In 2013, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics rebooted the long-running Tomb Raider video-game franchise with an installment geared more toward survival, in a much more grounded setting, an inexperienced Lara Croft was forced to fend for herself and fight off a ravenous cult to save her friends. The video-game received critical acclaim across the board, and, more importantly in the eyes of big studios, achieved a franchise best in-terms of sales, selling 11 million copies as of November 2017. Following 2013’s successful reboot, in late-2015, the series’ next installment was brought in with Rise of the Tomb Raider, a critically acclaimed video-game in its own right that did very well, even if it might not have bested its predecessor. In-anticipation of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, coming late-2018, I decided I would dust off Rise of the Tomb Raider and share my thoughts with each of you.
Rise of the Tomb Raider sees Lara Croft begin to come more and more into her own, becoming the adventurer we know her to be. The story follows Lara’s journey through Siberia in search of the legendary city of Kitezh, all while battling against the paramilitary organization called Trinity, a group that intends to uncover a means for immortality. It’s a race to the finish line! Albeit, with a plethora of detours for gamers to choose from as they explore various semi-open hubs with challenge tombs, side-missions, and other side-content to supplement the experience along the way.
While I enjoyed Tomb Raider (2013), I will say that I don’t think I enjoyed it to the extent as many others did. I thought it brought darker subject-matter and a more cinematic approach, but I also think it came with a cost. As a fan of the series, specifically when it arrived at Crystal Dynamics’ door-step with titles like Tomb Raider: Legend and Underworld, I would have liked more puzzles and more plat-forming, which are the aspects that drew me to the series in the first place.
With that said, I can now gladly say that Crystal Dynamics took player feedback into account. Rise of the Tomb Raider incorporates far better plat-forming and several challenge tombs with an array of puzzles to uncover. Although, I can’t single out specifics sequences in Rise of the Tomb Raider that especially shone a light on said plat-forming in the same way I can do so with, say, Uncharted, for the most part, it’s all consistently high-standard. The plat-forming is enhanced considerably by new equipment and abilities, that will have you swinging around and progressing in unique ways. The worst I can say about it is the plat-forming isn’t mind-blowingly good, but is, rather, a rearrangement of familiar ideas done greatly.
Combat and stealth are an important aspect in Rise of the Tomb Raider, just as they were in its predecessor. The environments and your choice of weaponry, which includes a plethora of different guns or concoctions you can devise to eliminate your enemies, like Molotov’s, smoke bombs, or a poisonous arrow that can drop just about anyone in its path. Rise’s execution is spot-on and delivers a fair-share of ideas to keep itself fresh.
In-terms of fumbles, something I did want to talk about is the number of glitches I encountered throughout my play-throughs. I wouldn’t bother mentioning these, only problem is, I encountered quite a few. For instance, the reason I say “play-throughs”, is because my first play-through of Rise of the Tomb Raider lasted until about the end of the campaign when I encountered a game-breaking glitch I was unable to progress from. (coincidentally, I actually encountered a game-breaking glitch with my play-through of Tomb Raider: Underworld) Honestly, I liked Rise of the Tomb Raider so much, I was ready to give it the benefit of the doubt and accept it. Unfortunately, in my second play-through, I encountered more, whether it be a disappearing Lara Croft as I ziplined down a mountain (I was able to watch the pick-axe magically go down the zip-line) or instances where objects meant for side-missions were inexplicably unaccounted for. While I played, I had a leeriness that kept me from wanting to dedicate time to anything other than the campaign.
The graphics are fantastic. If there’s one thing Tomb Raider remembers from its predecessor, it’s the cinematics, and it even improves on them considerably, providing a robust and gorgeous snowy décor for our raider of tombs to explore. I have heard some go as far as to regard the attention to detail as the best on the market and that’s a bold claim I think I would second.
The story-line and characters are a continued downfall of the series. Although a person can appreciate Lara Croft’s will, desire for knowledge, and her fighting spirit, the character itself has never been as engaging as I might like. It isn’t that the character is badly voiced, but that so little of what she says boasts personality, when she finds an artifact, the dialogue comes off like she’s reciting a history lesson. And, maybe, that’s Lara’s character. She’s a person who is always learning, always trying to find more. Unfortunately, it simply doesn’t operate on all cylinders the way everything else does. It doesn’t help matters the story-line boasted is very familiar, it’s one that’s been done over and over (whether it be a hundred action movies or the basic formula behind every Uncharted game), and the flavor presented in Rise of the Tomb Raider, while certainly competent, isn’t enough to set the mood the game-play itself could work wonders with.
That’s the downsides of Rise of the Tomb Raider, and, for what it’s worth, I think what’s good about Rise of the Tomb Raider greatly outdoes what detriments it. The game-play is fun, diverse and of high-quality, delivering solid stealth and direct combat, as well as strong platforming and more developed puzzle-solving than what was seen in the previous installment. The story-line and characters might not blow your hair back, but the scenery and sense of adventure immerses you in its place. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a very good video-game that I highly recommend. It’s Tomb Raider at its best.