Senior Designer Will Kerslake and Senior Community Manager Meagan Marie introduced a series of gameplay demos shown earlier this month at Gamescom, then answered our questions—with technical and moral support from Associate Community Specialist Robin Huey. We were not allowed to record the stream but I've included the demo video and the new "Blood Ties" trailer below.
In case you missed the announcement back in July, Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration will be released for PlayStation 4 on October 11. The new DLC will be available (separately and as part of the Season Pass) for PC and Xbox One players who already own the game. Check this post for details. Pre-order through Amazon or Amazon UK.
= = = = = WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! = = = = =
Recapping this afternoon's livestream, first up was a sequence from the main game titled "Thin Ice," in which Lara makes a daring escape at one point during the main story.
Next, we saw scenes from the "Blood Ties" story DLC set in Croft Manor. A third segment featured "Lara's Nightmare," the second part of the Croft Manor DLC, in which Lara takes on hordes of zombies invading her ancestral home in a scenario straight out of a bad dream. Finally, an extended segment of the upcoming Co-op Endurance Mode was shown. (This is not included in the Gamescom demo, but you can see some of it in this video from IGN.)
Meagan and Will answered questions between each segment. Since we were not permitted to record the session, I can't provide a transcript, and I apologize for any errors I may have made while taking notes.
0:00 - "Thin Ice" action sequence from the main campaign
03:35 - "Blood Ties" Croft Manor story DLC
08:40 - "Lara's Nightmare" Croft Manor expedition DLC
20 YEAR CELEBRATION (General)
When asked what part of the new game they are proudest of, Meagan mentioned the nostalgia factor—things like classic Lara skins, Easter eggs, and other tributes to the previous games. Will said he was excited that Rise of the Tomb Raider offers a much bigger, more complicated game (building on the foundation laid in the reboot), and that it's great that the developers were able to expand into new areas, including procedurally generated content like the Cold Darkness and Lara's Nightmare DLC. Both also mentioned TIME magazine's inclusion of Rise of the Tomb Raider #18 in their 50 Best Videogames of All Time.
One webmaster asked how they decided which classic skins to use in 20 Year Celebration release, Meagan explained that after researching and writing the 20 Years of Tomb Raider book, she brought a bunch of suggestions to the team. They ultimately decided on Lara's Home outfit from TR1, the classic outfit with long braid from TR2, plus a few fan favorites: the TR2 bomber jacket, the catsuit, and of course one from Angel of Darkness.
Will elaborated on the new Extreme Survivor difficulty mode, explaining that it takes all the elements of Survivor (auto-aim and health regeneration disabled, tougher enemies, etc.) and removes all checkpoints. Players can only save by finding and lighting base camps.
Meagan mentioned that Arabic localization (subtitles but unfortunately not voiceover) will be added in the 20 Year Celebration edition.
In the PS4 version, all content will be included on the disk. PC/Xbox One will need to download the DLC, which will be included with the season pass but also available separately.
BLOOD TIES (Croft Manor Story DLC)
Includes approximately 1 hour of new content—more if you are a typical hardcore Tomb Raider fan who enjoys exploring thoroughly and examining every object. ;)
Will likened this DLC to an adventure game. There are lots of documents and relics you can piece together to solve puzzles.
Both Will and Meagan agreed that one of the best new features of Blood Ties is PlayStation VR support. Will explained a bit about how virtual reality is implemented. The game takes the usual third-person view when playing the manor DLC without VR, but it shifts to first-person in VR mode. "You can teleport from place to place," Will explained, but once you're in a room, "with VR you can walk around in your living room in order to explore the virtual space. The more you can move, the more you feel connected to that other world." Meagan said fans in Spain who tried the demo had a blast exploring and inspecting all the details of the manor.
Several of us were concerned about the user-friendliness of the PS VR rig for players who wear glasses, but both Meg and Will said so far it has not been a problem. Will encouraged people to try a demo—which should be widely available at game stores once PlayStation VR launches—before committing.
As you'll see if you watch the video, Blood Ties includes some flashback sequences, including conversations between young Lara and her father in voiceover.
