Tesla's Legacy in Tomb Raider Legend

Tuesday 16 October 2018

With its main theme centered around Lara Croft and her past, in connection with her country's biggest legend, that of King Arthur and the Excalibur, Tomb Raider Legend unofficially also pays tribute to a legend of the scientific world: the genius that was Nikola Tesla.

Nikola Tesla, the scientist who changed the modern world

For many years, Tesla's brilliant mind was tragically underestimated. His groundbreaking inventions would come to light much later with others taking credit for them, simply because he was more focused on developing his scientific work and much less on promoting himself as a radical inventor. He was so underrated that his name was not even included in encyclopedias before the '90ties. Ironically enough, he was the first scientist to exhibit the possibility of wireless communication with his devices, while constantly working on putting to practice his ideas about wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution. He was actually the one to invent electricity while working alongside Thomas Edison, with the latter being credited for it because he was able to sell it better.

In 1891, Tesla invented an innovative machine, later known as 'the Tesla coil'; it was an electrical resonant transformer circuit that was able to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity. He used these circuits to conduct experiments in electrical lighting, phosphorescence, X-ray generation, high frequency alternating current phenomena, electrotherapy, and the transmission of wireless electrical energy.

Tesla with one of his towers

When Lara arrives in Kazakhstan in Tomb Raider Legend, she discovers a lab where such a machine, along with several other relevant inventions, can be seen. It is first implied and later stated clearly that the fragment of the Excalibur, the artifact that Lara is actually looking for, has been used to convert the Tesla voltage into a wave of some kind of concussive force.

Lara is thrilled to see Tesla's tower with her own eyes

It is not the first time that a Tomb Raider story includes science in its plot, but it is maybe one of the few times where specific and existing work related to it is directly mentioned and exploited further. Tomb Raider Legend indirectly pays respects to Nikola Tesla and his brilliant genius via the reactions and the comments of Lara's assistants who communicate with her through her headset. Alister and Zip, an archaeology enthusiast and a technology geek respectively, are not short of words when they see Tesla's coilgun on a platform of the lab.

Tesla's coilgun seems to be potentially operational

Well-hidden in the heart of the laboratory, the coilgun looks impressive and ominous, given also the context of the story and the threatening presence of Amanda, Lara's archenemy, and her goons who are everywhere around. If Lara tries to use the gun at that point, she is unable to demonstrate its full potential, because it is missing power. This gives her assistants the opportunity to elaborate a bit on the machine and the man who invented it.

Lara's assistants are, like her, very educated

When Lara locates the core, she can use it in order to break through barriers and subsequently move it to the power room so as to make the gun operational again. To do so, she cannot touch the machine because it is electrified; instead, she can attach her grapple on it and move it on the tracks that run through the room, smashing everything in its way. What happens during the process is so impressive and spectacular that Lara's assistants express their admiration with enthusiasm again.

The charged core shows the wonders that electricity can do

After powering up the coilgun, Lara is finally able to use it. Thanks to its technology of wireless energy, she can make it grab metallic objects and throw them at a long distance. She is thus able to hit enemies that are too far away to shoot and are hidden behind unbreakable shields, and also bring a metallic platform close to her so that she gains access to a balcony at the opposite side.

The coilgun is able to move metallic objects without touching them

A bit later, Lara arrives in the secret lab where Amanda, is keeping her 'pet', the Unknown Entity that almost killed her in the caves of Peru and which she managed to tame, becoming somewhat superhuman herself. The Unkown Entity is guarding the fragment of the Excalibur, keeping it out of reach inside a force field above another coilgun. Lara has to break the force field, using the coilgun to shoot away the electrodes that keep it going.

Science can be beautiful too

In the process of doing all this, her assistants make more comments about Tesla's breakthrough experiment. We can only imagine how excited Lara must have been, being able to actually use Tesla's inventions with her own hands, knowing her infatuation with anything scientific.

Lara would have loved to play more with the coilgun if she wasn't in such a hurry

The Tomb Raider series is well-known for including bits of art and science in its stories. With Lara being such an intelligent and educated lady, all this comes naturally and is perfectly incorporated in her adventures. While in the core room, Amanda can be heard talking to her over her headset, commenting at some point, somewhat ironically, that Lara must feel right at home with all those Tesla contraptions around her. "As much as anyone, I suppose", Lara responds to her, paying her own tribute, with that simple phrase, to Tesla's groundbreaking work.

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