Welcome back to Survivor Reborn’s Globetrotter! This week, we’re scaling back our travel plans to take a guided tour of somewhere a little closer to our Tomb Raiding home – Croft Manor. In Part 1, we explore how the manor has changed and evolved over the gaming franchise: the movies’ manor is an article for another day! So pour some tea and enjoy a scone as we explore Lara’s not-so-humble abode.
Laying the foundations
Croft Manor is as much an iconic part of the Tomb Raider franchise as Lara herself, and debuted alongside the iconic archaeologist-adventurer back in 1996’s Tomb Raider. The manor was both an innovative game tutorial and a safe level to explore in its own right. Players could visit the manor at any point during the game via the main menu.
What was Indiana Jones’ is now mine, apparently
Lara herself – voiced by the ever versatile Shelley Blond – provided players with instructions on how to execute her various acrobatic moves. She would also provide occasional quips that strengthened the sense of player-character immersion, as though Lara really was giving us a guided tour (e.g. “Sorry about the crates. I’m having some things put into storage and the delivery people haven’t been yet.”)
The music room in Tomb Raider (1996)
The original manor in 1996’s Tomb Raider was comparatively small. We could only explore certain sections of the manor’s interior – the main hall (filled with the aforementioned crates), the library, the music room (with tumbling mats), the former ballroom-now-gymnasium, and an indoor swimming pool. There were no true puzzles, and no exterior areas.
The main hall and indoor pool areas. Note the button on the diving board in Tomb Raider III; this gave us access to the timed door switch to the trophy room
Expanding and evolving
In 1997’s Tomb Raider II, the manor was greatly expanded. The gymnasium equipment was replaced by a large outdoor assault course, restoring the ballroom to a place fit to hold a ball (this room also featured a nice little stereo so you could listen to Nathan McCree’s music whilst getting your groove on – nice). The upper floors were expanded to include an attic and Lara’s en suite bedroom.
Don’t you think you’ve seen enough?
Downstairs, we could explore the kitchen (complete with an infamous walk-in freezer), and a large cellar – crammed with Lara’s accumulated treasures – that could only be opened via a timed switch at the heart of a sprawling outdoor hedge maze. For the first time, we were also introduced to Lara’s wheezing, rambling butler, Winston Smith, who would follow Lara around with Terminator-like persistence.
The real challenge was to complete the course without spilling any tea
Although this manor, like its predecessor, formed the game’s tutorial level (with Judith Gibbins as the voice behind Lara’s instructions), it was much larger and more detailed, and the inclusion of puzzles made it feel more like a proper level in its own right.
The manor in Tomb Raider II was also the first to feature as an integrated part of the story. The final level, Home Sweet Home, in which Lara’s home is attacked by vengeful members of the Fiamma Nera, was a tongue-in-cheek yet furious gun battle throughout the grounds of Croft manor.
The library and gymnasium. Note the handholds inside the chimney that lead into the attic in Tomb Raider III
Not such a humble abode
1998’s Tomb Raider III: The Adventures of Lara Croft gave us the third and final playable manor of the Core Design era (1996-2003). It shared the same basic layout and features of the two previous versions, but was grander and included more puzzles. The cellar treasure room was replaced by a large underground aquarium that could only be accessed via a timed door; Lara now had to make use of secret passages, cunningly-hidden switches, and clear herself a path through attic crates in order to beat the timed door.
Dory, have you seen the Race Track Key?
Another timed doorway allowed access to Lara’s trophy room. This showcased the many artefacts that Lara had accumulated from previous years, including the Dagger of Xian, the Golden Mask of Tornarsuk, fragments of the now-broken Scion, and a handsome piece of tyrannosaurus taxidermy. Sharp-eyed players also spotted a curious revolving globe-like device that would play an important role in the then-unreleased title, The Last Revelation.
