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The Unused Locations of ‘Tomb Raider: Legend’

Unused concepts for Tomb Raider: Legend's Japan level

Years ago, I wrote a piece about the West African nation of Mali and how it had been one of the locations considered for Tomb Raider: Legend. But did you know that Mali wasn’t the only location that had been considered for inclusion in the game and then scrapped?

Last August, Crystal Dynamics released a short video showcasing some of these early unused ideas for Lara’s global adventure as part of the franchise’s 25th anniversary celebrations. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the other places that didn’t make it into the final game.

Japan

Although Tokyo was one of the locations that was used for the finished game, the mostly roof-top and skyscraper adventure wasn’t the only idea that was considered for Legend. Two pieces of early concept art show Lara dangling from power cables above busy Japanese streets, not too dissimilar from the Japan level we actually got.

However, the other piece of concept art is far more intriguing. In it, we can see Lara diving, surrounded by waterfalls, misty mountains, and giant rock-carved statues. This piece may have been created for Legend but it could just as easily have been an early concept for Tomb Raider 2013’s Yamatai.

Malaysia

Malaysia was another country that was initially considered but later discarded. Two of the unused concepts show Lara jumping off tall buildings in Malaysia, possibly in its capital city Kuala Lumpur. No further context is provided but the scenes remind me of Lara’s daring escape from the top of a Hong Kong skyscraper in the film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life.

One of the concepts is titled “Kek Lok Si” and depicts Lara ziplining through a Buddhist temple, heading for a multi-storey pagoda. Kek Lok Si is a real Buddhist temple complex situated on the island of Penang and is the largest temple of its kind in Malaysia. Construction of the temple began in 1890 and its blend of Chinese, Thai, and Burmese architecture has made it a very popular tourist attraction and an important pilgrimage centre for Buddhists from across Southeast Asia.

One of the most striking buildings on the temple grounds is the seven-storey Ban Po Thar (萬佛塔), a pagoda which combines a Chinese octagonal base with several tiers of Thai design and a Burmese-style spiral dome, reflecting Malaysia’s multicultural society and religious diversity. However, the pagoda and round pavilion seen in the concept art are probably based on the Lotus Pagoda and Buddha pavilion in the Kek Lok Si temple gardens, while the circular moon gate and row of Buddha statues are modelled after the Amitābha Buddha statues and cloisters above them.

I have no idea why Malaysia never made it past the concept stage but hopefully we’ll get to see this Southeast Asian nation in a Tomb Raider game or film someday.

London

London has featured in a number of Tomb Raider games and comics and it appeared in the 2001 and 2018 Tomb Raider films, so I can’t say I’m sad that this location was dropped for Legend. There are plenty of other cities which deserve some time in the spotlight.

The first unused concept shows Lara dodging an oncoming train, which gives me flashbacks to the London Underground sections of Tomb Raider III. The other unused concept is a little more interesting. In it, we can see a helicopter and a lot of armed enemies in what looks like the Tower of London, specifically the section overlooking St. Thomas Tower, Traitor’s Gate, and Wakefield Tower.

Malta

There’s a lot going on in this concept art for Malta, in a small lane that reminds me of the quieter alleys back home in Gibraltar. There’s a motorcyclist getting ready to clobber Lara with a truncheon and someone being flung through the air by an explosion. I’d love to know what inspired this piece.

Malta might not be on many folks’ wish lists for future Tomb Raider games but this small island nation has plenty to offer from an archaeological point of view: megalithic temples which predate the pyramids of Giza, Phoenician settlements, Roman ruins, Islamic relics, and urban architecture that reflects the nation’s long and rich cultural history.

Russia

There’s not a great deal to say about the unused concept for Russia. The Cyrillic text on the metal beam in the background spells out фрегат (fregat), the Russian word for “frigate”.

There also seems to be a number of shipping containers and metal walkways on each side. Perhaps this was set in a warehouse or loading bay in some Russian port.

Russia may not have made the cut for Legend but the country was featured heavily in the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not only was a huge chunk of the game set in Siberia, Lara’s quest also revolved around the search for Kitezh, a mythical lost city of Russian legend.

Other Unspecified Locations

Some of the other unused concepts highlighted in the video don’t have any captions or place names attached to them but we could probably make an educated guess with some of them.

One concept shows Lara running across an ancient vine bridge and in the background you can see a temple that bears more than a passing similarity to the Angkor temples of Cambodia. Perhaps they were toying with the idea of exploring some ancient sites in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Another piece, simply titled “Excavation Site”, cannot be reliably placed but appears to be set on a ship; an ancient statue can be seen in the water below.

An untitled piece showing Lara running across a frozen landscape towards a partially submerged pagoda could be an early exploration of the game’s Nepal level. The landscape doesn’t look quite right – it looks less like the Himalayas and more like Antarctica or Siberia – but the pagoda is similar to the ones seen throughout Legend’s Nepal level.

The concept artwork titled “Underwater Temple” shows Lara scuba diving amongst some submerged ruins, carefully evading the two divers and shark swimming mere metres above her. This evocative piece by Joel Boucquemont could be set anywhere within the eastern Mediterranean; the ruins appear to be Greek in origin and are loosely based on the Erechtheion in Athens.

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So, which of the places considered for Tomb Raider: Legend would you like to see in a future Tomb Raider adventure? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!


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