May 4, 2013

TOMB RAIDER Developers Scrap Alternate Ending. Which Do You Prefer?

SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't finished the new game, you may want to avoid this post and the comments for now.

In the 19th Crystal Habit Podcast, Community Manager Meagan Marie interviewed several of the developers about their favorite scenes from the game, Easter eggs, and more. At one point, Creative Director Noah Hughes described an alternate ending that didn't survive to the final cut. In this earlier ending, Sam didn't make it off the island alive. Rather than rescuing her friend, Lara chose to sacrifice her so the rest of the crew could escape. Quite a change from the heartwarming finale we all saw. According to Hughes,

"[The original ending] was a much bolder choice.... But where it felt unfair to the player was, they didn't ever have any chance of succeeding. It was basically a forced failure ending. We sacrificed the sense of victory for that impact. In the end, it was more impactful for the player to feel victorious than to have a darker closure to Lara's sacrifice lesson. I think enough people had died, on some level.... She had gone through everything she needed to, to move on to the next chapter.... Sam didn't need to die to get us what we wanted out of the story. The players felt better being able to 'win.' It's an interesting lesson in the rules of storytelling as they apply to the interactive medium. We really do have to be careful about the sense of winning and losing and making sure that we're not forcing failure upon the player in ways that don't feel unfair."

What do you think? Was this the right choice, allowing players to rescue Sam rather than sacrifice her? Which ending do you prefer, or would you rather have seen a different ending altogether? What about a choice within the game: rescue Sam or sacrifice her, with alternate finales based on the player's decision? Please comment below.

Follow this link to listen to the podcast or download a transcript. The section about the alternate ending starts at around 53:00.

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Sam and Lara. Screenshot courtesy of Katie's Tomb Raider Site.

54 comments:

  1. I enjoyed the game as is, but I would have much preferred the alternate ending. I think the writers set it up early on when Roth says, "Sometimes you've got to make sacrifices, Lara. You can't save everyone." She replies that she knows about sacrifice, but he corrects her: "No, you know about loss. Sacrifice is a choice you make. Loss is a choice made for you."

    Throughout the game—and even before, with the implied loss of her parents—Lara experiences a great deal of loss, but unless you figure in that alternate ending, she still isn't forced to make a significant sacrifice.

    I would respectfully disagree with Noah that the sacrifice ending forces failure on the player. On the contrary. If it were written and acted well, choosing to sacrifice Sam could have been even more emotional and empowering than the triumph of saving her. If that choice helped make Lara a more serious, conflicted, and complicated person, then that's the ending I'd have wanted. Sometimes heroes who are scarred, complicated, even flawed, are the most compelling.

    Don't be afraid to disagree with me, though. Tell me what you think and why.

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    1. I agree. I anticipated Sam dying the entire game and was sort of confused when she lived. Not that I was actively wishing death on her character, but I just figured it'd be the ultimate sacrifice that helped Lara become a tomb raider/survivor.

      I was surprised when she lived at the end, and it made me wonder if it was so she could be in future storylines.

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    2. agree!would've been more compelling that way

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    3. As an alternative ending I would agree with your reasoning and logic. However, I was content with the 'as is' ending in that Lara had said all along that she would always be there for Sam and would keep her safe from harm. I think Lara needed to be true to her word in the end for her own peace of mind and despite the odds.

      Perhaps a multi-scenario ending could have been written into the game.

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    4. I honestly thought Sam would die until I completed the game and realized that Roth's comments about sacrifice were somewhat wasted...though, to be fair, he did end up sacrificing himself to save Lara and this gave her a greater sense of purpose and greater determination to go and save the others.

      Personally, I agree with Greg's comment above and think a multi-scenario ending could have been a good option. I would have let Sam die simply because I found her a very weak and annoying character. Hopefully we won't see her in any future TR games..

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    5. This!

      It's not like we haven't left Lara marooned inside a collapsing pyramid before.. No winning. :)

      I generally don't think that cliffhangers is a bad idea to end a game in a series either (a series was the reason for the reboot, right.). Yes I'm thinking of the AC-series when I say cliffhangers..

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    6. I would've liked to have endings that differ based on the difficulty and/or completion percentage.

      I suppose developers don't do that as much these days because it causes sequels to be less congruous. *shrug*

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    7. but she DID sacrifice alex.. that was a free decision - even walking away from him when she was right there instead of "sacrifice per inaction" what would have been the case with the pilot when roth makes that claim

      so i think i can agree with the devs on "lara has gone thorugh everything she has to"

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    8. Anon, that's a good point about Alex, but I'm still not 100% convinced that was a choice, since really her only other option, since he was trapped, was to stay there and die with him. Point taken, though.

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    9. I agree, Stella. Not only did the writing lead up to this point, but take also into consideration that the writers claimed to that Lara was taking a darker, grittier road. Throughout the game I was expecting some kind of sacrifice I as a player would have to make. I thought they set that up quite nicely. Having Sam live destroyed my expectations, where forcing me to have to kill Sam or sacrifice Sam in some way would have lived up to the expectations they set up early on.

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    10. It's also worth noting that even after Alex's death, you read Hoshi's journal wherein she describes her own death, and Lara's reflection on this journal say "what choices will I be forced to make?" The entire dramaturgy of the piece points to Sam's death.

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    11. Good catch, Jonathan. I get the impression that Rhianna and the other writers did a really good job crafting a strong, coherent story and then had to quickly tack on a "happy" ending when the focus testers said, "Ooh! Too dark! Whaaah!"

      Of course she's much too professional to say anything about it. When I asked, her diplomatic reply was, "Both [endings] have their advantages & disadvantages. It's the old issue of balancing narrative needs & player needs."

      Here's the conversation, if you're interested:
      https://twitter.com/stellalune/status/331086080600322048

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    12. agreed there decision is understandble but feels forced , as is your left with a poorly handeled ending and missed plot oppertunities that could have really drove home the emotional impact of laras journey. too bad crystal dynamics isnt 2k, man that infinite ending now thats gonna stay with me for a while tomb raider not soo much, fun game nonetheless.

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    13. They could of had a timer in it so if you didn't get to here in time the ritual finishes, now that would be interesting to see, what would happen? would we have to fight Himiko/Sam or does Himiko/Sam allow Lara and her friends/crew to leave the island, that would be better as it would be a little bit more realistic as that ritual shouldn't of taken that long to finish.

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    14. Now that would have been cool. Also make for good replay value. Most people would probably fail the first time--especially if they tried finding all the collectibles--but then there'd be a compelling reason to replay.

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  2. I hated Sam through the whole game to be honest, the most annoying character ever. She even couldn't use that gun Lara gave her! What a waste of a human being lol so yeah, I wish the alternative ending was real

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  3. I agree with you, Stella. I would have preferred the alternate ending as well, because it seems more mature and realistic, in my opinion.

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  4. Lara did go through a great deal and even without Sam's sacrifice, it does make sense that it made her into the person she is later in her life (well as much sense as it can make considering she's fighting mummies and dinosaurs and ancient forces of evil). However, I do agree with you, she didn't really make any significant sacrifices, she just went through a lot of hardships, pain, shock and just general hell in a very short period of time and that is all.

    She was just doing her best to survive during the entire game.

    Then again, maybe a true sacrifice isn't necessary yet, perhaps it would have been too much considering everything she's been through, so it might be something she has yet to learn. She didn't become the later Lara right after that even, she must have grown through events that followed, and maybe learning the meaning of true sacrifice is something that came later on.

    But, it is Lara we're talking about so I wouldn't be surprised if she went shooting moving targets while backwards horseback riding through a jungle with a T-rex following close behind.

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  5. Right after she came back home, I mean.

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  6. I think that Lara sacrificing Sam for the others would have broadened her into the Tomb Raider that we know. Lara rarely worked with companions (Winston, of course, is an exception) so I think that if Sam had died, it would have made Lara stronger.

    In the final scene of Tomb Raider, however, Lara is further away from the rest of the Endurance crew. Rather than talking about, what seems to be "What they missed the most when they were away from home" to which Jonah says "Nice cold mango smoothies" and Reyes says "Alisha making me waffles before her ballet class", Lara wants to be on her own.

    I really hope that Lara is alone in her next adventure. Though it would be cool to see another co-op adventure like Guardian of Light.

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  7. I'm going to have to say the alternative one, with Sam's death. I love games which push that emotional barrier. Those games which have flawed characters who try to be but are unable to become superheroes.

    I have to admit that even if Sam did die, the most tramatic moment of the game for me would still be Roth's death. He was one of my favourite characters, sometimes even more so than Lara. I think if Roth's death was at the end, it would have had more of an impact to me, especially if he gave Lara the duel guns then.

    Although I do understand where Crystal is coming from. Lara was a superhero for a very long time, and if she wanted to do something or achieve something, that it would happen. I think if Sam died it might have been seen as Lara becoming less powerful or less than she was....It was a difficult choice.

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  8. I would've liked it if the sun queen had entered Sam's body and that she would have been the final villain. I think that would've been interesting.

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    1. That sounds very cool. Then not only would you have to sacrifice your best friend, but you'd actually have to fight her. Intense!

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    2. I totally wanted this, too, QuantumX! The actual ending reminded me a lot of Underworld's, which disappointed the heck out of me.

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    3. Yes! This was what I thought would happen. Even if say she found a way to still save Sam I'd have been ok with that but after the entire story played out the sun queen should have been the final boss. I had NO idea the Oni was it and I felt so cheated.

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  9. I did not expect Sam to die at the end, but I was certainly hoping for it. Conrad Roth lectures Lara at one point that she knows what loss is, but nothing about sacrifice - sacrifice being a choice, and loss being a choice made for you. I assumed this statement would be meaningful, but by the end of the game, I noticed that Lara never really had to make a real sacrifice. Sam lived and so did the rest of the survivors. I was disappointed and would have been much happier had Lara actually had to make an ultimate sacrifice, as it would have been truer to the message of the game.

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  10. I would vote for the alternate ending. I did not expect Sam to survive and was kinda surprised she did. I think if it was done right it would have brought us to the Lara we already knew. The Lara we know will not get close to anyone and does not have a best friend. Sam is portrayed in this game as being very close to Lara and since she survived she would still be her friend and confidant. Since we did not meet her until now, the loss of Sam, wether at her own hand or because she could not save her, would explain why Lara is so isolated, afraid to get close to people, and driven to save the world from weird spiritual beings and bad guys who use them for no good.

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  11. They probably changed it because Square Enix founded in Japan 2003 didn't like the negative way Sam the Japanese character ended. This was a great game for 2013 with a Japanese theme. Hope the next one is not set on a dirty grey slum island. I could not imagine this Lara in Croft Manor being tended to by Winston, and the former Lara would not be wading into polluted overflow spills such as the Shanty Town one. So many ew gross scenes!

    MJ Taylor, England.

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  12. I was expecting the dialogue about sacrifice to pay off but it never did. Would have preferred Sam dying. The whole 'damsel in distress' thing played out a little too straightforward. I would have liked a darker ending.

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  13. Yeah, I did find it a bit weird that there was no pay-off in the game that tied in to the "sacrifice" line.

    This said, I would have been quite bummed if having gone through all that, Lara then lost her friend as well, breaking her promise.

    I wasn't unhappy with the current ending. I do prefer it when Lara is a loner and I think her standing apart from the crew and muttering "I'm not going home" suggests she will be parting ways with Sam etc. and going the loner route from here onwards.

    As a sidenote, I have to say that I was expecting a completely different twist at the end. I thought there might have been some significance as to why Lara had to be hauled up on the altar alongside Sam when the latter was about to be sacrificed/burnt. When the flames were extinguished, I thought perhaps ultimately Lara was going to be revealed as the chosen one. Not Sam. And that the Queen wasn't necessarily going to be evil... But so much for that.

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  14. Oh, a second thought - if Lara went through that and didn't save Sam, there wouldn't have been a single person she successfully rescued. That would make her appear as one incompetent hero...

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  15. She would have chosen to let Sam die in order to stop Himiko and save everyone else. And it would play into another line: "There are no heroes. Only survivors." Also thematically it would tie her to Mathias, because both chose to sacrifice Sam for chance of survival.

    It would not be a failure because her choice would save her other friends and stop Himiko's threat.

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  16. SPOILER - DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED!

    The ending was very predictable and weak. Stabing a dead body to kill it'? Yeach. I would have preferred something more modern and open ended. The hero saves the damsel in distress has been done a few too many times. My two cents

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  17. i havent got the game yet, but i've seen some good reviews on the game so i'm changing coins and going to try the game. i could care less for spoilers at some point, as long as i get to play it at some point.
    :)

    P.S. how exactly is the gameplay of Guardian of Light? i've been really curious to try the game out.

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    1. Hey, cup. Long time no type. :) I loved Guardian of Light, but it's not every raider's cup of tea. Quite different from TR, except of course having Lara and lots of action, platforming, puzzles, and loot. ;) There are demos for most systems though--all the major ones anyway (PC, Xbox, PS3)--so you could try before you buy.

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  18. I think that if Sam died, the loss (yet another loss she experienced in the game) would have taken Lara to a much darker place at the end and given the series -- her adventures and legacy from that point on -- a more vengeful purpose. I'm not sure that should be what players are left with in terms of why Lara continues to go on adventuring. She needs some small victory; surviving alone isn't enough of one. Taking back power (saving her friends) is equally as important. However, I do agree that the idea of sacrifice wasn't taken far enough in the game. I'm just not sure the best method would be to end on it.

