Tomb Raider…A Survival Game?

“We have to go back!” To the beginning of Lara Croft’s career in the Tomb Raider reboot from Square Enix
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

“We have to go back!” To the beginning of Lara Croft’s career in the Tomb Raider reboot from Square Enix. It has been 17 years since the Tomb raider franchise made its iconic debut, but times have been tough for Lara recently after being dethroned by Uncharted, leading to a complete re-imagining of the Tomb Raider series.

Recommended Videos

On her first adventure

Lara, a fresh-faced archaeologist (don’t worry her face doesn’t stay fresh for long) and her crew are searching the eastern Pacific Ocean for the lost nation of Yamatai. When her archaeological team stumbles across the island, their ship is wrecked in a powerful hurricane. Lara, thrown from the ship, awakens  to find that they are not alone. Tomb Raider’s gameplay is a mixture of Uncharted and Batman: Arkham City; you’ll have to climb your way through areas while also finding unique and powerful equipment. For example rope arrows will allow Lara to create zip lines to undiscovered locations. Lara must reunite with her shipwrecked crew by climbing, sneaking, and killing her way across the mysterious island. Early in the game this involves mostly sneaking and climbing to avoid large groups of enemies, while also requiring you to silently kill unsuspecting enemies with your bow (the best weapon in the game!).

Once you get the assault rifle the style changes more from survival to shoot em’ up, mostly by placing Lara in large areas that require her to fight her way through waves of enemies to advance.  While it is fun to climb and zip line your way across the battlefield shooting various enemies, Tomb Raider seems like it really didn’t know what it wanted to be. Is it a survival game? Is it a shooter? In the end it becomes a mixture of both.

Lara will acquire a lot of weapons on her journey across the island including a shotgun, assault rifle, pistol, and bow. These weapons can be upgraded by discovering salvage, which can be found in various crates and chests all over the island. Some salvage containers even contain weapons parts that allow you to upgrade your weapons, a necessary addition that will help you to survive the further you go inland (think pistol to magnum, or long bow to compact bow).


Exploration and Puzzles

Another way to acquire both salvage and experience in Tomb Raider is by completing optional tombs. There are eight optional tombs around the island for Lara to uncover. Each consists of one brain teasing puzzle which, when solved, will allow access to the treasure room. The chest in the treasure room contains massive amounts of experience and salvage which can help you to upgrade your guns and skills. Raiding these optional tombs are some of the best parts of the game.

The puzzles while challenging are never too hard that you will rage quit but are hard enough to force you to actually sit there and plan out your next couple of moves. The design of the tombs are equally amazing, requiring you to crawl through small crevasses in cliff sides to find craggy caverns filled with skulls, ritual candles and relics. Additional relics and documents are hidden all over the island for Lara to find and gain experience from also. These relics are mostly ancient Japanese tools, masks, or fans (you know, the kind of thing that a budding archaeologist like Lara would be interested in) which can be examined to uncover hidden meanings and immerse the player in a quick lesson of ancient Japanese Culture.

This level of immersion, coupled with the fact that the graphics and environments are very impressive, result in an absorbing experience that really captures both the mystery and beauty of the island of Yamatai. A couple of times I found myself climbing to the highest point in an area just to get a better look at the rich textures. The cut scenes are amazing and the quick time events, while chaotic and frustrating at points, are very well done.

Skill Tree’s

Tomb Raider involves an interesting skill point system for Lara. By advancing the story, opening chests, and killing animals or enemies, the player will gain experience towards levels. Each level comes with a skill point that can be spent in three possible trees. The first is called Survival; in this tree we find skills like Survivalist which grants you extra experience when looting animal corpses and food caches, something you will be doing a lot of early in game. Other skills include Arrow Retrieval, which allows you to recover arrows from dead enemies, and Cartographer, which will reveal tomb locations on your map. The Brawler tree will grant you extra abilities while fighting.

For example, one skill allows you to kick up dirt and rocks to stun enemies if they get too close to you. The last tree is the Gun tree, which contains skills that allow Lara to carry more ammo or specialize in certain weapons.


The more skills you unlock, the faster you will be able to get to the best skills in each tree. The main complaint I have with the system is that though there are three trees, the game forces you to acquire almost every skill in a tier before moving up to the next tier. For example if you want to play the game as strictly a survivalist, you can’t because to access the better skills in the Survival tree you pretty much have to unlock all of the skills in both the Guns and Brawler tree.

The Elevator Pitch:

Overall the game would have been much more enjoyable if you were given the option of playing in three different ways, rather than having to max out every tree.Tomb Raider is a fast paced and exhilarating reboot of a great franchise. If you liked Tomb Raider or have any interest in the survival/adventure genre, buy this game. Though the game only took about 11 hours to play, a completionist could easily stretch that to 18-20 hours by exploring all of the additional tombs and searching for lost relics and documents throughout the island. If you’re a completionist, it is worth the $60 price tag. If not then maybe wait until it drops to $40. Either way this game definitely deserves a BUY.

Tomb Raider…A Survival Game?
“We have to go back!” To the beginning of Lara Croft’s career in the Tomb Raider reboot from Square Enix

GameSkinny is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy