III was released in Europe for PC and PlayStation on November 20, 1998. The game was released in North America four days later and was met with generally positive reviews - although, it didn't do as well as the first two games.

The Plot

The plot of Tomb Raider III follows Lara Croft as she travels the world looking for a set of meteorite artefacts at the request of a Scottish scientist. Of course, these aren't normal artefacts; they all have their own special powers - because of course, they do.

I know this isn't the best plot synopsis I've ever done, but there's not really much to say, so it'll have to do.

What Works?

Heading upriver (Universal Videogames List)

Okay, so...what works in Tomb Raider III?

Let's start off with the visuals. The graphics have received a noticeable upgrade from the previous titles. Lara doesn't look like a collection of shapes anymore - she looks more like a person.

The music and sound design are fantastic, providing and enhancing the game's atmosphere.

Puzzles have also seen a marked overhaul and are far more complicated than they were before. This makes the game more challenging in a lot of ways - sadly, not all of those are good ways.

You can also pick and choose which worlds you want to visit in whatever sequence you like...well...mostly.


The puzzle that almost broke me (GG.Deals)

I'm not usually one for ranting about a game. Sure, I'll talk about things I disliked, but I rarely go into this part of a review in a blind rage. What's that? You want me to rage? Okay, you asked for it.

I think I'll start off slowly, the difficulty curve here is non-existent. The first game threw you into the action and gradually upped the difficulty as you went along. Tomb Raider II's difficulty curve was still there - it was just much steeper, longer levels, tricky platforming, you get the idea. Now, we come to the third game and...wait...where's the difficulty curve? Oh, there isn't one.

Yup, you're pretty much thrown to the wolves and expected to work things out. Now, if you'd played the first two games already then I guess that's not a problem per-se, it just makes things harder. If experienced players struggled with this, just imagine how the newbies felt if this was their intro to the series...ouch.

Next, let's talk about the levels themselves. The levels in this game are LONG and labyrinthine. You will very likely either get lost, miss an item you need for progression or both. I'm not kidding about the missing items thing either, some of the items you need to get are in plain sight but they blend in so well and don't look interactable at all. This means that you will likely miss them because you don't realize that you can interact with them.

I hated the Antarctica bit (MobyGames)

Even picking up an item isn't a guarantee - because you still have to figure out where it goes! Seriously, if the player doesn't know what to do with an item, why is it there in the first place? I got so frustrated with this game that I called for help - SAVE ME STELLA FAIRY!

Yes, I paid a visit to Stella's Tomb Raider Site to read a GUIDE on how to FINISH a level! That's how frustrated I was, compounding my frustration was the fact that I didn't need a guide at all for the previous two titles. Unfortunately, even using a guide, you can miss things and make the backtracking even more tedious.

All this has a rather unfortunate effect on the player. Before, when the end-level score card came up, you felt good. There was a sense of accomplishment to go with the relief and the slight adrenalin buzz.'re just relieved, but not in a good way it's more of a relief that the level is over; there isn't really a sense of accomplishment to go with it which is rather sad.

A Brief Survival Guide for Tomb Raider III

Okay, so assuming you haven't played this one yet, I thought I'd put together a few tips for you. These should help, I hope, with your playthroughs.


The level select screen is a trap in its own right. Once the opening levels in India are complete, you're presented with a globe with little blinking dots that symbolize that part of the game. In theory, this means each playthrough can be vastly different...I say in theory because you will seriously handicap yourself by doing anything other than the Nevada section first.

Why? Because Lara is captured and has most of her gear swiped - oh, and here's the best part; you don't get it all back! So, your grenade launcher, rocket launcher, MP5, and all Medkits and ammo, are gone and you only get - maybe - a fraction of it all back.

Pick up and Horde Heavy Ammunition

Ideally, you should ONLY use your pistols for the minor combat and save the big guns (grenades, rockets, MP5, etc. ) for the final boss battle of the game. If you see ammunition for those heavier weapons, grab it and horde as much of it as you can because you're going to need all the fire power you can get.

Multiple Saves are a Good Idea and Guides are Friends

It's very easy to lose save files - ask me, I did it multiple times - so having more than one save file is a huge advantage. Also, guides are friends - especially with this game - so don't be afraid to consult one if needed.

So, what's the Final Verdict?

Tomb Raider III is tough, and it's got a lot going for it. Unfortunately, it's also got a lot going against it - more so than the previous two games. The levels are expansive which is often a good thing, but with the lack of objective conveyance, that expansiveness just makes it a frustrating game to play.

With that said, once you get into the groove of things, it's not so bad - it's only the later levels in Antarctica that will really test your patience. February 14, 2024 is the scheduled release date for a remastered collection of the first three games, hopefully the remasters will tweak a few things and give the game a much-needed polish.

So...a good game that could've been so much better. Of course, surely the next game will be better. Right? ....Guys? Right?

puzzlepcaction adventure

About the Creator

Greg Seebregts

I'm a South African writer, blogger and English tutor; I've published 1 novel and am working on publishing a 2nd. I also write reviews on whatever interests me. I have a YouTube Channel as well where I review books, and manga and so on.

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  • K. Kocheryan4 months ago

    Bro, your image of the game for the article unlocked a core memory of me playing this game as a child and never being able to beat it.

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