9 Essential Rise of the Tomb Raider tips for beginners

These nine beginner tips for Rise of the Tomb Raider will start your game experience out nice and smooth while minimizing in-game failure.

Rise of the Tomb Raider hit shelves November 10th, officially unveiling all the nooks and crannies the new installment has to offer. Lara Croft certainly leads an exciting life, one brimming with violence -- a combination that yields danger in spades...gunmen, rabid wolves, and ticked off bears, an so on. While juggling the combat that pervades Lara's life, players must divide their focus. Strategic character progression and the exploration of the surrounding environment's secrets are musts to a successful and fulfilling playthrough. I've prepared nine solid tips for getting off on the right foot to guarantee that your journey both gratifies and entertains.

1. Get your skill priorities in order.

Every time Lara levels up, players earn a skill point. As golden tickets to success, players must spend these points wisely and based on their playing style. The game offers nearly fifty different skills in three categories: Brawler, Hunter, and Survivor.

Try not to frolick after the seductive promises of combat based skills - the brawler breaks hearts as well as faces. So what's the best move you can make right off the bat? Invest in the Avid Learner and Finesse skills. You'll find Avid Learner in the Survivor category to boost the amount of EXP gained by reading documents, discovering survival caches and relics, and completing certain challenges. Make Finesse your second priority, though it may have to wait a bit as it's a second tier skill in the Hunter category. Finesse adds a bonus to the EXP gained by chaining headshots, stealth kills, and death from above kills. The longer the chain of pain, the bigger the pay-off.

Maximizing your EXP speeds up character progression and gets you much closer to all the skills your little gamer heart desires. While waiting on the Finesse skill, also consider Eye for Detail as your second character upgrade. This improves Lara's ability to track down challenge objects with her Survival Instinct (which I'll cover exclusively in Tip #3), allowing you to get the most out of that Avid Learner boost. Dead Eye, a second tier Hunter skill, makes it easier to line up headshots by adding a red dot indicator onto targets, so keep it in mind soon after acquiring Finesse.

Thick-Skinned, the first option in the Brawler menu, should beat out the combat-heavy skills unnecessary in the very beginning of the game. This hardens Lara to physical discomfort, ensuring enemies deal less damage. 

2. Backtrack or go home, my friends.

This goes out to the OCD completionists out there: Rise of the Tomb Raider does not allow players to complete areas 100% before moving on. While following the plot's path, Lara unlocks new ways to interact with the surrounding world, such as obtaining new tools or the means to upgrade old ones. These open new paths in old areas, paths previously locked and impervious to your efforts. 

On the other end of the player spectrum, those who could care less about completion should keep the foolishness of ignoring these paths altogether in mind. Unlockable areas lead to powerful weapon upgrades and collectibles. The game's fast travel makes backtracking efficient and convenient, so there's no excuse not to take advantage of these spoils.

3. Meet Survival Instinct, your new best friend.

R3 (clicking the right analog stick) activates Lara's Survival Instinct. Forget Mariah Carey - you need to obsess over this ability and only this. Survival Instinct highlights relics, documents, and crafting materials as well as providing helpful hints by imbuing such objects with faerie magic and a bright orange glow. (I'm gonna just go ahead and disclaim that faerie thing. I repeat: you will not interact with actual faeries.) This special vision reveals the area's traversal options, such as routes up trees, hidden ledges, and hidden passageways. Basically, the orange glow covers any interactive object, so it'll also remind you if you've missed some valuable corpse-loot on your way out.

The only exceptions to this color code are Survival Caches. Survival Instinct won't call your attention to these, so you'll have to look out for the small, flashing white light that marks the caches instead.

4. Red means stop. Yellow means go.

Survival Instinct doesn't stop at exploration. For stealth and effectiveness in battle, look no further than R3. So long as you remain still, Survival Instinct lights up enemies either red or yellow. Red indicates a link to other enemies. In other words, if you take down one of these bad boys, you'll alert the whole neighborhood. Yellow symbolizes conspicuousness. These enemies are out of sight, out of mind as far as their fellow cohorts are concerned. You can pick off anyone cast in yellow without further incident or alarm. The second you move, however, the world returns to normal, so pick one spot and stick to it.

Just because you've officially initiated combat doesn't mean you need to completely ditch your Instinct. Survival Instinct leads Lara's gaze to explosive barrels. The ability will also help you track down bottles for crafting molotov cocktails. Take cover and find tools to make the fight an easy win.

5. Don't avoid lonely Tombs and talk to strangers.

Tombs, caves, and crypts house valuable loot and some of the best puzzle experiences of the game. Skipping any of these side quests means losing out on valuable skills only unlockable through their completion. Besides, you don't want to lessen the Tomb Raider experience by, you know, ignoring tombs. It's part of your job description to enjoy those puzzles!

Disregard stranger danger. The friendly characters Lara encounters in Rise of the Tomb Raider offer side-missions that reward you with special equipment you won't find anywhere else. It's most beneficial to your gameplay if you accept every challenge thrown your way. These extra missions come with a heads-up in game: “Ally nearby: optional mission available."

6. Avoid the pitfalls of lazy collection and stock up on materials. 

Grab all the wood, feathers, and pelts you pass. Crafting in the midst of combat could save your skin by restocking your inventory's ammo and healing aids. Don't be stuck needing something you could've have grabbed moments before prior to a heavy gunfight.

Some pouches and tools require animal hides. Crafting a satchel and rucksack in the very beginning preps a hefty inventory. You'll need pelts for a little bit of everything, from increasing the amount of arrows Lara can hold to the ability to use an ice axe as a melee weapon. Try to collect at least ten deer skins around the first base camp before heading out.

Use ranged weapons for wolves, bears, and wild cats. Continually put distance between yourself and your prey. Guns won't necessarily beat out bows, so stock up on arrows before the hunt and remember that the bigger the foe, the more ammo you'll need to drop it. Poison and fire arrows can reduce the time and effort of this process, so keep those close when they become available.

7. Rely on your bow. It likes the attention.

There's simply no beating the range and sheer power of Croft's bow. Upgrade the crap out of that thing for advantages like triple headshots later in the game. Headshots yield more experience than the run-of-the-mill kill, and these are far easier to land with a bow than a gun. 

You'll need your bow for stealth kills to avoid the noisy grand entrance of your gun as well. Armored assault troops can't be taken head-on. Utilize hiding places and the silent but deadly bow to decimate these brutes. Investing in the Arrow Retrieval skill could also save time on restocking your ammo, allowing you to pick an arrow back up from your foe's corpse. This option doesn't come with bullets.

8. Embrace the walkway.

The outfits in Rise of the Tomb Raider aren't just for show. Their extra buffs make the effort to unlock and equip them well worth it, so don't scoff at Lara's fashion sense just yet. Five different outfits effect Lara's performance by shortening the delay between the time Lara takes damage and when her health regeneration begins.

Players can only change outfits at a base camp, You'll find this option in the Weapons menu.

9. Revisit base camps before entering red zones. 

Changing weapons, such as the type of gun or bow you're carrying, can only be done at base camps. Search out that fire before running willy nilly into enemy territory or you may regret it. Getting caught with the wrong weapons for the wrong situation could really hamper your gameplay. Try to stick to weapons you're most familiar with for hot areas to prevent being caught unawares.

And there you have it! Have you tried the game yet? Do you plan on utilizing on particular advice above? Let me know in the comments!

Published Nov. 11th 2015
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