There is not a lot of time to relax in Rise of the Tomb Raider. When you find yourself in a village in Syria, trudging through the snow to get to your next checkpoint, drums start to beat very slowly. You may stop for a second to ask yourself what that beat was about. You continue onwards to only find that the drumbeat is getting faster each step that you take. It may be obvious that something is about to happen, but you don’t necessarily know what it is or where it will come from.
Then it happens. A wolf attack that caught you off guard as you are running to get a distance between you and them to get off a couple of rounds, but as one dies…another is right there to attack and the experience may make your heart beat a bit faster.
That is Rise of the Tomb Raider is a nutshell; a non-stop adventure that keeps your senses up.
Lara Croft is back and this time it is a family affair in a sense. Something may annoy some gamers is that this game in no real way resembles the E3 trailer a couple of years back that depicted Croft going through some post-traumatic stress disorder as she talked to a shrink in the video. In fact, this Lara Croft seems to be very comfortable in her skin this time around and that is perfectly fine.
The plot in this new Tomb Raider centers on Lara’s father and his obsession with a relic that may have the power of longer life. Shunned by his peers before his death, which we knew about in the previous game, Lara is determined to prove that he was right as she faces some of her own guilt along the way.
In fact, if there is one item to praise about this newest addition is that the writing and plot is much better this time around. Not only is Lara a more confident Tomb Raider this time around, the antagonists are not just one dimensional villains. Instead of a typical plot of the bad guy gaining access to an item to rule the world, there is some justification of their plan but their methods are what is questionable. The actions moments are well paced, if also predictable at times and plot forwarding doesn’t get obnoxious with consistent cut scenes.
Graphically speaking, the game is on par with Tomb Raiders Definitive Edition that came out around the holidays last year. Lara facial animations are more impressive this time around and Camilla Luddington’s portrayal of Lara Croft is improved on as the character has more of a personal stake this time around.
While the story focuses a lot of its story on a father-daughter relationship this time around, it comes to the point where the player may give the occasional eye roll when you set up camp in the game at every place where you can build a fire, like the last game. Lara’s father is either talking in the background during that time, or you hear Lara’s inner monologue about a memory she had or her resolve to prove her father right.
The tropes that we have gotten accustomed to from the last entry are here is full force again as Lara has her bow and arrows that can create zip lines from one part of the map to the other as well as pull down blocked paths. The pick axe chips away at gaps in walls, helps you climb the sides of ice walls, and makes a handy killing tool. Other than that, the pistol, shotgun and assault rifle are back that are just as upgradeable as they were before, in not more, and the crafting system has been improved upon a bit.
Unfortunately though, it is not enough for the player looking for something completely original.
While Rise of the Tomb Raider is great experience to have, you are just reliving most of it from the previous entry only in a colder climate. It would be unfair to call this game a reskin on the original, but the newest entry doesn’t do anything different in terms of gameplay with the underwater parts being the only real exception. The puzzles are more about timing and pulling objects around with your arrow and rope to place them is the right area. For a game called Tomb Raider, there are more tombs this time around but not that many.
That’s not to say that it still isn’t rewarding. While some of the puzzles may not present much of a challenge, by obtaining the treasure in the tomb, you gain new abilities for the rest of the game; the ability to see traps before you trigger them, and so on. Putting more of an emphasis on raiding tombs probably would have been more ideal, but this series of Tomb Raider games isn’t about that anymore (or at least at this point in the series), and is more about the Uncharted style of gameplay than anything else.
One new addition is language deciphering. During the campaign, Lara will come across books, monuments, and propaganda that will allow her to upgrade her ability to read Greek and Russian. The later it gets in the game the more difficult it can be. This is no doubt a way to entice the completionists out there to come back to the game after the credits, so the replay ability is improved upon.
In terms of the story, the ending battle comes off a bit strange in comparison to the first, and what a Tomb Raider is probably expecting is a big boss battle but goes a different way, and while it took a few turns to get through it, it came off as “a beat all the enemies you have encountered over the game” on a larger scale and took away from the story as a whole.
This entry in the Tomb Raider series is important all the same. Not only does if offer a great story and adrenaline inducing action moments, it also sets up the next game in the series at the very least. There is a very James Bond feel to the plot as Lara comes across a SPECTRE like organization.
As much fun as Rise of the Tomb Raider is, there is nothing that differentiates it from the previous one aside from the climate. You are still climbing, sliding down areas and landing in pain, shuffling across ledges that will surely break sooner than later, and running to make it across from a crumbling ground.
In spite of that, Rise of the Tomb Raider is worth your time until the credits end, and if you like the last Croft adventure, there is no reason why you wouldn’t like this one. This is the action/adventure game you are looking for this season and Crystal Dynamics has created another great game even if most of it seems too familiar.