A few weeks ago I went to TR27 – the annual unofficial celebration for Tomb Raider which takes place at Derby Quad. This was my second time going as I did attend the event last year, which you can find out about here but I later learnt on Twitter that the Tomb Raider fans had a couple of meet ups so decided to go for the full weekend this year.
Friday Warm Up
🚨Warm Up Party 🚨— TR27 - The unofficial TR fan event (@derbytombraider) August 11, 2023
Meet other fans at QUAD the night before the big day. We’ll be playing TR games on the big screen and more! 👀
ONLY ticket holders for #TR27 will get entry to this exclusive event!
See you on Friday 13th October at 7pm? 🦖
Tickets: https://t.co/lLLlvktaMT pic.twitter.com/F52kScqrFS
So on the Friday night I arrived in Derby and checked into the Cathedral City Premier Inn which is just over the road from Derby Quad – I did though unfortunately have a bit of an issue getting there with trains, as stupid me thought it was a good idea to go after work during rush hour from Birmingham – note for next time!
However the event was very fun and the one thing I will say to anyone thinking of going is the Tomb Raider community is lovely to be a part of and everyone is always willing to come over for a chat. Also in the room there were a couple of PlayStation’s with the first three Tomb Raider’s on each to pick up and play (although without memory card’s – the sadists 😂).
I also got to meet people in the community who I had only spoken to on Twitter before from last years event so it was lovely meeting them in person.
Saturday was FULL ON. I woke up really early (which bizarrely is a thing I always do in hotels or on holiday) so I decided to do the walk around of the Tomb Raider destinations in Derby which I saw on Twitter last year before the day got underway at the Quad for 11am.
First port of call was Lara’s star on Derby’s Walk of Fame, which is quite close to the Quad and also has some other famous people from the area, such as Hollywood actor Jack O’Connell and Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty (who I also reviewed his 2021 self-help book here).
After that, my second stop was 55 Ashborne Road in Derby, which is about a 15 minute walk from the Quad. This quite fancy mansion was home to Core Design, the company that created Tomb Raider in 1996 (and is rumoured as a possible inspiration for the look of Lara’s home in the games).
The only other stop was Lara Croft Way although this was en route to the train station so scroll down for that one….
After my wander round I went to Derby Quad and the first talk of the day was Steve of Warr‘s discussion with Rihanna Prachett. Rihanna was the writer of the 2013 Tomb Raider game which marked a reboot for the series, as well as it’s follow-up, 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider.
To say the 2013 game and it sequels has been quite controversial amongst some of the fans, especially fans of Core’s classic series is an understatement.
A long story short for non-fans, after the relative underperformance of Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness in 2003 the series was given to American studio Crystal Dynamics, starting with Tomb Raider: Legend in 2006 which was already a minor reboot for the series.
The 2013 game was yet another reboot and a massive departure from the character players knew before and in the later sequels Lara’s backstory once again revolved around looking for her mother (a narrative choice from the earlier Legand, Anniversary, Underworld trilogy which was already unpopular and was carried over).
The game was also criticised for tonally having a lot of in-game violence and combat whereas the cutscenes had Lara questioning her actions as well as an infamous first kill scene which inplied Lara was going to be sexually assaulted.
Sadly some of this frustration has been aimed at Rihanna herself but it was very interesting to hear about her original vision for the game and where higher-up’s at Crystal Dynamics started to interfere and change the story, which resulted in a very diffent story and created some of the problems that fans criticised.
One area which I thought might have been the case but was confirmed by Rihanna was during Rise’s development a trailer was released which implied Lara was going to be dealing with the effects of PTSD from the 2013 game, which many people have agreed was an interesting direction and Rihanna talked about “nightmare” sequences during Rise where you would replay nightmarish versions of some sections of the first game. However by the time of the release this was dropped and instead the game revolved around Lara solving a mystery left by her father.
Rihanna also talked about her work on the comic book series and how she was able to have more of her original intention in those comics which has made me want to seek them out to read at some stage.
The full discussion was uploaded onto Steve of Warr’s YouTube channel so I’ll pop it below, along with the trailer for that game which is worth a watch (the trailer does need you to be signed in as it is age-restricted).
The second discussion of the day was by local Derby YouTuber TheGebs24 who interviewed Judith Gibbins, who was the second voice actress to voice Lara Croft. Juidth is the sister of programmer Martin Gibbins who worked at Core Design and took over the role from Shelley Blond for Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft.