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  19. I would probably have preferred the alternate ending. I was really surprised at the end when she survived. The sun queen was entering her body for so long I was really hoping to get to fight her! I did really like how she acted towards the rest of the crew after everything was over though. Even though it's unlikely, I still hope that they reboot the Angel of Darkness trilogy like this in a future game and bring back Kurtis. Cause I love him. Just saying ;)

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  20. Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice!

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    1. "Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!" ;)

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  21. I like the game as is.

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  22. Overall the ending was poorly handled, I think. I think Lara should have saved Sam, as currently happened, but the way it was portrayed I fully expected Sam to be the Sun Queen at the end (clearly "uploading 99%" of a soul counts as 0%?) -- and that was the poorly handled part. It is now clear it was set up for the sacrifice ending, so now it makes sense (they changed it halfway through).

    Now, if Lara had interrupted the process early on she could have helped Sam fight of the part of Sun Queen that did enter her (and thus changing her), but it also could have been used to part these formerly close friend, and that would in itself have been a sacrifice -- not a choice by Lara, even if she did save the life of her friend, she still lost her.

    Either way, thanks for this website, just found it a few weeks ago, very nice one. :-)

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    1. Thanks, anon. Glad you like it. :) Interesting idea about the ending. That would have been interesting too--and certainly a way to bridge the gap between the 'rescue' and 'sacrifice' endings.

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  23. PSP Dave here! Loved this game a lot. I was apprehensive about getting it until I knew if they had changed the control schema. They wisely left it to a one stick control for the character. Also, as usual, an awesome walk through again Stella. Although I passed where you were at around the end of Shanty Town, it was nice to have the occasional hint with exclusive screenshots to help acclimate me to the game or get me unstuck, or through an impossible battle.

    As for the ending, I think it was perfect. A heroine or hero, is not a heroine or hero unless they save the person in distress at the end. I would have been irked to have battled my way all that way to the queen only to have Sam die at the last minute. That would have warranted the controller to be tossed to the floor and an exclamation of WTF! Besides, Sam had to live, as if the queen would have absorbed her soul, Laura and her remaining crew mates would have been stranded on the island for all of eternity.

    I do like QuantumX's idea though that the queen absorbed Sam's soul, and Laura had to fight her and kill her to free her friend and save her life.

    Dave

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  24. I really wish that what had happened was that Sam became the sacrifice and Himiko came back into power leading to another chapter of the game. I didn't think there were enough guardians nor was the final boss level at all difficult. Really disappointed as the rest of the game was so darn good and then, a what seemed to be, rushed ending with the weakest character staying alive without a scratch? No, she should have died. I wanted to see Himiko in power!

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    1. That's what I expected, actually - that Himiko would take over Sam, and Laura would have to then kill Sam in order to kill Himiko. I was sure that's where the ending was going, even to the point that when Laura is holding Sam and waiting for her to speak, I expected Sam to speak in a different voice and for the final battle to really start. I was surprised that it ended - and the lack of Sam speaking again after that made me wonder if they were going to use that in a sequel somehow.

      This ending worked, it really did. I had a nice warm fuzzy feeling that I'd saved the girl and won the day. But it wasn't the ending we were being set up for along the way, and it did feel like a minor surprise and letdown.

      And what was the deal with nobody getting out of the boat to help Laura with carrying Sam the last 20 yards?

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  25. Hey Stella, just wanted to thank you on your extremely detailed guides to all the games :3 lots a love :D

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    1. You're very welcome. I'm glad the site has been helpful. Did you play this new one and, if so, what did you think about the ending...and the rest of it, for that matter?

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  26. Personally i'm really glad the developers went a different route as that would've been a horrible way to end the game IMO, it would've REALLY pissed me off. I don't get really get all the hate for Sam, I found her pretty likeable and I think Lara sarcrificed more then enough already with the death of Roth and the others.

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  27. NOOOOO NOT SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!!! GET AWAY YOU BASTARDS!
    -
    Lara Croft

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  28. LAAAAARRRAAAA HELLLPPPPPP!!!!!! I THINK THEY ARE THE SOLARII!
    - SAM NISHIMURA

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  29. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umDr0mPuyQc
    -
    SAM NISHIMURA AND LARA CROFT

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    1. Hahaha! That's funny

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  30. I would have loved it if Sam had been sacrificed and you had to defeat Queen Himiko at her full strength, with Mathias surviving the ritual also and seeing what Himiko would actually do with the Solarii. I felt it was cut short, and perhaps it was the safer route with deadlines, time taken and trying not to spin off too far from logic as it already had. Personally I would have loved a showdown with the queen herself rather than just the Stormguard. Not having Himiko be a physical character felt like if Harry Potter series cut out the Voldemort reveal and they got him before he came back.

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