Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
We meet up with Lara Croft one year from the ending of Tomb Raider. She is now well established and a bit more seasoned after her previous adventure and is about her father’s business as she attempts to prove he wasn’t a lunatic. With a desire to find the secret to eternal life, she must avoid being taken dead or alive by the Trinity Organization hot on her trail. The clock is counting down to who will find the ancient mystery first.
Lara Croft is on a mission to finish the dream of her father in the search for immortality. A proverbial “fountain of youth” had her father obsessed with its discovery. After his apparent suicide (alluded to in the story) she became consumed with finishing her father’s work and clearing his name as a reputable explorer. One year after the events of the previous title, Lara and her team travel to Siberia in hope of uncovering ancient secrets while also trying to stop the evil Trinity organization from discovering the supernatural secrets of Kitezh.
Lara’s team is familiar from Tomb Raider, but she is much more alone in the harsh Siberian climate this time around. She will meet many of the natives and interact with them from time to time, while avoiding being captured by Trinity. The story is much more in depth and intriguing, giving a lot of background information from Lara’s past and her relationship with her father. There is so much to be learned and discovered about the story of the supernatural secret of immortality and one could easily spend hours engrossed in just the lore behind the legends.
Language: There are many instances of adult language including the F, S and G-D words.
Violence: Shooting with guns and arrows, stabbing and executions.
Drugs/Alcohol: There are alcohol bottles through the game and instances of smoking.
The game handles almost identical to the previous Tomb Raider title. The shooting feels a bit stiffer than before and it takes some time to aim. There is no auto-aim feature that directs the reticule over an enemy and it can be sporadic at times to take aim while you are avoiding an enemy or animal. On the fly crafting of arrows and explosives was a fantastic addition. You don’t have to find or recover arrows anymore.
There are several hundreds of items to collect throughout your gameplay. You can find artifacts, tombs, coin caches and monoliths throughout the game. There is now a language proficiency meter in order to decode or interpret various artifacts. You have to find various items written in different languages to become proficient in that language for translating higher level items. The language meter is simple to understand and a nice addition to the games ascetics.
Crafting has also been upgraded and it’s necessary to forage, kill animals and find materials in order to craft various parts for your weapons and gear. It’s not as simple as leveling up your skill points to learn a new trick. In fact upgrading your items takes a good amount of time and energy devoted to finding and looting various caches.
If you are the explorer type of gamer you can literally spend tens of hours engrossed in finding objects and items. You aren’t forced to continue on with a mission until you are ready (but there will be areas you need to come back to in order to complete all objectives). The game isn’t without it flaws either. There are moments I wished the running, climbing and jumping were smoother. I would catch myself hung up on a rock or missing the ledge of a mountain simply because the I didn’t approach it at the perfect angle.
The camps are back from the previous game. You can upgrade your items or skills at camps in addition to fast travelling from previously discovered camps. This is helpful for those objectives you will want to complete such as raiding tombs. Shops are also introduced in Rise of the Tomb Raider in which you can purchase gear and gun upgrades with the coins you find in your travels.
As with any Tomb Raider game, some of the most fun can be had solving the puzzles of the tombs you encounter. The tombs you discover can range from fairly easy to solve to resorting to the internet for assistance. There were times in solving a tomb puzzle that I had to set the controller down and take a break so I could look at it with a fresh set of eyes. These aren’t going to be instant challenges, there was a lot of thought put into the tombs and the size of some of them is epic.
The environments are absolutely breathtaking. Though you won’t see a wide range of locations throughout your adventures, the realism in the areas you do visit is quite amazing. There were times when I would be crossing a chasm on a fallen log as the wind would blow and I felt as if I was in danger of falling to my death. The snowy Siberian Hills are dangerously beautiful and unique while places like the Gulag are desperate and sad as if terrible atrocities took place there. The detail put into the artifacts and murals that you find create such a keen sense of history (whether fictional or not). There was never a time where I felt as if I was repeating an area with a similar environment.
Cut scenes were used to mask loading the subsequent levels and they were done seamlessly. The only time you have to wait for the game to load is the initial startup or continuation of your current game.
There were issues and annoyances with the audio of the game. A glitch that didn’t allow any dialogue caused some confusion but was rectified when I turned on subtitles. When an enemy approaches, the music changes to fit the mood, but would end up becoming annoying in the instance of dangerous predatory animals. For example, when a pack of wolves would approach Lara, drum beat music would play and become more rapid the closer the wolves got. As they wolves moved around, the drum beat would increase and slow at various tempos. Though I understand the reasoning behind adding this atmosphere of dread through sound effect, it became more invasive of my senses than helpful in my game play.
The sheer sense of map size in the game felt like this location and each item actually exists and was simply copied for this game. For those with a completionist mentality, there could be 30+ hours of gameplay depending on how quickly you decide to complete each area. The replay value of Rise of the Tomb Raider is excellent for those who spend a lot of time exploring.
I was incredibly impressed with the first Tomb Raider reboot, so much so that I purchased the “reskinning” for the PlayStation 4 just to experience the game again. Needless to say I was very excited to play through Rise of the Tomb Raider. The depth of story given for Lara and her background was just the thing to make Lara a viable character to follow over the next few years. If you enjoyed the previous Tomb Raider title, you will no doubt be even more pleased with Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Review code generously provided by Microsoft.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KVRNIQU,B0160EMVVA]
The Bottom Line
Those who are fans of the series won't be disappointed. Those meeting Lara Croft for the first time will be inspired to play through the previous games.