What separates a good reboot from a bad reboot? Should it try to be like the original as much as possible? Should it be basically a more technically enhanced remake? Or is the identity of a series held within its tone and its themes as much as its actions, meaning that a developer can be freer to explore the idea of the series itself, as long as those specific aspects are kept in mind? With the release (and disappointment for many) of DMC still fresh in so many of our minds, what can be said about the similar effort from the team behind beloved mascot Lara Croft?
Well firstly, Lara is now an actual person; as opposed to a walking pair of funbags. In previous games, especially the original titles on PlayStation 1, Lara was little more than a faceless, sexy badass, who strolled around being generally better than everyone, and with villains so comically evil that she just had to stop them. The remainder of the time was spent shooting people whose main crime was attempting to take the same treasure Lara wanted slightly before her. In TR 2013, Lara is an unwilling player who is thrust violently onto the board, and has to adapt quickly or die. Her character is played as a very real young lady; and the arc she takes as she travels to survive in the hostile environment is wonderful to behold. Take for instance the very first time she is forced to kill someone with a gun. The act of killing a human being is played as appropriately horrific, and Lara reacts in a reasonable way. Adding to this is a plethora of cast members that are very well written, albeit sometimes a bit stereotypically, but I feel sure that you will find yourself responding to them very well as the game progresses.
The game is set on a fictional Japanese island, and the player finds themselves crisscrossing the landscape to explore it in a very satisfying way. The design of the areas is simply beautiful, and the mixture of wildlife and overgrown ruins, together with ruined war equipment sets the tone wonderfully. The day/night cycle as the story goes on adds a definite sense of progression, and the environments are varied enough to remain exciting. The majority of the actual Tombs that are Raided are found as additional areas, but all of them are still fun to puzzle through.
Gameplay takes the form of scurrying athletically around the area, leaping and climbing, and also fighting against Bad People. Lara gains access to various weapons, the main one being a longbow (as the current craze for bow weapons in games continues); and the way in which combat plays out is intensely satisfying. Enemies respond to your actions realistically; the stealth elements play well, and the feeling of getting more and more badass as the game goes on is undeniable. Some of the gunfight areas do go on for a bit too long, and a few more platforming areas could maybe have been added though.
The best thing I could say about the feel TR 2013 gives me is the sense of progression. You will look over into the distance and see an area you can’t reach, and then sometime later you pick up a new item, and you get a click in your mind about how you can now progress through there. Added to this is a large array of challenges and collectibles to keep the player looking through each nook and cranny.
TR 2013 may have upset some purists, but I personally think Tomb Raider as a franchise has evolved for the better, keeping its tone and feel, while moving forward as a game and narrative piece. I hope the developers learn how to address some minor concerns learned through this title, and embrace this new Lara in a sequel.