Lara’s trophy room from Tomb Raider III
The assault course was upgraded with a shooting range (with Winston kindly volunteering his services as an armoured mobile target), and the hedge maze was replaced with a hair-raising quad-bike track.
Lara’s bedroom, the outdoor assault course, the main manor frontage and the kitchen
Tomb Raider III was the final Core Design title to feature a playable Croft Manor. However, this incarnation of Lara’s home made one last appearance in 2000’s Tomb Raider: Chronicles.
The main hall in Tomb Raider: Chronicles
With Lara missing, presumed dead, three of Lara’s closest friends – Charles Kane, Father Patrick Bram Dunstan, and Winston Smith – gathered at Croft manor to reminisce about her many adventures after a formal memorial service.
The study, a room not featured in the manor’s previous incarnations
We only saw a fraction of the manor in various FMV cutscenes. The majority of these were set in the study – a room we had not encountered before in the playable version of the manor. However, it perfectly fitted in with the established style and decor.
A cosy place for pontification
The trophy room was also featured in one of these FMV cutscenes, albeit only briefly and not in any great detail. Winston demonstrated a less athletically-demanding shortcut to gaining entry into the room, and showed his companions the display case containing the Iris.
Winston demonstrates an easier way into the infamous trophy room
The three friends contemplate the Iris
The final three Core Design Tomb Raider games – The Last Revelation, Chronicles, and The Angel of Darkness – left out the manor as a playable level. The tutorial aspects were instead provided in the games’ initial level(s) (respectively, Angkor Wat, Rome, and the backstreets of Paris).
The manor returns
In 2006, Lara Croft returned in Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider: Legend. The game re-imagined a lot of of the franchise’s original concepts – not least the idea of Lara having a country manor. Legend made sure to include the most important features of the manor; namely, it should reflect Lara’s archaeological and aristocratic background; it should provide a semi-safe environment in which to practise Lara’s signature moves; and it should include engaging puzzles.
Lara’s dressing room. Note the skull motif on the doors; it is the same design as that used on the belt buckle of Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft costume from the first Tomb Raider film
The design of Legend’s manor, from the colour scheme to the overall layout, was directly inspired by the manor in the first Tomb Raider film (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, 2001). The main hall now had a central fireplace with the Croft family portrait hanging above the mantelpiece. Opposite the grand staircase was a sophisticated tech room, handily partitioned by large glass panels. The manor boasted an extensive gymnasium, library, and a large indoor swimming pool. As well as collecting bronze, silver, and gold trophies by solving puzzles and exploring, players could also access secret passageways between certain areas – such as between the gym and the pool, and between Lara’s bedroom and the library.
Archaeologists of all stripes can’t escape big rolling balls. Strange but true
Just as for the first three Core Design games, Legend’s manor could be accessed from the main menu and played at any point during the game.
The swimming pool, gymnasium, library, and Lara’s bedroom
The past re-imagined
In 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary, players were treated to an unusual retro-expansion of the manor from Legend. Taking place many years before the events in Legend, the manor was both familiar but significantly different. A pile of packing crates replaced Zip’s tech room in the main hall (a nod to the very first Tomb Raider). The indoor pool was still under construction, and the gymnasium’s equipment was switched around and altered to reflect Lara’s expanded repertoire of moves.
Catching up on some light reading
Unlike the daytime setting of Legend, the manor in Anniversary was bathed in moonlight – giving it a unique atmosphere that was both serene and mysterious. Anniversary’s manor included plenty of puzzles and featured some changes to the layout of its predecessor. For example, the library room was expanded to include a trophy room where accomplished players could view the relics they’d collected in the main game. The connecting corridors now held opens books where Lara could read snippets of different texts – many of which held Easter eggs hinting at her many adventures, past and present. The manor now boasted a music room and, for the first time in a Crystal Dynamics game, an outdoor area. The gardens of Croft manor featured a large sundial and hedge maze – again, a nod back to a previous title. The maze could only be accessed once players had deciphered a puzzle and used the sundial – or in this case, moondial – to point to specific numbers.
