How Square Enix made a turn-based Tomb Raider

As big of a departure as Hitman GO - the mobile game that turned an assassin into a board game pawn - was, translating Lara Croft's tomb raiding adventures into the recent Lara Croft GO might seem even stranger. Where Hitman games can be a slow and methodical experience anyway, Tomb Raider games as of late have far more action setpieces and focus on fast, fluid movement. Today on the Unity website, Square Enix Montreal's technical director Antoine Routon explains how the team handled the transition to make Lara Craft GO.

"When we started working on what would become Lara Croft GO, we knew as both players and developers that we didn’t want to simply create a sequel to Hitman GO with a Tomb Raider coat of paint," writes Routon. "The first thing we questioned was the board game aesthetic of Hitman GO. It made perfect sense for Hitman’s universe: a sterile world, elegant and classy, where every enemy is just a pawn in an elaborate thinking-man’s puzzle. But it didn’t resonate with Lara Croft."

Routon writes that the team explored several unique aesthetics, including museum dioramas and even a pop-up storybook, but nothing seemed to stick. The team then looked to the original Tomb Raider on PlayStation and found inspiration in its technical limitations. Being limited in the number of polygons they could produce, the designers of the original Tomb Raider utilized a blocky style for their environments. Square Enix Montreal expanded on these themes, adding in foreground silhouettes and blurred backgrounds to create a sense of depth and space - something key to the sense of awe present in Tomb Raider games.

Lara Croft GO also stayed true to the original Tomb Raider by focusing on Lara fighting not hordes of henchmen with guns, but a hostile environment full of traps and dangerous animals. Routon writes that, once the team focused on building a new GO game from the ground up as opposed to tweaking Hitman's mechanics to suit Lara, the process snowballed. "Both times we tried to capture the essence of an experience – be it Assassination or Adventure. And there lies the key to define what makes a 'GO' game. More than aesthetics or mechanics, it’s a process of distillation."

Lara Croft GO is now available from the iOS App Store, Google Play and the Windows Store.

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