Of course having grown up with the games it was fascinating to here Judith’s experiences of voicing the game (and even hearing her say one of the most iconic lines during her two games voicing the part and seeing that her voice really hasn’t changed in 25 years). She also shared some of her frustrations voicing the part, including trying to voice Lara’s breath when she reaches the surface of the water or saying certain words so many times in order to pick the right recording to use.
Below is the video of that interview.
The third and final talk of the day was hosted by Daryl Baxter (who wrote an unofficial Making Of Tomb Raider book) with the developers of Tomb Raider 3. In the interview, the devleoeprs talked about how they came to work at Core Design, the development process around the game as well as the challenges they faced developing on a very tight schedule (at the time Core Design were tasked with releasing a new Tomb Raider game annually in tim for Christmas, giving only around 9 months to make Tomb Raider 3).
One of the challenges they mentioned was the vehicle controls of the kayak and mine cart which are both memorable sections within the game (although also quite infamous for the difficult controls). Due to the limited time available they ultimately had to get it working as best as they could and then leave it.
The developers also talked about adding new features into the game, including adding triangulation into the engine in order to make the game world look more realistic and less “blocky”, and implementing AI and stealth gameplay within the existing engine.
They also talked about features that were ultimately cut from the game, including a knife Lara was meant to wield as a melee weapon which was used at E3 as a demo but didn’t make it into the final game.
Below is the video hosted on Tomb of Ash’s YouTube account.
As well as the talks, there was also a cosplay parade competition where the fans could show their love of Lara and Tomb Raider. Everyone’s costumes were fab and I loved the attention to detail and creativity of all of the entries.
TheGebs24 has a video of the full parade which is below although the competition was won by @DrJohnOakland on Twitter for his brilliant Winston cosplay. It was also fantastic seeing his commitment to the character during the morning as he shuffled slowlyaround wiht a tea tray making all the noises, which I think made everyone’s day. I also did a double take when I went to Greggs for a sandwich and saw him outside minus tea tray and walking at normal speed!
2nd place I can’t actually find them on socials to provide a link but she dressed in Lara’s Nevada outfit from the game (although one mystery which wasn’t resolved in the talks was the practicalities of blue camouflage trousers in the desert).
3rd place went to @KateSykes who dressed in the classic Lara Croft outfit that we all know and love (including her her sunglasses).
As well as the cosplay parade, there was signing sessions with Rihanna and Steve of Warr, as well as the Tomb Raider 3 developers, Daryl and Judith.
There was also a photograph session with Judith, and Hunger Club were there launching a new unofficial design inspired by the Lost Valley level in Tomb Raider 1. On the left is my photo which I got signed of me and Judith and trying on the Hunger Club T-shirt.
There was also copies of Daryl Baxter’s book which I had wanted for a while and I also got and signed (I will also share my thoughts on the book when I read it as I know it has been very popular with Tomb Raider fans).
All in all it was an absolutely incredible day which flew by.
Museum Of The Moon
After this I popped over to have a look at the Museum of the Moon exhibit which was at Derby Cathedral, again a stone throw away from the Quad.
The only retroactive (and slightly tenuous) link I can think of to Tomb Raider is Lara does visit Area 51 in Tomb Raider 3 so that has some space stuff in there. Also after missing the Gaia display the year before I wanted to see one of these at some point.
The sculpture was created by Luke Jerram and uses NASA’s photography to create a study 3D sculpture of the Moon which hanges in the Cathedral nave.
The sculpture really takes up the space and it is breathtaking to look at, especially at night time and being able to walk around it and see it from all angles was amazing.
It is still there until the 10th November and costs £3 for adults and £2 for children over 5 (under 5’s free). For an extra £2 you can also head up to the balcony which is definitely worth a look and you can book on Eventbrite here.
Below are a couple of my photos.
After the Museum of the Moon I went back to my hotel where pretty much everyone from the event stayed and there was an afterparty which was great fun and also got chatting to some more Tomb Raider fans who I missed on Friday, although by this point I’ll admit I was very much lagging with the early start and running around everywhere!
The party was on until the bar closed at 12am and definitely left me looking forward to next year.
On Sunday morning I visited the final Tomb Raider stop, Lara Croft Way on the way to my train home, which was named by the people of Derby in a public vote in 2010.
I guess I would want to wrap this up with something cheesy and inspirational for everyone who went and is reading this that for the next 12 months hopefully we do everything in the inimitable style of Lara Croft and in Lara Croft’s Way but I won’t (although I kind of just did).
Next year though I’m already looking forward to attending again on 12th October 2024.
Also as next year is TR28 and the focus is going to be on Lara’s great Egyptian adventure Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation I’m also keen to visit Derby Museum’s Egyptian exhibit so hope to do that as well.