Welcome back to Heroes and Villains. Today, Survivor Reborn opens the file on Professor Werner Von Croy, whose life – and death – would have a profound impact on Lara’s adventures.
Name(s): Professor Werner Von Croy
Occupation(s): Archaeologist, CEO of Von Croy Industries (VCI)
Defining characteristics: Ruthless in pursuit of his goals, once the vessel for Egyptian god Seth
Appears in: Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999), Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000), Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003)
Austrian-born Professor Werner Von Croy was an eminent archaeologist-adventurer and Lara Croft’s primary mentor on all things ancient and mythological in the mid-1980s. According to Editions Atlas’ Tomb Raider: The Official Fact Files (Issue 1), Von Croy was supposedly born May 21st 1940. His father – Von Croy Sr. – was the curator of a museum in Vienna, and this was what first inspired the young Werner to pursue a career in archaeology. Editions Atlas also mentions that Werner studied at the University of Salzburg and the University of Vienna, gaining PhDs in archaeology and musicology respectively. At some point, Werner also inherited the stewardship of Von Croy Industries (or VCI) – a prestigious and highly-lucrative technology business which no doubt provided plenty of temporal wealth for Werner to indulge his love of travel and antiquities.
Von Croy would make three appearances in total: in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider: Chronicles, and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. He was voiced on all three occasions by Kerry Shale.
“By chance one day Lara came across a copy of National Geographic on the hall table. The front cover featured a familiar name – Professor Werner Von Croy. A respected archaeologist, Von Croy had once lectured at Lara’s school to pupils and parents alike. The experience had a profound effect on Lara, triggering a desire to travel to remote locations in search of adventure. In some ways Von Croy had become an inspirational figure for Lara.
As Lara read further, she learned that Von Croy was currently preparing for an archaeological tour across Asia, culminating in a potential new discovery to be made in Cambodia. Unable to contain herself, Lara burst into the room, thrust the article in front of her parents and without hesitation demanded she accompany Von Croy on his expedition. Lord Croft could hardly disagree that travel was an education in itself.
As Lara argued the case further, he found himself walking over to the desk and penning a letter to Von Croy, introducing himself as an influential society figure and offering financial assistance in exchange for his daughter’s place on the expedition.
Von Croy’s reply assured the Henshingly Crofts that the territories were friendly and that he had ample experience to look after both his and Lara’s well being. Lara’s company as an assistant would be welcome, as was the offer of such a generous cheque. He remembered Lara from his lecture – her incessant yet insightful questions had made quite an impression upon him.” – the official Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation game booklet.
￼In case of archaeological emergency, break through wall.
Our first in-game encounter with Von Croy was in a flashback to this Cambodian expedition at the start of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation. The flashback consisted of two fairly short levels which formed both the game’s opening prologue and tutorial section. Von Croy was a strict teacher to our 16-year-old Lara, but the two were not above trading the kind of banter that hinted at the deeper rivalry that was to come.
Von Croy’s main objective in Angkor Wat was the retrieval of the Iris artefact from its inner sanctum. Despite Lara warning that the tomb’s inscriptions foretold dire fortune on whomever removed the Iris, Von Croy brushed them off as mere ‘ancient hocus pocus’. Lara’s insistence on treating the tomb with ‘respect’ clashed with Von Croy’s ambition.
“Ah, and you are the world-famous archaeologist-adventurer Lara Croft, ja? No. No! I am the renowned archaeologist-adventurer, Werner Von Croy! And you will do as I say!” – Von Croy, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.
You can look, but you can’t touch.
Unfortunately, Von Croy’s dismissal of the tomb’s dangers led to him triggering a deadly trap; as soon as he approached the Iris, the tomb began to collapse. Von Croy’s leg became entangled and he was entombed within the Iris’s chamber. Lara herself only narrowly escaped with her life.
From mentor to rival
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation did not elaborate on the circumstances of Werner’s escape, but instead jumped ahead to December 1999, and Lara’s quest for the Amulet of Horus in Egypt. However, we later learned in Tomb Raider: Chronicles that Werner had taken the Iris with him upon his escape from Angkor Wat. We can infer that the relationship between Von Croy and Lara was soured by the Cambodia incident. Von Croy had, sincerely or not, originally offered ‘the prize’ to Lara as a reward for beating him to the Iris chamber. It is reasonable to presume that Lara felt resentful when Von Croy laid claim to the artefact – compensation for his wounded leg or not – and that the two archaeologists were unable to amicably reconcile their differences.
Von Croy Sr. and Professor X (sorry, Von Croy Jr.)