A little more to the left!
To date, Anniversary’s manor was the last manor that players could access and play through at any point during the game. It was a curious experience in that it technically came before the events of Legend, but, being a sequel, still featured larger grounds and a greater repertoire of moves that its predecessor.
The main hall in all three games of the first Crystal Dynamics era
Deep secrets and catastrophe
2008 saw the release of Tomb Raider: Underworld – the final chapter in Crystal Dynamics’ first era trilogy. For the first time since Home Sweet Home in Tomb Raider II, the manor played an integral part of the game’s story. Following certain discoveries in Thailand, Lara delved beneath the Croft family crypt to discover the artefacts and clues about Thor’s Gauntlet unearthed by her late father, Richard Croft.
Bruce Wayne, eat your heart out
After working her way through crude tunnels, Lara discovered a vast chapel-crypt deep beneath the manor’s foundations. Soaring Gothic arches, statues, and stained glass more than made up for the blood-sucking spiders and bats!
Sadly, Underworld’s manor was almost totally destroyed by the Doppleganger acting under orders from Amanda Evert. Escaping the burning manor made for hair-raising gameplay as once-familiar areas were reduced to charred ruins.
Ashes to ashes
However, this was not quite the swan-song for the Legend-Anniversary-Underworld manor just yet. In 2009, and in an exclusive deal with Microsoft, Crystal Dynamics released two new Tomb Raider expansions on the Xbox 360; one of these, Beneath the Ashes, followed Lara as she explored the vaults and caverns hidden beneath the crypts she had explored in Underworld. The architecture was more medieval than Gothic, and featured Crusader-armoured thrall knights alongside the familiar hordes of bats and spiders.
Thralls can be so over-dramatic
Rebooting Lara’s abode
The gates of Croft manor
It wasn’t until 2015 and Rise of the Tomb Raider that we again got to glimpse Lara’s manor – albeit in a cutscene. According to the comics set between 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara was engaged in a feud with her uncle, Mr DeMornay, over the Croft estates. Rise showed that Lara was, for the most part, staying in an apartment in London; when Ana asked her to go back to the manor, Lara expressly stated that she “couldn’t go back [to the manor]” – hinting at a physical, legal, or emotional barrier to returning to her family’s home.
Richard Croft kept all of his most important books within easy reach
However, Lara must have overcome this barrier at some point between the apartment scene and Syria, as demonstrated by a later cutscene featuring a reunion with Jonah at Croft manor. Here, Lara was shown researching a symbol she had encountered in Syria in her father’s beautifully-appointed study. Interestingly, she chose to conduct her work on the floor rather than on the desk where her father had once worked.
The floor’s as good as a desk, right?
Sadly, Richard Croft’s office was about as much of the manor as we would get to see in Rise. To date (2016), Tomb Raider: Underworld remains the most recent game in which we got to play inside the traditional Croft manor, and 2007’s Tomb Raider: Anniversary was the last time a Tomb Raider game included a manor we could visit outside of the main game story.
What are your fondest memories of Croft manor? You can share your thoughts over at Survivor Reborn’s free-to-register forums.
Article written and images provided by J. R. Milward.
Thanks to Stella’s Tomb Raider Site for kindly allowing the use of the Beneath the Ashes screenshot.
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider 1996
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider II
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider III
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: Chronicles
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
- Shelley Blond at IMDB
- Judith Gibbins at IMDB
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: Legend
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: Anniversary
- Survivor Reborn Tomb Raider: Underworld
- Beneath the Ashes at TombRaiderWikia
- Survivor Reborn Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Lara’s uncle, Mr DeMornay, on TombRaiderWikia
- Beneath the Ashes screenshot courtesy of Stella’s Tomb Raider Site
Globetrotter: Croft Manor Part 1 by J. R. Milward / Survivor Reborn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.