[Interview] Apsyr on Tomb Raider I-III’s updated graphics, new controls, and more

The original Tomb Raider trilogy is about to make a comeback on Switch in the form of Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft. To learn more about the project, we caught up with Chris Bashaar, director of product at Aspyr.

This release is more than a simple remaster as players can switch between the new and original graphics at any time, experience updated controls, and more. We spoke about these features and a few other topics in our interview.

Can you provide some background details on how this project came to be? What was the starting point of putting the collection together?

We’ve wanted to revisit Tomb Raider for a long time, but debated the right approach. For years, we worked through the right balance of preservation and modernization. Once we finally felt like we nailed it, we got in touch with our friends at Crystal Dynamics to make it happen.

Since these games were originally released many years ago, did the team encounter any particular difficulties bringing them to the modern era?

You would think adjusting control schemes would be a simple update, but the way controllers are shaped, pressure sensitivities, input lag compensation, and other little elements massively change the feel, especially when you’re updating a game from decades ago.

We spent ample time ensuring we had the right feel for both classic (tank) controls as well as modern control schemes. Players will be able to choose and swap between either, based on their preference.

How hard was it to implement the feature in which players can switch between the original graphics and the updated visuals at any time? That’s not something many remasters offer.

We have an incredibly talented team that deeply loves Tomb Raider, and implementing the toggle was their first priority.

It’s a significant effort to implement the toggle, but it’s the right effort for these titles. Tomb Raider I, II, and III have a very distinct feel that needs to be preserved.

What sort of work went into updating the graphics for the collection? Was AI upscaling used at all?

We worked hand-in-hand with Crystal Dynamics to add baked and real-time lighting effects, along with new models, environments, and enemies. Every change was based on direct side-by-side comparisons to match that original vision of each asset. An important aspect here is we kept the same geometry to ensure the feel of Tomb Raider didn’t get compromised in exchange for art improvements.

How have the cutscenes been updated for the collection?

The original FMVs are preserved and have increased resolution that you can toggle between. The in-game cinematics will allow you to toggle between the classic and modern looks. There’s a little more to reveal here, but we’re trying to save a few surprises for launch.

Can you tell us more about the updated controls? How do they work since the games were originally designed with a grid in mind? Do they “break” the experience at all?

For our updated controls we drew inspiration from the Legend, Anniversary and Underworld eras of Tomb Raider. These changes are felt mostly in the way Lara moves – the right stick has full camera control and Lara moves directionally based on camera position. Just like our approach to the graphics, the original tank-style controls are still available to players via a menu toggle.

Which of the newly-added features are you most proud of?

We’d have to say the visual toggle. Looking at the fan reception, we successfully recaptured the visual spirit of Lara Croft and these iconic locations, AND we preserved the classic polygon look.

Are there any plans for a physical release?

We have not made any announcements about a physical release for Tomb Raider I-III Remastered.

Could more Tomb Raider remasters follow in the future? Some fans have expressed interest in seeing The Last Revelation and Chronicles.

Our focus is on a great launch for Tomb Raider I-III Remastered. Crystal Dynamics is a phenomenal partner, and we’ve really enjoyed working with them on this project.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell fans about the collection? Perhaps a little tidbit that isn’t widely known?

The graphics and controls updates are understandably getting a lot of attention, but there’s a ton of content in this collection, as each game comes with all expansions and secret levels!

We also added a photo mode for players to capture their favorite moments, and tons of achievements/trophies to unlock. We can’t wait for fans to dive in on February 14!

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft launches for Switch on February 14, 2024.

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