The thing with Underworld is that everyone hated was how short it was, there is never enough Lara and certainly one of the only things I didn’t like about Lara’s next-gen introduction. Rabid fans (myself included) will be joyous to hear that Beneath the Ashes was released via Xbox LIVE to add another 2 hours to their Tomb Raider experience.
After releasing maybe a little too late and setting you back around £6.80, the expansion is set deep under Lara’s burnt down mansion. After some investigation around the ruins, Lara returns to the crypt for some more clues. She finds information on a relic that her father had previously discovered – a relic that bestows the bearer with the control over the Thralls with just one word. The word is not written down but where to find it is, so off Lara goes deep under the crypt in search of it.
Hitting just under 1GB in size, Beneath the Ashes starts you off in unfamiliar territory. A completely new setting to explore, which is certainly a relief for those worrying we’d be paying to play the same levels again. Though saying that, there are only a few choice rooms that really feel different, you’ll find yourself plodding along through ‘chamber’ and ‘gate’ rooms, which are pretty much the same with some misplaced ledges or poles.
Water takes a triumphant return, and while you won’t be swimming hours on end through the ocean, you will be influencing it around chambers to open up new areas to access. Beneath the Ashes finds you exploring more for treasures and relics rather than the actual game itself, even finding them could prove less of a challenge after a third of forth re-play for even the most inexperienced raider.
The majority of the puzzles are easy to work out for fans of the series, it’s basic knowledge on how the environment and physics work in Tomb Raider that make it all so disappointingly easy. While Underworld was not too difficult either, there were many times I had to actually think before galloping into the next trap. Playing Beneath the Ashes caused me to feel maybe I’ve been playing Tomb Raider too long. The fact I found no challenge comes as no surprise, Lara’s hint system is non existent in the DLC and is replaced with her father’s journal, which pretty much tells you how to do everything. Of course, you can just ignore this but the fact it’s there seems a little odd.Saying that, the play through is still rather enjoyable. A story line doesn’t really kick in until the last 10 to 20 minutes of gameplay, which is sometimes a good thing for those who just want some uninterrupted platforming. The story only really ends on a cliff-hanger, leaving fans to eagerly await the next download pack ‘Lara’s Shadow’ to continue.
I clocked my first playthrough at around 1.5 hours and my second in fewer than 65 minutes, which included grabbing all the relics and treasures. Beneath the Ashes is a relaxing stroll for veterans of the series and a fun one at that. I can see most people clocking in over 2 hours and struggling in certain sections trying to work out where the treasures are, but seeing the majority of people still playing Tomb Raider today are the hardcore, so you’d expect something a little more challenging. The DLC seemed to be aimed at the casual, but at the end of the day it will be heavily downloaded by the fans.At least it contains a few new costumes and the chance to run around in a variety of tiny bikinis, right?
Hopefully Crystal Dynamics’ next episode will be on more challenging grounds. Seeing that we’ll be playing as Lara’s doppelgänger and learning a variety of new combat moves, it feels that maybe Beneath the Ashes is just a build up to that rather than an episode in its own right.
Monster Overall Score: 75%
Pros: Polished and fun.
Cons: Too short and easy.
Lauren is a 21 year old obsessive gamer born in the south of England. She started off on an Amiga Commodore 500 Plus and has never looked back since. Lauren loves FPS, RPG's (Western and Japanese) and Adventure games with her favourite title being Tomb Raider. Interesting facts include Living in Japan, being on Inside Xbox more than once, being UK Xbox Gamer of the Month and being a bit of an Anime fan.