Written by Twisted Ideas
The second big reboot of the year Tomb Raider one of the first ladies of gaming is getting a fresh start. Unlike DMC there was a lot of positive buzz surrounding the new realistic look of Lara Croft and the new direction the series was taking. The big question is that Lara look the only thing that’s new or will the game feel like just another Tomb Raider?
Lara Croft a young archeologist is in search for the lost kingdom of Yamatai. After providing her research to reality TV archeologist Dr. James Whitman, Lara and the Endurance crew travel to the Dragon Triangle in search for Yamatai. The Dragon Triangle is riddled with storms shipwrecking the Endurance leaving the crew stranded on Yamatai. The island does in fact exist and is populated by the Solarii, shipwrecked survivors in search for Yamatai searching for a way to stop the storms.
Tomb Raider is a third person shooter with an emphasis on exploration but with puzzle and platforming elements scaled back. Initially your only weapon is a bow and arrow but finds firearms and pick axes to help defend herself. Lara will makeshift upgrades to weapons as the story progresses. There’s a stealth and cover system available only when enemies are around. You don’t snap to objects allowing you to easily move from cover. There’s an ability called Survival Instinct that turns the screen black and white and highlighting points of interest. Campsites allow you to upgrade Lara’s skills, weapons and return to most previous areas with new gear.
What game’s complete without a little bit of stealth.
You gain experience for completing certain sections of the game, killing enemies and animals. Each level will provide you with a skill point which you can use to improve Lara’s abilities. Some are passive (more experience or ammo) While some affect combat: drawing your bow faster or improved attacks. You will also collect salvage that can be used to upgrade weapons. Eventually, you start finding weapon parts to improve the weapon further.
There are several collectables for you to find on the island each granting varying amounts of experience. Relics, documents and GPS caches all give some insight on the culture, previous and current inhabitants and the thoughts and motivations of characters. Most areas have challenges to discover requiring you to find several pieces of the objective. There are hidden tombs where you have to solve a puzzle to earn a large amount of experience.
One of the few real puzzles in the game.
Graphics and Sound
Lara and the cast no longer look like cartoon characters. This adds more impact to scenes of pain and sadness because not only play good, it looks good. That being said the graphics aren’t the best you have seen. The game still looks great. The jungle and the wildlife doesn’t feel natural and the attention to detail in the markings on the walls, wreckage and the long and recently dead corpses is memorable.
This is Lara Croft and she’s seen some shit.
There is a new voice actress for Lara who sounds younger than her counterparts, as should be. The voice acting and writing is strong and it’s nice to hear voices from several nationalities in more games. The music sets the tone for what’s happening on-screen. With the use of an orchestra and something the sound developer called “the instrument”, the score can be soothing as wells as horrific when necessary.
First off, for those who think that Tomb Raider is misogynistic after seeing that trailer, you missed the point and calm down. That scene was intended to show Lara’s growth in a horrific situation as do several other scenes which are all handled with respect and care for the character. Lara didn’t start off as a duel pistol wielding, rope swinging bad ass, she was a normal innocent girl who never dealt with anything like what she does on the island. The game is about Lara relying on herself for survival and saving her friends when she knows nobody else can help.
While the game does a good job at showing Lara’s emotional growth but it doesn’t reflect the gameplay. The scenes where Lara makes her first kills lose impact when you kill men and animals left and right soon afterwards. While you can leave most animals alone this Tomb Raider turned into a shooter. Shooting could have been broken up with more puzzles but fortunately the shooting is fun and never felt tedious. I loved how Lara “Macgyvers” upgrades showing her a bit of ingenuity. There are four guns but you really only need the arrow and maybe the pistol.
What I enjoyed was the narration when you obtained relics and documents. The relics gives back story about all the generations of people who’ve landed on the island. Some relics can be examined further making Lara feel more like an archeologist than she ever has. The narration of documents isn’t new but it’s welcomed because it saves cutscenes from exposition dumps. Some documents are found at key moments to foreshadow or increase the impact of a scene.
There is multiplayer forced into the game. There are four game modes: Rescue (capture the flag), cry for help (domination), team deathmatch and free for all. It uses a leveling and unlocking system and changes some of the controls from singleplayer. They give factions different objectives but it only serves to have games be best 2 out of 3 to make it fair. I think the max lobby size is 8 but I don’t think I’ve played in a full game. Multiplayer is split into ranked and casual dividing the small amount of people playing and making impossible to join ranked games midway through. People drop out of games often because it’s obvious when you’re going to lose. You people don’t want waste time finishing a round and possibly the next when the team has left.
I loved this game. While it didn’t stray much from formula in the gameplay department they changed Lara from that stoic but boring character to someone who you can actually care about. There’s a great balance of several elements but I wish there were more puzzles. Shooting and exploration are just long enough so it’s not tedious and the story and the spectacle are just right so it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. Multiplayer can be a decent time waster if you’re willing to wait to find games. Tomb Raider looks better than ever and earns the title of reboot.