The days of innocently strolling through abandoned tombs while solving obscure puzzles are over. While the prior Tomb Raider games have featured a battle-hardened Lara who seems near indestructible, capable of in-humane feats, and devoid of emotion, this new approach is worlds away from what we’ve seen before. In Crystal Dynamic’s reboot of the famous action/adventure franchise, gamers will be given the opportunity to join Lara in her journey from naïve, vulnerable explorer to badass heroine tomb raider extraordinaire. “Is this journey worth taking,” you ask? Hell yes. Yes it is.
Nixxes Software BV
Modified Crystal Engine
DATE OF RELEASE:
5th March, 2013
And There Was an Island
Tomb Raider begins with our young, inexperienced Lara attempting to convince the members of her crew to sail right into the middle of Dragon’s Triangle. Her gut tells her that that’s where they’ll find the lost city of Yamatai, an old Japanese city shrouded in mystery. Most dismiss her theories, but the captain, her father’s friend and her own personal mentor, Conrad Roth, convinces the group to push forward.
The group finds Yamatai, but at a great cost. Within just a few days they find themselves stranded on the mysterious island. Their ship has been torn in two, a crazed island cult is out to get them, and the furious storms surrounding the fabled city refuse to let them leave either by air or sea. They’re screwed in every way possible. And so, the responsibility for finding a way of the cursed island falls to Lara, the one who got them into the mess in the first place.
What’s clear about this reboot is that it’s primarily focused on telling Lara’s story. The designers intended for players to relate to her, to experience her suffering and doubt. They’ve accomplished their mission. The brutality of this reboot is scale-high. The mood is even more intense.
One can tell these goals have fully realized within just minutes of gameplay. Lara’s first task is to escape from a body bag hung about 10 feet in the air in some sort of altar-like cave. As she swings herself towards a nearby torch, the bag she’s in catches fire, and she plummets to the cold, hard, rocky cave floor. And then within seconds she’s got a crazed man on her tail is promising to “help her.” She manages to elude her pursuer for a few, but then, as she’s trying to squeeze through a crevice, the man grabs her foot. Enter button prompt. Succeed, and Lara manages to live another day. Fail and she’s dragged back through the opening and bludgeoned to death with a rock.
There’s been much said of the brutal nature of this game (especially targeted towards a sexually charged assault on Lara’s character), but it’s all hogwash. The designer’s goals were to put Lara (and by extension, the player) through the wringer, and they’ve succeeded in all respects. This is gaming art, my friends.
Gameplay is split between exploration and combat. As Lara moves from campsite to campsite (rest-spots) she both fights and raids. There’s a balance here that should be paid attention to by other game-designers, especially Uncharted. Just when you think you’ve had enough combat, the game grants you a breather by throwing you an environmental puzzle or some platforming. The game has an established rhythm that is enviable.
And even if you do get bored with the main quest, there are countless optional tombs and scattered collectibles that will grant you extra experience to use on upgrading your weapons and survival skills at rest stops. The game even lets you know when certain upgrades are available.
All future adventure games, take note. This is how it’s done.
Rounding It All Up
So, is there anything negative to point towards? Gameplay wise, no. This is sheer perfection. But the story takes a little bit of an unwanted breather towards the latter half of the game. Players are given a spectacular sequence, and they may think it is the end, but then they’ll find themselves at a sort of rest stop before the true climax takes place. But this isn’t really anything to complain about.
Tomb Raider is a fantastic game and a genius reboot. It deserves your time and money. Don’t pass it up.