Logistically Croft Manor fits between Syria and Siberia. As you play through the game, once you finish the Syria level, the manor will then unlock and you can explore it any time after that. If you miss any collectibles, you will be able to return, as you do in other levels, and when you finish the main campaign story, a few new things are added to the manor to be found.
My fellow webmasters noticed a number of similarities and differences between the new iteration of Croft Manor and the classic versions. Will explained that, yes, the manor is dilapidated but Lara is going to try to win it back and make it her own.
Asked about the possibility of Easter eggs, secrets, and throwbacks to the classics? Meg and Will both gave an enthusiastic YES to all. Will said, Croft Manor was an obvious choice for the celebration since it connects the old and new games.
No comment on the status of Winston, Lara's butler and possibly her closest friend, but according to Will, "you do feel his presence in Lara's past," and yes, "you learn more about Lara's family and background."
LARA'S NIGHTMARE (Expedition DLC)
Lara's Nightmare is a separate component of the Croft Manor DLC. It is one of several Expedition modes, which are separate from the main story campaign. (This was not said in the Q&A but I get the impression that it's similar to the Cold Darkness Awakened DLC in that it's loosely connected to the story but is entirely optional and more combat-oriented. If you haven't played the game yet or aren't familiar with these extra modes, check out this Expeditions FAQ.)
This mode includes short sessions with intense action/combat focus. Each time you start in different random place within Croft Manor. The major pick-ups are also randomized.
One webmaster asked how do you win in Lara's Nightmare? Will explained that you play for score (as in the other Expeditions) and there are leaderboards. You can choose from the full range of difficulty levels, attempt various challenges, and use cards to modify your loadout, as in the other Expedition modes. You need to make it all the way through on one life. In the process you'll find skulls, find a key, and defeat a final boss.
VR support is only for Blood Ties not Lara's Nightmare.
Why zombies? Apparently the devs did a lot of playtesting and zombie modes tested high. The goal was then to figure out what do zombies look like in the Tomb Raider universe. In Cold Darkness, they manifest as infected soldiers overrunning an old Soviet research lab. In Lara's Nightmare, it's a literal nightmare, made up of terrors that Lara is working through subconsciously. There are references from the other DLC packs—Cold Darkness, Baba Yaga, as well as Blood Ties.
CO-OP ENDURANCE MODE
The 20 Year Celebration edition adds a new co-op mode to the existing Endurance Mode DLC. (In the original iteration, Lara is alone and must survive in the wilderness—by finding food and shelter, as well as fighting off enemies and hostile wildlife—while exploring crypts and collecting artifacts.)
As previously announced, each player will appear as Lara in his/her own game. The other player will appear as Nadia, the NPC from the Baba Yaga and Cold Darkness DLC.
In the Q&A, Will clarified that the game only includes online co-op, not local.
Players can go off on their own but the game encourages them to work together. For example, resources are shared as long as the two characters stay close enough together. Traps are much more unforgiving than in the main game, but players can revive an injured partner. Also, you can only leave a crypt (and thus get credit for finding an artifact) if you exit together.
If you do get separated, a player beacon in Survival Instinct will show where your partner is. You can't see the other player's status, but their character will make verbal comments if she's injured, freezing, or starving.
Many resources can be shared but a few, such as weapons looted from enemies or the contents of chests, are not shared.
There are no co-operative moves like the grapple/shield mechanics in Guardian of Light and Temple of Osiris, but your overall score is the combined score, and both players get credit for artifacts. So, again, it's to both players' advantage to work together.
As with other expeditions, each player can choose a few challenges at the start, and both can choose card-based modifiers which apply to both characters. The exception is cards for outfits, which can only be seen by the player using them. (Again, both players see themselves as Lara and the other player as Nadia, so the outfits you choose can only be seen by you.)
Single-player achievements can be acquired in co-op but there are also a number of new achievements for co-op.
Details on the PlayStation trophies and new Xbox/PC achievements will be announced at a later date.
Rise of the Tomb Raider Croft Manor DLC – Blood Ties and Lara's Nightmare – Coming October 11, 2016