In 2013 developers Crystal Dynamics, and publishers Square Enix decided to reboot the famous Tomb Raider series. The attempt was meant to give Lara Croft more of a backstory, and make her slightly more realistic in her design. The game was over all well received, believing that it brought the old series into modern times, in very successful and entertaining ways. Now the rebooted series has continued with Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The plot is the further development of Croft into the “Tomb Raider” that we know. In the first game she comes face to face with the reality that mythical beings are real. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, she is attempting to finish her father’s last project. She often rejected his work, not believing that the seemingly unrealistic things that drove his research could possibly be real. What she faced in the first game though has opened her eyes, and she wants to make it up to her father. Along the way to discovering the truth of his final project she unlocks a greater conspiracy, and must fight to find the mythological “source” of immortality before it falls into the wrong hands.
The actual plot itself is nothing worth getting too excited for. It’s entertaining enough, but it’s been done before. However Lara’s development in dealing with why she is searching for this source, and her guilt over her relationship with her father is well developed. The game does a good job of connecting the Lara we saw in the reboot with the Lara we will likely be seeing in the future. She no longer questions whether these greater things exist, but accepts them as fact. She is stronger than the last version of herself, though is still struggling somewhat, making her a believable and developed character.
The gameplay is also solid. It follows a lot of the same path of the last game with tweaks. There is a blend of stealth, fast pace action, and parkour platforming like gameplay. The game has a series of side quests, optional tombs, as well as the regular missions. Overall the bulk of the game hasn’t changed much since the first, though that’s not a bad thing. The first was largely entertaining and fun to play, so repeating a lot of those things is good. Where the gameplay actually starts to suffer is where it departs from the first actually. There are a lot of upgrades to weapons and gameplay that come with the game, almost too many. For instance towards the end of the game you are given the ability to use arrows to climb walls. This is a interesting idea, but it’s one of an already large number of wall climbing things already given in the game. It’s slow paced, and breaks up action when it’s used. Not only that but since it’s introduced so close to the end of the game it seems like developers attempted to force gamers to use it over and over just to justify it. It’s just one of a few examples where “less is more”. A handful of upgrades aren’t that well fleshed out, and the game would have stood on it’s own (maybe even taller) without them.
The game also suffers from a number of bugs and control issues. Lara can be extremely unresponsive, which in moments where you are using her to climb up long towers it can be more than a little frustrating. There is also one major game breaking bug towards the end involving the QTEs. While I don’t mind QTEs when developers decide to put them in games they need to make sure they are perfect as there is no way around them.
Despite the few bugs, and the control issues, the game is just a lot of fun though. It’s a great blend of gameplay styles, and seems to bring the best of other popular series together in this one. The game also encourages you to find your own way to solve different problems, which I always appreciate. Very rarely are you given just one approach to battles, but various ones to suit different game styles.
The game is also beautiful. The graphics are amazing, and show off what the Xbox One can actually do as far as graphics. The lighting is extremely well done giving more life to the overall game. There is incredible attention to detail with both the setting and the various characters. Little things shine through to make the game pop, for instance Lara fixing her hair occasionally. It can seem so small, but small little things add up to something extra that give the game life.
Overall when stacked against the first in the reboot it does some things better and some things worse. It’s not a bad follow up, though I would have liked it to shine a bit more as a sequel. However it continues to make me excited to see where this new “Tomb Raider” series is going, and hopeful for more. Beautiful, good character development, and entertaining gameplay, though with it’s own hiccups.