Tomb Raider 2013 GOTY
Tomb Raider 2013 introduced me to the strongest and most heroic character I've ever played as so far. The best part is that Lara isn't just some war-born hero. She's basically scared out of her mind throughout the entire campaign. But that's how her strength in character shines. As scared as she is, she doesn't give up hope and she doesn't stop fighting for her own life and the lives of her friends. She is incredibly strong-willed and never loses courage.
Lara is out on her first expedition when a storm leaves her and her team shipwrecked on an island. Lara almost drowns twice during the storm before making it to the island itself. Then she's kidnapped by an islander and dragged into a bloody cave filled with bodies and skeletons and is hung upside down to wait for death. She escapes by swinging from side to side until she breaks free, falls down and lands on a metal spike that stabs her all the way through the left side of her stomach from front to back. She rips the spike out of herself. That is just the beginning and it isn't the worst of it. Lara is practically tortured throughout her survival on the island. She is brutally beaten an astronomical amount of times by both the environment and its inhabitants. Of course during all this I was the one in control and Tomb Raider was an incredible experience from the opening cinematic until the end of the game.
I enjoyed the story very much. The island is haunted by the spirit of the "Sun Queen" that has been trapped on it for hundreds of years. She has cursed the island so that anybody who comes near it ends up getting stuck on it just like Lara and her team did. While playing the game I came across lots of tomes, scrolls, and evidence of what had happened on the island and how it all began. But the most interesting thing to me was Lara herself. Outside of the combat itself there was never a time that I didn't feel a personal connection with her. I wasn't scared for my own life, but I always felt an impending danger for hers. Every new turn or discovery on the island was always another step into a near-death encounter. Accidental falls inside of run-down mines, or old caves, and deadly trips down rivers with strong currents. Then of course the island is full of men who have lost their minds while stranded and have become murderers.
I also got to know a little more about Lara's training as a hunter. Her mentor, Roth, is with her on her first expedition. Her sister is also on the trip and even becomes the focus of attention for quite a bit, although not so much on a personal level as a, "Save me" one. (I'm leaving out extra information due to spoilers.) So it seems kind of like both a vacation and an expedition. One of those first "We'll go on an easy adventure" things to get you started but turns out to be a horrifying disaster kind of a trip.
I got to see why and how Lara became not only a lone adventurer, but the truest survivor I have ever known. By the end of the story I got the impression that she would never want to put her friends in danger and that is why she seeks the truth of all things on her own. She wants to know more about the world, about the past, about mysticism. A thirst for knowledge is all she has. It's strong and she doesn't allow the possible horrors of the world to stop her.
With a beautiful and mood setting soundtrack, great voice acting, stunning visuals, and some of the bloodiest combat I've seen, Tomb Raider is a truly exceptional experience. Please enjoy tons of screenshots from my first and second playthrough.