The Woman Who Raided Our Hearts is Back - Tomb Raider Review
After a four year break, Lara Croft is back in the newest installment of the Tomb Raider franchise. Ever since Electronics expo 2011(E3 2011), we expected to see yet another reboot of the much beloved Tomb Raider franchise, did it deserve the 51 nominations and 26 awards it won after its unveiling at E3, let’s find out.
The newest installment, simply named Tomb Raider, features an inexperienced Lara Croft on her first ever adventure.
Lara, fresh out of University, is part of a team of archaeologists, searching for the ancient Japanese Kingdom of Yamatai. The start of the game sees Lara’s ship, “The Endurance,” capsize onto some rocks inside the notorious Dragon’s triangle. Lara manages to survive the collision and like the rest of the crew ends up stranded on an island. Before she can regroup with the crew, she is attacked and her unconscious body is dragged to a cave. The first few hours or so of the game are littered with simple elemental puzzles, QTEs (quick time events) and the hunting of animals, be it for food or self defense. The QTEs take away from the experience a little bit but it is not long until the game opens up and the quick time events are more spaced out.
After about two hours into the game, Lara discovers she is not alone, a reckless cult on the island try to kill Lara and any other survivors they can find, she is no longer the one dimensional, dual wielding rich adventurer we all once knew but a vulnerable young woman who must do what she can to survive.
Narrative has never been a strong point in the Tomb Raider franchise.
However, developers Crystal Dynamics have yet again redefined the series, originally developed by the now redundant British developers Core Design limited. It is very easy to emphasise with Lara and you feel the need to protect her, yet venture forward to explore the island and it’s secrets. You soon find out that the cult has an unhealthy obsession with Lara’s best friend Samantha and whilst the game hints she is linked to the Ancient sun queen of Yamatai, you will still keep guessing as to what will happen until the end of the game.
The development of Lara’s character is superb, she is not certain of anything and can’t find a rational explanation as to why storms keep appearing which capsize ships and bring down planes. And there is a sense of guilt, the crew listened to Lara to go to the dragon’s triangle to find Yamatai, but although she was right she has risked their lives.
The narrative is far from perfect though.
Lara finds a makeshift bow and numerous arrows near the start of the game and is forced to hunt a deer for food. When the player successfully manages to kill it, he/she must approach the deer to collect the meat and return to camp. Lara close to tears, feels guilty and has a look of disgust on her face when she must cut the deer open to get meat. This seemed very realistic and would be the expected reaction of the average person. That being said there are numerous other Deer in the forest and when Lara kills one of these she doesn’t even hesitate to collect the meat.
A similar problem appears shortly after, a cult member attacks Lara and tries to kill her, but she manages to turn the gun on him and kill him. Lara is distraught, she is crying and retching and must come to terms with what she’s done. However, in literally a minute later she takes a handgun and quite happily kills another 3 people, with no remorse. And shortly after the game promotes stealth kills by snapping enemy’s necks. The game should have introduced more kills at a slower pace instead of inducing the numerous different ways you can dispose of your enemies.
As mentioned above, the development of Lara is second to none.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the supporting characters of the game. They are not shown enough and are pretty generic to any drama/sitcom. You have the nerd, the suspicious one, the short tempered one, the big and friendly one and the father figure who assumes control over a situation. Mathias, the leader of the cult is very mysterious but you don’t find out as much as you’d want to about him. Despite him having a lot of potential he is generally flat and unexciting.
Graphically, the game is better than any other Tomb Raider game and the atmosphere of the island could not be any better.
The game offers a lot of exploration , something we’ve always loved in the Tomb Raider franchise. The game is revolutionary in the aspect that the AI (artificial intelligence), will not let Lara hide behind cover, they will throw Molotovs to flush her out and the cover system is perfect as the player does not have to do anything as Lara will take cover if it is needed. The game introduced a Camp feature where the Player could upgrade Lara’s Skills, fast travel to other camps and upgrade her weapons if he/she collected enough salvage which works as the game’s currency.
The game is an origin story and a desperate fight for survival so there is not a lot of the traditional “tomb raiding” but the game has numerous hidden tombs throughout the island, and it feels rewarding to solve the puzzles so Lara can find the artifacts and stare in awe. Whilst the game has brought so much new features to the franchise, it was disappointing that there was no swimming in the game, which has been in every other Tomb Raider game and is a step in the wrong direction for the series.
All in all, Tomb Raider is a solid and fantastic reboot, whilst there are some flaws, these are easily improvable and hopefully the new game sets the foundations for an even greater adventure to come.
+ Stunning visuals
+ Redefinition of Lara Croft
+ Great Combat sequences
- Narrative flaws
- Less developed supporting characters
- No swimming
Tomb Raider is a highly recommended game and a contender for game of the year and I score it 8/10.