Before the reboot of the Tomb Raider series my experience with Lara Croft was extremely limited. I saw the movies with Angelina and even watched my wife play through most of the series. While the game certainly seemed entertaining I just didn’t see Lara’s true potential – until the reboot.
Fast forward and we are introduced to the Rise of the Tomb Raider. Being the successor of the beloved Tomb Raider of 2013 it had rather large shoes to fill. Before I jump into my full review – the games narrative is fantastic and one of the more engaging Tomb Raider stories I’ve seen. Just saying Nathan Drake – Lara’s back.
I’ll be as spoiler free as possible as this story is super entertaining and something that needs to be experienced first hand.
The main story revolves around Lara’s relationship with her father Richard Croft. More specifically the time frame in which it started to become obsessed with the myth of immortality. Richard decides to share his findings only to have it blow up in his face, as the Academic Community turns on him, ruining his much fabled career. Upon doing some research Lara discovers just how close he was to finding an artifact that might hold the clue to unlocking immortality. Though there is a secret organization after the same artifact and will stop at nothing to achieve their goal aka: Trinity.
There are a variety of sub-plots throughout the game. The one I most enjoyed was the hunting of the Prophet. It’s told through the documents you find hidden throughout the game. Which tells of a Roman soldier hunting the Prophet across the world.
Like in the previous title, there are also campfire stories – about Lara’s father and telling his backstory – which have ties back to Roth – the Croft’s body guard and main character from the previous iteration.
If you haven’t played a Tomb Raider game before the core gameplay is an Action Platformer. Action of course means gun fights and the platformer for the parkour esque exploration of various ancient ruins. What I appreciated the most was the leveling aspects of Lara. Early on in the game you find ancient artifacts that are written in Greek. At this point you have a basic understanding of the language – but as you find other relics you start to understand more – and then your language skill increases. Which means you can actually translate the main artifact.
The game also added a much needed crafting element – which to be honest was sorely missing from the previous game. As you explore you will find various objects that you can harvest – and upgrade weapons or create new equipment. Oh and you can also heal yourself. While you heal automatically, the difficulty setting will determine how that works. I selected the harder setting – which meant that I would only auto heal out of combat. Making things a tad more interesting.
The only area the game seems to falter a bit was the combat system. While the stealth combat is excellent – the close up combat needs a little refinement. It’s not bad by any means – but at times can be frustrating as the cover system didn’t work quite as well as I would have liked. What I did find is instead of doing a Gears of War style of combat I needed to rely more on my hand crafted weaponry. Which is a little different style then I played in the previous version.
So before I purchased the Xbox One – one of the big selling points was the Games with Gold release of the Tomb Raider Definitive collection. It was free and I was more then interested in taking it for a spin on this next gen console. It was certainly pretty but Rise of Tomb Raider is gorgeous.
The biggest improvements are in the lighting effects, a majority of the climate in the game is snow. Let me just say there are a lot of subtle details in the environment that made it truly immersive. When walking in the snow you can see foot prints, but there are also some deeper parts – that when you watch Lara walking you can see she’s adjusting her footing. In the deepest parts of the snow it really slows her down making for some tense moments if you are running from creatures. While the caverns have very inserting environmental effects such as plenty of particles in the air, the lighting was so accurate that it really made you feel like you were there.
The cinematics were some of the biggest highlights and selling points to the game and their characters. There were so many subtle facial gestures that I had to remind myself that I was playing a Video Game not watching a movie.
Well when I first started to play this game I noticed the M for Mature rating. I figured it was going to be along the same lines of the 2013 version – but what I didn’t think about was language. Now while there is plenty of cussing – it doesn’t sound forced or overused. It’s sprinkled throughout scenarios where you the player are probably whispering the same thing. As you watch Lara having to think on the fly while falling great heights from a mountain. That being said the voice acting was excellent. Everything felt very cinematic and was truly engaging.
With the holiday season upon us, and Star Wars right around the corner I’m afraid that this title isn’t necessarily on everyone’s radar. Which is sad, as this game brings it in a big way. If you are a fan of the action platformer do yourself a favor and check out Rise of the Tomb Raider you won’t be disappointed. I feel I must apologize to Nathan Drake, as now I am on team Lara.