15th May 2010 - Sometimes good things do come in small packages, or in this case, rather large ones. This week, for a few lucky punters around the world, they would have finally received a very much anticipated gift: 500 pages of glorious full A4 images of the Lady Lara Croft herself. The irony is this curvaceous vixen is not even 20 years old. Nor is she in any way real. What she is though is the modern equivalent of Joan of Arc- a legacy of gaming past and a testament to strong female lead characters. The 2 books, weighing in at around a whopping 5 kgs are by no means ‘light reading’ so read on to find out exactly what we got in our loot.
The books are courtesy of Dreams and Visions Press publishers very familiar with top quality art books, including a variety on Star Wars and Science Fiction. On the eve of her new Game release though, this is the first time every possible piece of art from the last 15 years of Tomb Raider have been assembled.
“The Art of Tomb Raider is finally coming. Every possible significant piece of Tomb Raider art is here, presented in this 568 page, two volume set. Take this adventure through the archives and see the first ever sketches of Lara Croft, unreleased concept art, production storyboards, promotional art and the fascinating visualization of design of all the Tomb Raider games. This special edition is limited to 2000 copies world wide. Dreams and Visions Press is the exclusive place to purchase this amazing book.”
Tomb Raider and Lara Croft herself, have a rather long and sordid history. Taking a classical approach to platforming and puzzling, the globe trotting adventures of the wealthy aristocrat have been well documented across a plethora of comics, graphic novels, multi platforms and 2 movies.
Tomb Raider (and expansion) Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III (and expansion), Tomb Raider Revelations, Tomb Raider Chronicles, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider Underworld (and expansions) make up most of the exhaustive extent of this gaming goddesses resume.
So well received are the games that for each new release she is also physically represented both in voice, by a female actor but also in person, by a model for marketing purposes. For the length that the game is successful a female model is employed to literally, personify and embody the Lady Lara for all intents and purposes. Add to this the 2 live action movies, and anyone would think the dear girl actually exists! (James Bond is real, right?)
The first 3 games were well received and when holding company Eidos tried to kill her off in IV the fans would have none of it. Lara Croft refused to die. After a brief trip down memory lane; in ‘Chronicles’, the brand was re-envisioned- to mixed result. Little did they know this almost would, really kill off the franchise. Three years later and on a new console, the lovely Lara was back, ‘bigger’ and bolder than ever. In a rebooted effort, past mistakes were forgotten and a new generation fell in love with the classic formula of climbing and shooting. Anniversary was the icing on the cake, celebrating 10 years of Tomb Raider by literally re-making the first game, level by level, piece by piece. It allowed a re-introduction into the first game which was finally rounded out in Underworld almost 15 years later.
The story has come full circle, Lara has been killed off, came back, set up for murder, cloned and seen her mother die at least once (not to mention the Dinosaurs). On top of it all she has also managed to garner a number of awards for best looking cyber female and is still the home choice of virtual pin-ups the world over.
Her technical 8th Game, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, drops the Tomb Raider motif for a co-op action puzzle adventure not too dissimilar to previous titles, using the same tech as Underworld but in a fixed isometric view. From her humble beginnings as 350 polygons to the 60,000 she represents today, this now motion-captured beauty is still going strong.
The naked truth
Receiving the books, after 3 months of waiting, I was unprepared for just how big the books were. Although I was expecting 500 off pages over books, I have to admit I didn’t think they would be full sized. For those who may have experience with other art books like the GTA IV and the Gears’ books, it is, more or less the same thing…except 5 times as large. The care with packaging as well was exceptional.
Within the primary box was a layer of bubbles and in that was another slightly smaller box. In side that was another layer of bubbles and inside that one was a sleeve with the actual holding case box inside. Now it should be noted that because of the pre-order and because of the lateness to delivery Dreams and Vision were kind enough to include 3 limited lithographic prints at no extra cost. These images in a set of 3 are probably worth about $50 or more as is. This was the surprise for unwrapping her.
Taking off the layers allowed us to see the true nature of the beauty that lay before me, laid out in all her glory. The firs notable thing is that the first book is considerably smaller than the second. Comprised of the first 6 games before the Eidos merger and subsequent re-boot, there was not a lot of art or digital images recorded in the early years, hence the smaller book. As the writer attests, they did a lot of drawings on paper and only kept what they could put on their walls.
If you haven’t ordered through Dream and Vision before, I would definitely recommend it as their customer service was excellent and each book is individually prepared as per the order. Although the books were well over-due for delivery the following email makes up for it:
First and most importantly, the entire print run of The Art of Tomb Raider are on a boat on their way to the US from Singapore. The printer notes that the delivery can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, in part depending on how smoothly things go through customs once they arrive in the U.S. While we are hopeful that books will arrive and begin shipping before the end of March, at this point it's out of our hands…
At Dreams and Visions Press, it is our custom to offer a special thank you gift to those folks who support our projects by pre-ordering. As it was going to be a surprise, but given the delays we felt it best that we share what we have in store for everyone who pre-orders (either edition) of The Art of Tomb Raider. As you may already know, Crystal Dynamics created new artwork for the two volumes and outer slipcase. We are producing an extremely limited edition of fine art prints of those three pieces of art, suitable for framing, that will ship with all pre-ordered copies of the book. These will only go to those orders received before the price increase on 3/31. You can see the images on the dreams and visions website, dreams and visions press blog or the art of tomb raider blog that most of you have been following….
In closing, it's important that we clarify that we are not a major publisher with hundreds of employees. We are a very small specialty press. When you contact us, you don't get an automated reply from an outsourced customer service department, you're communicating with the principals. When you see Dreams and Visions Press at shows, you're talking directly to us. When you get a package in the mail, you can rest assured that it was our hands that did that, not some immense shipping department not concerned with how or whether your order arrives. At times, these limitations result in delays and missed expectations, for which we sincerely apologize.
We hand pick our projects and put all our efforts into every step of the production process to ensure we are satisfied with the final product - as we are our own customers, first and foremost. We do hope that you will find the finished product more than worth the wait, and request that you do contact us if you have any concerns with your order at any time.
The wait was definitely worth it, with the second book including the most recent DLC through XBOX Live. Although no word was given on the newest of Lara’s adventures or the direction they are taking with the Downloadable episodes; we can only hope for another 15 years of Tomb Raiding.
All the ‘Lara Croft’ Models in backwards order:
And her ‘voices’:
Lara Croft upwrapped By Ian Crane. ;)