Tomb Raider: The Creative Ceiling is Far Ahead

 

The reboot of Tomb Raider has come and gone, and although the game received critical acclaim, it still didn’t sell the amount of copies that Square Enix thought it would.  In its first month, the game sold 3.4 million copies, but the company wanted to sell nearly double that amount.  They expected 5-6 million in the first four weeks, a number that was still conservative.  The company must be asking itself why they failed to meet expectations.  One thought that comes to mind is, “Has Tomb Raider topped its creative potential?  Has the game series that defined action/adventure exploration reached the creative glass ceiling?  Is that why it didn’t receive the attention that it deserved?”

 

No, I don’t believe it has.  And I still think that it has some places to go.  This blog post will serve to explore what can be done to re-energize the series in its next installment.  First, I’ll explore what the reboot succeeded in, next I’ll point towards some improvements that can be made in the future, and finally, I’ll give my opinion on where the game series should absolutely NOT go.

 

 

What Was Done Right

 

 

The reboot ditched both the  “Anniversary” canon of the latest Tomb Raider and the one of old in order to establish a brand new continuity, and this was a definite necessity.  As much as Eidos and Core Dynamics may have been trying, they were drastically failing at revitalizing interest in the franchise.  The newer games were “okay” by many standards, but they were still re-treads of previous ideas established in the series.  Furthermore, despite the writer’s attempts to integrate a personal story into the life of Lara, she still remained a cipher, a difficult character to pin down.  Something had to be done.

 

The reboot fixed this by reintroducing Lara to the general public as a fully realized individual, a character that audiences could identify themselves with.  Before Lara was just a figure, but now she has personality, heart, and internal doubt.  She is a human being that goes through the challenges of life just like the rest of us, her challenges are just a bit rougher than ours.

 

Speaking of rough, the grit and realism of this new installment was a great choice as well.  Gameplay wise, the game got us into the thick and messy through forcing us to scavenge for spare parts and food as Lara fought for her life.  Lara’s survival story was one that we had to endure right along with her.  It may have been shocking to the public (I’m sure we all remember the  “rape” scene fiasco) but it drew attention to a game that needed it.  Now Lara was vulnerable and human, and the public was aware.

 

Lara’s humanity was further realized through her interaction with the strong cast and narrative direction of the game.  Past installments were focused solely on Lara, and even then they didn’t focus on her inner spiritual struggle.  Now we have Lara working with teammates and friends, and as a result she’s become more clearly defined.  Human interaction always brings growth.

 

What Can Be Improved

 

It’s in both of  those areas though (grit and character interaction) where I believe the game can find new life.

 

The past Tomb Raider games have always carried with them a sense of isolation.  Exploring forgotten, long abandoned ancient ruins was Lara Croft’s addiction, it brought her purpose, but it also set her apart from the others around here.  In this reboot, we have Lara constantly interacting with her friends and advisors, and so the horror of solitude never quite manages to establish as it did before.

 

This isn’t necessarily a flaw with the game, but it’s something that the developers should look towards in the future.  Now that Lara’s become a hardened survivalist, how does that distance her from general society?  How is she going to manage the weight of all the lives she’s taken?  Is Tomb Raiding going to become a psychological escape from the world?  This would be an interesting approach to take, and one that would both contribute to the atmosphere of the game as well as the new in-depth character of Lara.

 

This theme of isolation and grittiness can be further integrated into gameplay by strictly limiting the amount of items at Lara’s disposal.  Taking Tomb Raider back to the survival horror days of Resident Evil, where ammo and health were scarce, would do wonders to further push desperation onto our protagonist.  Yes, I know scavenging  was main game play element to the newest game, but it just wasn’t brutal enough.  The difficulty level needs to be increased.  Tombs need to be larger, and the sense of belonging needs to be shaken.  True horror needs to be felt in all aspects.

 

 

Where We Shouldn’t Go

 

As I’ve argued, Tomb Raider should be a series that thrives on isolation, and integrating co-op into the series would throw all of that away.  This is a direction the game should avoid at all costs; we’ve seen what happened to Resident Evil 5 & 6, and we all know how well Angel of Darkness fared.  Bringing in companions (even those not played by friends) should be a topic well avoided.

