We have walked a path alongside Lara Croft for many years, since the early days when she was first introduced, back in 1996. I remember how I was counting down the days for the release of the first game. Then it got me thinking, was the 1996 game actually when Lara’s journey began and would we learn more of her evolution into the heroine we know and love today? The 2013 reboot set out to answer some of these questions and Rise of The Tomb Raider fills in even more of these gaps.
The game is set one year after the events of the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. We find Lara following in her dad’s footsteps. She goes on a mission to prove that her Father was not insane for searching for the answer to immortality. Lara is not the only one searching for this. An organization called Trinity, a sinister enterprise that “collects” rare and ancient artefacts, are also out hunting for it. Lara Crofts obsession with proving her Father’s theory to the scientific community starts consuming her, and she begins pushing friends and family away.
Saying the visuals and level of detail in the game looks stunning wouldn’t do justice to the game. This is mainly due to the fact that Crystal Dynamics has really pushed the boundaries of what can be done on the new gen consoles. We have never seen Lara Croft look this good. The level of detail added to her face, facial expressions, her hair and the environment around her is remarkable. The game exudes a sense of realism. There were several moments where I would just stare at the screen and take in the beauty of my surroundings.
The environment plays a large role in the game, and the elements, as well as detail that make up these environments, add to the beauty of each space Lara finds herself in. It is sometimes the tiniest attention to detail that makes the game stand out. For example, Lara climbs up a mountain covered in snow, then things go wrong and Lara finds herself having to run away from an avalanche. Lara goes spelunking in a cave with a river flowing through it and ends up having to take an ice cold swim. These are the moments that made me care for Lara and the struggles she has to face. It’s this sense of empathy that makes you think about the experiences that she is going through; the cold, dark and unknown. As ice starts forming on her jacket, you truly start to worry that she might not find a heat source on time.
I found myself getting invested in the game more than I did in the 2013 reboot. I struggled to complete the 2013 game, but Rise of The Tomb Raider grabs your attention from the beginning and never lets it go. Rise of The Tomb Raider focuses on “old school”” environmental puzzles, which I found both challenging and enjoyable. The controls are simple enough to grasp and makes playing for short burst a joy (although you probably won’t be able to put down the controller). The game is an action-adventure, but tends to focus more on the adventuring and less on the action, which I found refreshing. Players can play the game by going from point A to B ignoring all the caves and hidden paths, or can go exploring the environment, which I found was the most enjoyable way of playing. Going exploring players will discover optional missions and challenges which add to the games replayability.
Action and gun fights can happen often, as members of Trinity are found throughout the environments. Often times a player has the option to go in guns blazing (if you are brave enough), be all sneaky and pick enemies off one-by-one or take the most subtle route by sneaking past enemies undetected. This element of choice really makes the player feel like they are in control and gives you the option to re-play these scenarios in different ways, using different combinations of tactics.
There is one thing that bugged me about sneaking around and using cover, once an enemy unit spots you, it is difficult (even impossible) to hide again. Once I made a mistake of climbing a tree and was spotted, I ran away and hid in some cover, within a few seconds I was found and a battle ensued. When Lara is at her base camp she can upgrade her weapons, skills and create new items by using resources found in the environment. For example, if you find enough poisonous mushrooms and wood you can forge poison arrows (which tend to come in handy).
All in all, the game feels perfect. It ticks all the right boxes and gets the balance right between action and puzzle solving, all the elements that make a great Tomb Raider game. It is super fun and offers loads of content for you to explore and enjoy. This game isn’t just for die-hard Tomb Raider fans. It is a must play for anyone remotely interested in being taken on an adventure. Some of the more violent content might be offensive, but I found that it added to the overall story. Rise of the Tomb Raider has quickly become one of my favourite games of 2015.