This page is for the first game in the Tomb Raider series. For the series as a whole, go here and for the 2013 reboot of the same title go here.
The game that started it all.
The first game in the Tomb Raider series was created by a team of just six people, and was released for Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC (and Mac). A heavily-altered recreation, taking place in the first Crystal Dynamics continuity, was released in 2007, known as Tomb Raider Anniversary.Lara Croft is hired by a wealthy businesswoman, Jacqueline Natla, to recover a piece of an artifact called the Scion, from the lost city of Vilcabamba. After Lara is inevitably betrayed by her employer, she races across the world to find the two other pieces of the Scion and prevent it from falling into Natla's hands. Along the way, Lara visits Peru, Greece, Egypt and a remnant of Atlantis.The game received sizable critical acclaim (including a couple of "game of the year" awards), and established many of the tropes of the Action Adventure genre. As a result of the amount of genre conventions it established, it is frequently cited as one of the most influential games of all time.The game was made for PSX, Sega Saturn, and PC, with ports to N-gage, Windows Pocket PC, and iOS.
A Winner Is You: The pyramid explodes, Lara sails away, a couple of seconds of credits rolling in silence, then back to the title screen.
Behind the Black: Pierre will shoot at Lara forever and take an infinite number of bullets, until he is offscreen, at which point he escapes. Sometimes he simply vanishes in mid-air after taking enough damage, or the player can choose to ignore him, and he will not spawn again for the rest of the level. This jarring behavior was even lampshaded in the remake during Pierre's cutscene, during which he screws with Lara by constantly teleporting around her (off-screen), and she vainly attempts to follow his voice.
Block Puzzle: Many of them, the difficulty often exaggerated greatly due to the slow push-pull controls.
Body Horror: The Atlanteans, deformed human-like creatures with no skin on their bodies.
Direct Continuous Levels: Individual levels do this, but chapters involve a transition to a different location. There's still a stats screen at the end of each level, but the transition otherwise appears smooth.
Level filenames indicate that certain levels in the game, like the Lost Valley and the Tomb of Qualopec, were once part of a single large level before being split in two. This can also be noticed in the stamps that Lara obtains from each location; she won't gain a stamp for a location that was originally part of a larger level.
Down the Drain: The Cistern is arguably a subversion, being one of the more fun and interesting levels in the game. The surprisingly adequate swimming controls help.
Dummied Out: A surprisingly large amount of content was cut out or rearranged for the final game, including many animations. As stated below, the very first prototype known of the game depicts a CGI-quality Lara in an unknown tomb with several animals, and armed with tools like dynamite, which are not present at all in the final game. Level filenames indicate that an entire area, Level 9, was cut out.
Graphics are much blockier and textures are extremely pixellated compared to even Tomb Raider II. Lara herself looks a bit awkward without her signature ponytail.
Lara is limited to 4 weapons: Pistols, Shotgun, Magnums, and Uzis.
Lara's moveset is limited. She cannot sprint, crouch, flip in mid-air, or roll underwater.
Only a handful of human enemies, and they are all relevant to the plot (appear in cutscenes).
No outside areas at all, due to the engine limitations. Even places that should be outside, like Lost Valley and parts of the Colosseum, just have a black featureless sky (the Colosseum was supposed to feature this same black texture over parts of the ceiling, but a texture artist made a small mistake and mapped the wrong texture).
The DOS version also removed the entire soundtrack except for ambiances; this didn't occur with any future game.
Invisible Grid: The entire game world is based on a block system, most noticeably in areas like the Lost Valley. As such, Lara's movements are designed to follow the format: she will always run forward one square, roll forward one square, etc.
Nuclear Option: The initial nuclear test activates some device within the desert. It unlocks and reveals a person in suspended animation.
No Flow in CGI: The reason Lara has no ponytail outside of FMVs. The earliest prototypes of the game featured a much higher-poly Lara, even including a ponytail, but this caused the game to run at around 5 FPS on the PlayStation hardware. Starting from Tomb Raider II, Lara's ponytail was included in-game.
Nothing Is Scarier: This game, along with the next four, has a low draw distance (this one much more so of course). Anything that's not loaded and/or near Lara is completely black. Right from the very first level, you'll encounter this- and you'll always have to go towards the darkness to see what's actually there. This is combined with the unnerving soundtrack to create a frightening experience.
Tomb Raider was later re-released on PC as Tomb Raider: Gold, and contained four extra levels known as Unfinished Business. The first two detail a return to the locations visited previously in Egypt, while the second two are an extended ending to the original Tomb Raider story, where Lara must escape from the exploding pyramid. These new levels are also available on the iOS port.Unfinished Business contains examples of:
Death Trap: While obviously a staple of the Tomb Raider series, Unfinished Business contains a section where the player has three routes to take, two safe, one deadly. This death trap is very difficult to escape, and doing so is the key to obtaining a secret.
Developer commentary on this level, featured in the TR Level Editor manual, states that this was a deliberate, sadistic choice on the part of the designer. Well, he certainly did his job.
Dummied Out: Originally, the Atlantis levels came first, before the Egypt ones. This was revealed by the level designers, and is also evident in the way Lara slides down a slope in the beginning of Atlantean Stronghold (the same slope as the one at the end of The Great Pyramid).
It's All Upstairs From Here: Atlantean Stronghold: You start at the top, plummet to the bottom, then spend the rest of the level climbing back to the top...so you can fall all the way down to the bottom again to reach the exit.
Living Statue: The cat statues can turn into panthers. This trait would later become a staple of the Gold expansion games.
Soft Water: Happens very often, right from the very beginning of the first level, but also contains the most ridiculous example yet. At the end of Atlantean Stronghold, Lara needs to line up a precision jump into one of the grooves in the building on the ground. The "groove" turns out to be a vertical shaft spanning at least ten floors (judging by texture changes) and is long enough that some versions of the game actually crash while Lara falls. Of course, at the bottom is a pool of water.