 

But most of all, Tomb Raider must not lose the heart that it’s recently found.  Whatever is done in the sequel, careful attention must be paid to maintaining the new dimensions that have been added to the series.  It’d be a shame to see the series revert to its former, unintelligent self.

 

 

When all’s said and done, games like Tomb Raider aren’t ever going to die out.  Lara Croft, like her male counterparts Indiana Jones and Nathan Drake, is a classic character archetype.  She stands at the human intersection of greed, heroism, and inner strength.  If this character goes to rest, she’ll soon be replaced by another.

 

I’d rather that not happen though, as this new iteration has only just been born.  I hope the creators are able to dig deep into their own bag of ideas to bring us some great surprises in the future.  And hopefully…just maybe…they’ll use some of mine.

 

 

 

Responses (23)

  1. Angelo Caruso says:

    "The reboot fixed this by reintroducing Lara to the general public as a fully realized individual, a character that audiences could identify themselves with. Before Lara was just a figure, but now she has personality, heart, and internal doubt. She is a human being that goes through the challenges of life just like the rest of us, her challenges are just a bit rougher than ours."

    Is the "Bashing the old Lara" machine still working?
    The old Lara was just more introverted than the new one, but she's not a heartless character. Stop it, really. This is getting pathetic.
    Since Meagan Marie made that captious article on Game Informer, everyone seems happy about denigrating the old version of the character by saying a lot of lies.
    This is misinformation, dude.
    Shame on you.

  2. Nice thoughts, Aaron… if I may, I will also like to see more crazy/long puzzles to solve in the future games (ala Tomb Raider IV) and these MUST be part of the actual story mode and NOT side quests… in other words, as you rightly stated, Tomb Raider must become a tougher game… so that one can always feel the challenge/horror/isolation in the levels…. and for God sake please DON'T introduce co-op into the game… we love Lara to work alone.

  3. Ben Buttery says:

    I do want the series to revert to its former self but this doesn't mean it will be unintelligent.

  4. Simon Dufresne says:

    YES! Bringing survival horror elements from classic RE games to the new Lara Croft would clearly make the game more realistic and an experience never to forget. Unfortunately I feel like they want a big audience and will keep the difficulty level moderate for untrained players (even though the first Tomb Raiders were quite challenging).

  5. Raymond Kuhn says:

    I agree and don't at the same time. I agree on the isolation, but I never really got a sense of Resident Evil style horror from any of the previous games. Wonderful forgotten places. Age old mysteries. Isolation from mankind most of the time? Your best friend a forgettable butler. It was always the mystery of the forgotten parts of the world and dangerous treks with the only goal in her mind being knowledge. She was in a way the same type of character her father was painted as by Roth…

    (Spoiler)

    I wish Roth would have survived the game, of all the members he had the most carry on potential and actual personality… well maybe besides Jonah.

    (End Spoiler)

    I loved the story, the island, the climbing, but I got tired of dirty men, trash everywhere.

    Lara Croft is NOT a human without Superpowers. If she had a superpower I had to label off of this game I'd say it's the best damn immune system in the world. She's getting shot up, cut up, beaten up, impaled in a trash ridden dump of a corpse pile of an island and then swimming through corpse water, stagnant sewage water, blood pools, climbing through corpse piles.

    Seriously, corpses breed diseases, rotting blood breeds diseases, hell even open wounds in a clean jungle environment breeds diseases. It only takes one dead man with aids, or Hep C and BAM she'd logically have a terminal illness that should take her life…

    Granted it would be hilarious if they took that into account into next game and had her drink some sort of mystical water from a fountain of life and get cured.

    But all said and done, Lara Croft could probably walk around bleeding during the Black Plague, go home, open a letter filled with Anthrax, eat raw meat for breakfast and go to sleep on Used Sepulcher Rags and be just fine in the morning like nothing happened.