It is also a reasonable presumption that Lara tried, perhaps several times, to obtain the Iris through various means between 1984 and 1997. In Tomb Raider: Chronicles, we were shown Lara resorting to the most direct – and most dangerous – means possible: outright theft. She retained the services of one Zip – a former employee of Von Croy Industries – to assist in her heist on the VCI headquarters building in New York city. With Zip’s help, Lara broke into the VCI laboratories and stole (better make that ‘reclaimed’) the Iris artefact from under Von Croy’s nose. Werner’s humiliation was no doubt made worse by the presence of his elderly – but still razor-sharp and patronising – father. We can also see that at this point, thirteen years after his initial injury in Cambodia, Werner was confined to a motorised wheelchair.
A side note: the original dialogue for this particular cutscene was longer than that which appeared in most versions of the game. Von Croy Sr.’s full dialogue is as follows (quote courtesy of Stella’s Tomb Raider Site):
“Ah, your past once more comes back to haunt you, Werner. Foolish boy. No matter – she will not escape. Place the building under full alert!” – Von Croy Sr., Tomb Raider: Chronicles.
From rival to arch-enemy
For Von Croy, the theft of the Iris represented a severe loss of face (not to mention an eye-watering repair bill). Returning to Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, in 1999 he returned to the field in search of the Amulet of Horus – and once again came up against Lara Croft. At first glance, this appears to have been a purely coincidental meeting of two rival archaeologists. However, it is reasonable to assume that Von Croy had assisted Lara in recovering the Amulet from the Tomb of Seth, specifically to snatch it from her grasp. The evidence for this assumption comes from Lara’s assistant, known variously as Ahmed Ben Trayal or Sahib. Not only did he help Lara to find the tomb’s entrance, but he also tried to forcibly take the Amulet from her and – when that failed – he was revealed to be in the pay of Von Croy. Perhaps Von Croy felt there was a poetic justice in taking the Amulet from Lara, just as Lara had taken the Iris from him.
Von Croy was now freed from his wheelchair, but still walked with the aid of a handsome silver-topped cane. When Ahmed failed to acquire the Amulet, Von Croy tracked Lara to Karnak where he set a whole gang of assassins on her trail. Von Croy then confronted Lara inside the entrance to the Tomb of Semerkhet. The exchange between Lara and her former mentor echoed the banter they had shared in Cambodia, but with a harder edge and considerably more bullets. Von Croy snatched the Amulet from its receptacle and sealed Lara inside the tomb. However, by doing so he also came to the attention of Seth – the Egyptian god of chaos and destruction unleashed by the Amulet’s removal.
Following in the well-tailored footsteps of Dr. Belloq’s school of “what was yours is now mine!”
Von Croy continued his pursuit of Lara to and through the coastal ruins of Alexandria. The two archaeologists unearthed an ancient scroll that detailed the ceremony that would re-bind the spirit of Seth under the Great Pyramid of Giza. But where Lara had no trouble grasping the reality of walking skeletons and an impending Apocalypse, Von Croy was dismissive and more interested in the material and archaeological value of the artefacts.
“The armour on its own is no more than a curiosity. But with the amulet and the ceremonial tablet, it becomes an important historical artifact predating the Bible by centuries… Rebinding the spirit of Set, putting the armour on the statue at midnight at the turn of the millennium, so on and such like. I was never a believer in this magical hocus pocus.” – Von Croy, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation.
Leaving Lara to fight off his henchmen and retrieve the Armour of Horus, Von Croy fled the scene. He returned to Alexandria, where he kidnapped Lara’s close friend Professor Jean Yves and left a polite note for Lara. In it, he explained that he was heading for Cairo in search of the ancient ceremonial tablet mentioned in the Lost Library scroll, and would exchange Jean Yves for the Armour of Horus.
However, en route to Cairo, Von Croy’s convoy was attacked by a cloud of desert locusts – the spirit of Seth. For reasons of his own, Seth took possession of Von Croy’s body.
Brimstone mouthwash – beware the side effects
Seth/Von Croy brought Old Cairo to a standstill with a horde of undead and supernatural creatures – from locusts, rotting crocodiles and rats, to a gigantic fire-breathing serpent guarding the Citadel Gate. While Lara fought her way through these obstacles, Seth/Von Croy penetrated deep into the Citadel’s catacombs and unearthed the ancient ceremonial tablet. He also used the Amulet of Horus to open the old Crusaders’ Vault and release its undead – and invulnerable – denizens.
Lara temporarily regained the upper hand when she confronted Seth/Von Croy down in the catacombs. Sensibly refusing his offer of allegiance, and in a nice display of symmetry, Lara plucked the Amulet of Horus from its receptacle and sealed Seth/Von Croy in the vaults. Knowing it was only a matter of time before he broke loose, Lara fled and headed to Giza.
At some point during the night, Seth abandoned Von Croy and headed for his date with destiny beneath the Great Pyramid. Von Croy appeared to recover quite swiftly from his ordeal, but obviously had enough recollection to understand the true nature of the Amulet and of the supernatural world he had once so casually dismissed. He headed for the Great Pyramid and it was there, at dawn, that he encountered Lara as she emerged from Seth’s final resting place.
