By Marty Mulrooney
The Making of Tomb Raider is an unofficial behind the scenes book detailing the creation of the first two Tomb Raider games, written by British writer and podcaster Daryl Baxter. Interviewing more than 20 people, including the original team at CORE Design, this is the definitive account of how Lara Croft was born and how Tomb Raider became the global phenomenon it remains to this day.
The PC version of Tomb Raider II (1997) was my introduction to 3D gaming and as a result, the series has long held a special place in my heart. In 2016, I read a wonderful retrospective posted by Eurogamer to celebrate the first game’s 20th anniversary and have found myself fascinated by it ever since.
In 2018, I played Tomb Raider (1996) on PlayStation from beginning to end and interviewed original Lara Croft voice actor Shelley Blond to mark the series’ 22nd anniversary.
Therefore, when I discovered that fellow Tomb Raider fan Daryl Baxter had taken the time to create an entire book about the making of the first two games, I knew I needed to read it as soon as possible. From the introduction, it’s clear that he is a massive fan of the series and his enthusiasm and passion are evident throughout the entire book.
Baxter sets the scene perfectly, building slowly from the creation of CORE Design (with the founder borrowing £16,000 from his grandma) to the industry-shaking reveal of the Sony PlayStation and the initial pitch of a game involving a male adventurer by artist Toby Gard.
Revelations start flying from the outset and it soon becomes apparent that this is going to be a ‘warts and all’ tale that pulls no punches.
CORE Design founder Jeremy Heath-Smith recalls how Toby Gard’s initial pitch annoyed him, as it showed a male character with a whip and hat exploring some catacombs – a blatant Indiana Jones rip-off. The second pitch was far more successful (and less likely to get the studio sued), showing a simple room containing a woman and a T-Rex. Her name might not have been decided yet, but Lara Croft had finally arrived.
It has long been rumoured that Toby Gard walked away from CORE Design – and untold millions in royalty checks – following the release of the first game, due to his unhappiness over the marketing department’s handling of Lara Croft. The Making of Tomb Raider all but confirms this, but sadly, Toby Gard is not one of the book’s many interviewees. This isn’t a surprise, as he’s notoriously reclusive when it comes to the press and doesn’t seem to like talking about Tomb Raider… but it’s still a shame.
Thankfully, the interviewees that have agreed to participate are fantastic and extremely candid (including the many voices of Lara Croft and soundtrack composer Nathan McCree). The development years of Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider II resulted in a rollercoaster ride that many of its creators were quite frankly unprepared for. Often, it’s easy to forget that games are made by real people – each with their own hopes and dreams – and this book does a marvellous job of humanising what would have otherwise been a purely technical reminiscence.
Sadly, there are several spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that pop up throughout the book, and some of the images are too dark to make out properly. However, I must stress that these are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things; this book has obviously been a labour of love for Daryl Baxter and in many ways it is definitive.
One final note: publisher Pen and Sword Books Ltd provided me with a PDF review copy of this book, but I was enjoying reading it so much that I decided to buy a physical copy to support the author. It’s a handsome oversized A4 coffee table book that deserves real paper and ink.
In short, if you’re a fan of Tomb Raider (and video game history), The Making of Tomb Raider is an unmissable and essential read.
8.5 OUT OF 10