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Freemium Field Test: Lara Croft: Relic Run is flashy, fun, and free

Andrew Hayward | June 30, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

screen shot 2015 06 28 at 9.50.44 pm

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money). 

The earliest Tomb Raider games have hit the App Store in recent months, offering a cheap blast of nostalgia--and a reality check that 20-year-old 3D action games don't often hold up well, especially with touch controls. But Lara Croft: Relic Run is luckily something quite different: A game specifically built for touch that puts the franchise heroine in a new adventure better suited for phones and tablets.

That's not to say that Relic Run is particularly innovative. For the most part, it's a pretty standard behind-the-back, three-lane endless runner, challenging you to swipe to dodge hazards and continue barreling ahead. But it has the trademark cinematic flair of the Tomb Raider franchise, and just as importantly, it offers up a fun experience without aggressive freemium tactics.

The pitch

Despite its flashy looks and death-defying scenarios, Lara Croft: Relic Run isn't all that daring: This is tried-and-true genre fare, at its core. While thematic comparisons to Temple Run are apt, Relic Run plays more akin to Subway Surfers and games of its ilk. You'll have three lanes to switch between as you encounter various jungle and desert obstacles, and swiping lets you change lanes, leap, and slide through low openings. It's pretty familiar, approachable stuff. 

Luckily, Square Enix didn't stop with the basics, and it's the new elements that make Relic Run feel distinctive. For example, you can run along walls in certain spots--still by swiping, but it changes the dynamic a bit. You'll also ride a speedy ATV or motorcycle for extended stretches of time, as well as rappel along walls as the three-lane approach is rotated 90 degrees upon the side of a mountain. 

And there's combat, as well. Every so often during a run, you'll draw pistols--which can be swapped for a crossbow, shotgun, or other weapon--and hunt down fantasy monsters in shooting gallery-style segments. You'll even battle the massive T-Rex seen in the early Tomb Raider games, not only shooting it at key moments, but also swiping to dodge its attacks as it tramples around. Relic Run has a lot of those cinematic moments, which take some of the control out of your hands, but it makes for a very polished iOS game.

 

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