Looking back at the original Tomb Raider which came out 19 years ago… and yes that actually says 19 years ago. I won’t lie, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series but they brought in a new era of action and adventure to the gaming world. Over the past 19 years, we’ve seen Lara any many forms and fashions, from the gun wielding expert, to the great female explorer. But we’ve never seen a Lara quite like this new one from Crystal Dynamics as we now get to see a young Lara Croft on her very first expedition. She has been shipwrecked and stranded on a strange remote island, packed full of dangerous moments lurking around the corners and pushed to her limits. During the game you will get to experience this new side of Lara’s origin that we’ve never seen before. I believe this was a great way to reboot a series like Tomb Raider that ultimately builds on the already great character we know as Lara Croft.
I’m not a big fan of games with QTE’s “Quick Time Events” but the way they built the story for this game you really don’t notice it. Everything early on in the game feels very scripted at times, but this is also offset with the beautiful landscapes, and the character development. Even though the opening of the game is very restrictive, the designers did such a great job on the plot that you just kinda forget about it….but the best part of the game is after you hit the open lanes and the game lets you loose on the island. This Lara is a very different Lara then we’ve seen in past as I said before, she is vulnerable and what seems weak at times, but she is also very strong and has a will to live which connects you to the character.
The lacking areas of the game were the supporting cast by far. Personally for me I think this is because we’ve seen multiple games with Lara Croft before, so anyone that is a supporting cast is by default lacking just because. The plot of Lara being shipwrecked with a crew of friends is what really builds the story in this new game though. Overall the story that was created is about Lara and not the supporting cast and Crystal Dynamics has done a fantastic job of pulling you into the story and giving you options to be a part of it. There are a few jaw-dropping moments in this story, which develops quickly from survival-struggle into an epic battle for survival.
The combat in the game takes some getting used to because it moves so quickly, and Lara is brand new to the expedition lifestyle as this being her first, you see a few weaknesses come about. One minute she’s trying to figure out how to use a weapon it seems, and five minutes down the road she’s wielding a bow, sneaking around, and doing stealth kills like a ninja. Combat has never been the strength of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider games, but this game nailed it right on the head with an awesome system in my honest opinion. Fighting in this game is just overall fun, and it doesn’t matter what weapon Lara is carrying because your going to get to kill a lot of bad guys in this game. Throughout the game a lot of learning goes on as well, because Lara is able to discover new weapons, and can gather scrap metals and materials to actually “MacGyver” upgrade her weapons as well. I personally enjoyed snapping arrows at high speed through bad guys skulls then using any of the guns, but to each persons own style right.
Building Lara’s skills and upgrading her weapons became a necessity for me it seemed, personally because I’m a completionist, and I wanted to see how much damage I could do. By the time you hit the later chapters of the game you have a mercenaries personal arsenal stash to pick from. I never had a ton of hand to hand combat in the game but that is something you can upgrade and learn along the way as well, which I advise you do. Most of the game though is focused on survival at any cost but seems to be under used in some major parts of the game and story plot.
One of my favorite parts of the survival instincts Lara has is her climbing abilities as you use it a ton in the game, but more then anything leaping across cliffs and mountain ranges with a climbing axe brings you to the edge of your seat at times. Being able to climb to new destinations around this map makes the game feel very large and actually brings you closer to feeling lost on a big remote island I think. Lara has been to some pretty amazing places over her 19 years as an explorer but this reboot gives us a stunning, beautiful look into scenery that is hard not to stop and look at. This game is so rich with colors, detail and beauty, you could honestly call it a work of art at times.
Tomb Raider has definitely taken inspiration from the other great action games of our generation. One of my favorites in the game were Shanty Town where you have to escape a burning building, and in the same area you were sifted down a cliff-side waterfall, so the game has a ton of depth in it’s environment. This game brings a great mix of emotions into the game play as well, as there are moments of learning and quiet story building, heavy combat sequences, and moments your sitting on the edge of your seat clinching your teeth together. One of the things I did like about the old Tomb Raider games were the puzzles you had to figure out, and this game is no different as Lara will have plenty of moments figuring out how to find lost treasure, or being stumped on a solution of how a door opens. A lot of the treasure hunting takes backseat to the storyline of the campaign missions, but it’s great to have that old exploration feel in the game as well with these side missions.
When you have finally completed all the campaign missions, the map opens up for you to explore as you freely choose, and if your a completionist then what better way to go looking for those missing documents, hidden treasure, or relics you missed a long the way. Once the main campaign is complete there won’t be any lurking threats while your out scavenging so it’s just you and the large remote island of a playground that you get to go admire now.