Griefing is a tricky art; it can be problematic to give teammates the freedom to sabotage each other, and there are plenty of games where I've found that freedom an irritating barrier to progress and fun. After playing Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiriswith two devs who constantly undermined each other to hilarious effect, I'm hopeful the four-player isometric Tomb Raider will prove an example of good griefing rather than bad.
Its predecessor, Guardian of Light, allowed for griefing with things like dropping the rope while your partner was mid-climb. In our Temple of Osiris session at Gamescom, dropping the grapple hook rope was just about the first thing Crystal Dynamics' Christopher Johnston did to producer Robert Siwiak, sending his character helplessly into the abyss. You could tell the grief wasn't going to stop there.
"Oh, oh oops. Sorry. Sorry, Robert," Johnston chuckled, "It was a total accident..."
Gallery: Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris | 2 Photos
As excited as they were about their game, I got the feeling griefing each other was helping the two Crystal Dynamics devs get through days upon days of preview sessions. There was definitely an element of one-upmanship; using pushable boulders to nudge each other off ledges, or the two new god characters' staffs to summon spikes out of the ground just as someone was about to jump onto a previously spike-less platform. Those elements are tied to the co-operative puzzles, but the devs just couldn't resist the opportunity for a good grief.
My favorite was courtesy of another returning Guardian of Light feature: bombs. Each player can lay down a bomb, which they can later detonate with a button tap. It's marked as theirs with a colored radius of explosion, so you know exactly who's set what. Blowing up a player while he or she's near a bomb is fun, but it's taken to a whole new level during the boss fights where you have to run away from a huge enemy coming at you from one side of the screen; in this case, some kind of weird lion-hippo-crocodile hybrid with a great big snapping jaw. Trying to avoid it and all the traps was hard enough, so when you add in a human player who can lay bombs in front of you and choose exactly when they'll explode, that's just plain evil.
A grief kill (or any death) does have its impact: You'll lose your running score for that section, which you'll have accumulated by collecting treasure, killing enemies, completing challenges and so on. At the end of the section, a higher score will contribute to the gems you get. The more gems you accumulate, the more treasure chests you can unlock to gain better items like weapons and accessories. That said, making it all the way through a section unscathed is tricky enough; the two we played lasted around 20 minutes each.
The competitive angle of Temple of Osiris is highlighted at the end of each section, with each of the characters placed on podiums in the order of their scores. The podiums are still there when you leap off them to raid the end-of-section treasure rooms.
In terms of the moment, the there and then, dying isn't annoying in Temple of Osiris. The key is that you're able to respawn almost instantaneously with just a button tap, and it never felt like a death really broke up the flow of play. So, perhaps if you're super serious about accumulating items and giving yourself the best gear to beat Temple of Osiris, you might want to avoid griefing (unless you're just mean). For a lighter-hearted co-op session, it'll hopefully add another flavor to the game's twin-stick shooting and puzzling.
"It's something that we try to carefully balance in there," Siwiak told me. "Like shooting, that doesn't do any friendly fire damage or anything like that. But with bombs, it would be more of an exploit if I could put the bomb down and you'd be safe inside of my bomb radius, and I could just start bombing things and make a shield around you. So it made sense to go, 'Okay, bombs can damage other players, so it doesn't get exploited.' And then we added in all these rewards and economy components like gems and the score, it just started naturally turning into this co-opetition where we're still working together, but we're competing against each other too."
"Yeah, you still have to work with each other," Johnston added. "I can't progress in the game unless we work together. At the same time, once I get past that, I want to knock [Siwiak] in the spikes because it's fun."
"And obviously once it happens once, you start having that back and forth where it's like 'we'll play nice, but if you do it to me, I'm going to do it to you," Siwiak retorted.
Whether you're looking to grief or not, Temple of Osiris is still on course to let you and three friends raid some isometric tombs on Xbox One, PS4 and PC starting December 9. And yes, online as well as local co-op is still planned for launch, and you'll be able to mix and match the two, as well as play with either friends or folks you find via matchmaking. For more on what Temple of Osiris is bringing to the table, check out our E3 preview.