2013's Tomb Raider reboot leaned more into horror back in its early stages, as newly revealed and staggeringly bizarre prototype footage shows.
The official Tomb Raider YouTube channel uploaded some old clips from Tomb Raider: Ascension, the working title for the first stab at the game, as part of the series' 25th anniversary festivities. A lot of this will look and feel familiar – Lara Croft scampering through caves with a pickaxe and a torch – but the video frequently veers into themes and genres so bizarre that you'd be forgiven for thinking this was some sort of fever dream.
The "exploratory phases" of Tomb Raider: Ascension took the series "deep into survival horror territory," as the video description explains. We're guessing that's a reference to the many horrible monsters chucking God knows what at Lara as she raids the tombs in many of these clips. Some of these monsters would hang from the ceiling and claw at you, but in another clip, hordes of demons that look like the Witches from Left 4 Dead rush Lara as she torches them with a flamethrower.
In another build, Lara duels a towering, more detailed version of the Witch lookalikes with her trusty pickaxe. The very next clip drops her on a horse cantering through a forested plain, understandably fleeing a gigantic monster straight out of Shadow of the Colossus. Then it's into a God of War-style boss fight with a towering troll – it's even got a similar tusk-snapping finisher animation. Compare that to an earlier clip showing Lara in a low-poly field that could pass for Rust, apparently searching for the "Bell of God".
"Exploratory" is right; this prototype went all over the place. Wildly different themes, mechanics, and entire genres are mashed in like the world's weirdest casserole. Hell, one clip is just several seconds of Lara's 3D model – occasionally and inexplicably holding a baby – getting chopped into polygons by the rough draft of some bipedal monstrosity that looks like a Rancor from Star Wars crossed with a willow tree. Games often look and play very differently from their prototypes, but this is one of the most dramatic transformations we've seen. Maybe this is where Shadow of the Tomb Raider got some of its horror movie vibe?
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