Come with me if you want to live!
Von Croy urged Lara to escape before the Pyramid collapsed around her. However, his dubious actions and affiliations made her hesitate for a critical moment. Despite her best efforts, she was buried beneath tons of fallen masonry with Von Croy only just managing to limp his way clear of the debris. When he looked back, the proud archaeologist-adventurer and schemer was gone – replaced by an old man crippled by remorse.
Reconciliation and redemption
In Tomb Raider: Chronicles, it was revealed that Von Croy spent weeks digging out the collapsed portion of the Pyramid in an attempt to find Lara’s body. In the words of Charles Kane, he was “driven half to madness by his quest for her final resting place”. The picture that emerges is of a Von Croy consumed by grief and guilt over his former student’s death and the instrumental part he had played in her fate. After an unspecified time excavating the Pyramid, Von Croy was left holding a tantalising clue – Lara’s backpack – but no other trace of the famous archaeologist.
As far as Tomb Raider lore is concerned, we now enter a rather fuzzy zone on the timeline often dubbed the “Lara of Arabia” period. The prevailing consensus seems to be that Von Croy heard about Lara’s miraculous escape and return to England sometime after he uncovered her backpack, but that she kept him at arm’s length up to 2003 (when the events of Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness are set).
Mark Resnick’s short novel, The Amulet of Power, was published in December 2003, and is the ‘official’ story of what happened to Lara during this period. However, the book generally received average to poor reviews, not least for missing out or distorting important story details from Tomb Raider canon (e.g. Resnick states that Lara was trapped under the Pyramid at Edfu, when in Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, it was the Great Pyramid at Giza). It also clashed with the events and characterisation of the next title in the Tomb Raider franchise – Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness – which was released earlier that same year. In Resnick’s version of events, Lara was already in Paris and decided to visit Von Croy on a whim in order to relive old times in a spirit of genuine friendship – a stark contrast to how the game actually unfolded six months later.
Rubbing salt in old wounds
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness reintroduced us to Von Croy – then sixty-three years old – at his Parisian apartment. In the game’s opening few levels and cutscenes, we learned that he had been commissioned by Pieter Van Eckhardt to find five mysterious artefacts known as the Obscura Paintings. However, over the course of five weeks, Von Croy had grown increasingly disturbed by his commission and client. His associate Margot Carvier, whom Von Croy had approached for research assistance, confessed to Lara that she had noticed him becoming increasingly tense and anxious, “acting strangely, jumping at shadows”. The journal outlined how Von Croy had even inveigled his way into Paris’ criminal underworld for extra help; he went so far as to purchase supplies and information on the Louvre (a probable location of an Obscura Painting) from one Louis Bouchard, a Parisian gang tsar. Von Croy’s journal also detailed how he had tried to contact Lara – a fact that took her by complete surprise.
Lara did eventually accept Von Croy’s plea to come to Paris. There, he revealed his commission and begged for her help. He was obviously scared and intimidated by his client, and by a mysterious serial killer known as the Monstrum. His arrogance and self-control from The Last Revelation had vanished. Lara, however, was in no mood to coddle his wishes. Her psychological wounds from Egypt were still painfully raw, as demonstrated by her bitter words.
“Egypt, Werner. You walked away and left me. There was no pity then!” – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness.
No sooner had Von Croy sparked Lara’s anger than a mysterious figure strode into the apartment and knocked Lara out cold. Von Croy, of course, immediately recognised his client – Eckhardt. Holding Von Croy as easily as a doll, Eckhardt demanded to know why Von Croy was delaying retrieval of the Louvre Obscura Painting. The terrified archaeologist admitted that it was too dangerous for him to make the attempt – but that Lara would be able to go in his stead.
What did you die for?
Eckhardt considered this for a moment, and then calmly strangled the helpless Von Croy to death. The last words he heard were, “Your usefulness is finished”. Eckhardt then gutted Von Croy’s body and daubed obscene sigils on the wall in his blood. Lara would awaken to find her former mentor-turned-enemy dead, and herself accused of his murder. Thus, the events of The Angel of Darkness were set in motion as Lara fought to find the true killer and avenge her friend.
What are your fondest memories of Professor Werner Von Croy? We’d love to hear them over at Survivor Reborn’s forums!
Huge thanks again to Stella’s Tomb Raider Site.
Article written by and images courtesy of J. R. Milward.
- Werner Von Croy at TombraiderWikia
- Von Croy Industries on WikiRaider
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation on Survivor Reborn
- Tomb Raider: Chronicles on Survivor Reborn
- Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness on Survivor Reborn
- Kerry Shale at IMDB
- Link to full VCI dialogue transcript at Stella’s webpage
- Lara’s guide information
- The Amulet of Power at TombRaiderWikia
Heroes and Villains: Professor Werner Von Croy by J. R. Milward / Survivor Reborn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.