  6. Aaron Ploof says:

    I'm happy to see that I have some admirers and that my views aren't totally off the charts. Thanks everybody!

  7. Aaron Ploof says:

    Roth was an interesting character, but tearing him away from Lara was, I believe, the best way to affect her character psychologically. He was, for al intents and purposes, her only father figure left.

  8. Aaron Ploof says:

    Past Tomb Raider games were largely based upon one single artifact that would change/alter history and Lara retrieving it. Character development, themes, ideas…these all fell into the background.

  9. Aaron Ploof says:

    I as well, would appreciate harder puzzles.

  10. I quite agree with you Simon. When i first started playing tomb Raider, i found the levels to be quite very challenging and being able to use your brain to figure out various puzzles and riddles as you go along and to have Lara interact with all them makes everything much more appealing and challenging. I feel that the game gods upstairs should merge the puzzles and crypt raiding Tombs into the new games so players like you and myself and everyone else can enjoy and experience Tomb raider and Lara like never before. The difficulty should be applied to all games , not just for the untrained players, but to all players ,new or experienced, that is how you learned to play the game and that is how i learned also. To have a Co-op included will ruin the whole experience of the franchise, not allowing Lara to be free to roam the crypts and tombs will be like withholding lollies from a kid, it's not logical When Angel of Darkness came out i thought it was going to be the best game to ever come out since Last revelation but it had proved to be a flop. it had everything wrong with it, storyline, Co-op pairings, no tombs or crypts. On the whole Tomb Raider has to be made into a more tougher game that still has the same twists and turns of the temples, Ruins, catacombs and Egyptian tombs without all the zombie activities of resident evil and just stick to good old fashioned mysterious ancient history and your forgettable butler

  11. I agree highly with the part about how the past tombraider games was about the desperate situation of survival while being isolated from other people, how she faces everything alone without company of backup, or even the small numbers of characters… that was what made the game so cool and effecting. Tomb raider anniversary was my favorite for the reboot of graphics. The new tomb raider I haven't played but just one glimpse of the trailer I just felt like it was not right… something was missing.

  12. Pop Axiomatic says:

    It a joke …. This tomb raider was develope by square enix …yes right the final fantasy….. You may call it final tomb raider

  13. Aqua Drehz says:

    Didi u play it too?

  14. The originals were much better. I felt it was more like uncharted if you've ever played those games.

  15. Michael Yusuke Senko Im a huge fan of all the old versions, they are all my childhood, especially the first one ever, tho i love Chronicals during Laura's childhood adventure at the haunted island where all she had was a torch

  16. Fayz Panadda says:

    I never play those old versions. actually i watch my lil' sis played this version (it's like i play with her without touching a keyboard).

    We finished it about few weeks ago and for me (Square enix fan) with this first time with Tomb Raider i think it's a good game tho (can't say thing much coz i don't have an old versions to compare)

    I love the story about the old Japanese things and haunted stuff (Coz i really like Fatal Frame > it's a horror game in PS2) and i'm so excited that i found a Ban Chiang's Vase in the game! LOL

  17. Fayz Panadda you have to play the old versions and ull know why its full of charms! and back in the day the graphics were considered top of the world! also great concept art

  18. Overall gameplay wise…I think this kicks Uncharted's ass! If you are into south park humor then Uncharted is the game for you…Overall story was very believable until the end *for those who have played without spoiling anything* But it kept you questioning… My only upset is that they have not released any DLC Story wise…If not hopefully they come out with release another tomb raider…Sorry Nathan Drake but we already have a Indiana Jones and he doesn't need replacing.

  19. Simon I blame the Casual gamers…they all need to burn in hell. Or play Dark souls ;)

  20. Lostman Havok says:

    We need more puzzles and tombs (and don't make em easy!). I agree with more isolation as well.

  21. "The difficulty level needs to be increased. Tombs need to be larger, and the sense of belonging needs to be shaken. True horror needs to be felt in all aspects." = Perfect. Where do I sign to endorse? (y)

    Nevertheless, is really a magnificent game; it was worth the (long) wait for a new Tomb Raider game.

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