The next instalment of the long-running Tomb Raider franchise has arrived; it is once again time to step into the boots of Lara Croft
The Tomb Raider franchise has been very resilient for close to twenty years, boasting multiple games plus two movies under its belt. Crystal Dynamic reboot 2013 laid the groundwork for Lara Croft’s origin story. Telling how she went from an innocent young woman to hardened archaeologist. Simply titled Tomb Raider, it was a fantastic game and gave the series new life. Its latest release, Rise of The Tomb Raider continues that story while making welcomed improvements along the way.
It has to be stated just how pretty Rise of The Tomb Raider looks on screen. Showcasing just what the newer generation consoles can accomplish. I couldn’t help but stop to admire the scenery so many times while playing. The snow covered Siberian mountaintops in the distance. The howling winds when trudging through a blizzard. The sunlight glistening off mud and steel railing. The strands of Lara’s hair as it waves in the wind are all gorgeous. The weather and day/night cycle is a nice touch, which Lara reacts to. For example, one time while I added upgrades to my gear, Lara was huddled over a camp fire shivering and teeth chattering while a blizzard raged on behind her. It must be noted that I played the Xbox One version, so these features might not be present on the 360.
The story follows Lara continuing her deceased father’s work embarking on her first solo expedition, in finding the lost city of Kitezh. Lara believes this ancient city holds the secrets of immortality. Though she is not the only one seeking this power, finding herself in a race against time with secret organisation Trinity, who aim to use this power for their own use. Lara finds herself making allies with the decendents of the citizens of the ancient city in an attempt to push back the private army of Trinity. As the plot progresses, Lara learns the history of the area she is exploring through dialogue or ancient logs found around the area, and how everyone ties into the overall story. Crystal Dynamics should be commended for providing such a detailed back-story that really drew me in.
Crystal Dynamics has made several major improvements to the sequel. It is noticeable that the areas are larger and give players a greater sense of freedom than its predecessor. Several areas, all filled with side quests, challenges, and collectibles to complete at will. Combat has been given an update, encouraging stealth. Lara can lure enemies to pick off one by one or just avoid them all together by hiding in bushes. Though if you hang around too long, enemies will eventually notice you, forcing you into combat.
Optional puzzle tombs make their return, waiting to be explored. Only this time the rewards received for solving these puzzles are greater and more worthwhile, giving players more incentive to attempt and complete them. I found the nine tombs hidden within the games to be the most enjoyable aspect, going back after completing the main campaign just to attempt them. It was nice to see that the side quests actually rewarded me with something meaningful and not just a few coins.
Some flaws that bugged me from the previous game are still present including the odd quick time event, where I was dodging a charging bear. The timing window given to me to press the button to avoid a grizzly end was ridiculously small and I was forced to witness Lara die many times. Though this only seemed to be a problem for the scripted sections. I noticed that sometimes the game would not allow me to pick up things, such as ammunition. Making it quite problematic when scrambling across the ground during boss fights.
Long story short, Rise of The Tomb Raider is a great action-adventure game. Offering both an engaging story and enjoyable gameplay. Microsoft managed to score this game as a timed exclusive. This means Xbox gamers have the privilege to play it months before PlayStation or PC users are able to get their hands on it. This may seem like a long time, but if you don’t own an Xbox console, sit tight; it is definitely worth the wait. – Ben Rochlin
Top photo by Ben Atkinson-James.