Lara Croft is easily one of the top 10 names that will generate within any list of true legends and icons of gaming. She’s been through enough transformations through numerous titles and adventures to span across at least two generations of gamers, naturally including some games that weren’t nearly as successful as what made the Tomb Raider series such a success from the start. Crystal Dynamics creates a timely and much needed series reboot, just before things head too far south, and not only breathes new life into the franchise but also revives what made it such a hit since it’s inception in the 90’s.
Many gamers will be instantly taken in by Tomb Raider’s almost next generation level visuals, only to find out that this is but a mere presentation for the amazing amount of content to fall in love with under the hood in actual game play. The pace is set rather quickly as an archeological team of hopeful adventurers, including a young Lara, meets disaster in what seems to be mother nature at it’s worst with extreme heavy winds and brutal high tides that nearly strips their boat down to a wooden plank. From this moment, players are put in control of Laura to make very quick life or death decisions that play heavily into the psychological development of Lara that maintains it’s feel to the very end of the game. Well placed QTE’s balances out the full controllable action so well that non of these shock moments become stale or feel repetitive in the least, most are so sudden that you’d be hard pressed to expect it coming.
Once you’re set loose on the island after the game’s tutorials, Lara is equip with nothing but survival instincts and guts that quickly become your own as there are little to no moments where you actually feel safe or stable in the wilderness. Salvaging anything you can from materials, weapons, food and various other scattered commodities encourage players to often venture off any given objective and is usually always rewarded with something for the effort. With enough creativity and careful execution, just about anything is within Lara’s reach if you do dare so try to obtain it and that’s what the real essential core of the game is, you’re always at riskÂ when trying to get what you need. The island is massive, lively and ever changing as you progress. However, simply surviving and traversing the natural obstacle in your way become one of the least of worries when you learn that Lara isn’t alone on this island. Just about everything is hostile on this island, even the weather, but adding vicious wolves and fanatical armed militia to the mix severely tilts odds out of your favor and you really feel it early on in the game.
Skill progression plays a major role in not only how Lara develops to adapt to these trials but also you as a player. The more unlockable abilities you obtain for hunting, survival and combat as the game goes on, the more capable you feel in what was once overwhelming scenarios. This is a system so well implemented in the game that you feel every bit of character development that Lara does in-game and a bit closer to becoming the invincible Femme Fatale we all know and love. The most notable thing about these upgrades are that non of them are unrealistic and completely make sense to anyone who would have to do these actions for the sake of staying alive and repetition, keeping the tone of Lara’s actions more grounded and personal between the game experience and player behind it. The only one flaw that just comes off a bit too fast and too sudden is Laura’s almost instant transition from a shaken and scared victim of circumstance to a killing machine in no time flat once you’ve given access to firearms.
Tomb Raider has a knack for keeping the overall tone of the experience right at home with the player, especially with Lara herself. The voice acting is done wonderfully and players will quickly find themselves either heavily invested in the well being of Lara through her high number of pains and struggles, while some may even delve deeper and care about her fellow shipwrecked crew in the same manner as she does. Either way the game grabs you, it’s got you and that feeling stays fresh all through the ending credits of the game.
No TR game, origin story or not, would be worthy of it’s title without the actual exploration of tombs itself, right? Lara does encounter some creatively added ancient relics and Tombs across the island that are full of back story, questions and collectables to reward the bold. The additional optional tombs also have puzzles and dangers to challenge the more daring players looking to find their inner archeologist or simply change the pace of the game for a while from it’s main story. The Survival Instincts Vision can be used to easier locate anything worthy of importance while exploring the island, such as the entrances of these hidden tombs, but is also an optional ability that doesn’t really needed to be used nearly as much as anyone would imagine. At the completion of the game, all of the left behind secrets and treasures can be explored at free mobility throughout the island for you to collect and the ride is so good it’s almost impossible not to do a little back tracking just for the sake of doing it.
The multiplayer component of the game isn’t exactly the caliber of any shooter experience we’ve been drowned in with this generation but it’s not a complete fail either. Maps themes are borrowed from key point of the campaign and altered for the sake of two deathmatch styled games and two other objective based gametypes but really come to a fail in some that heavily stack the odds in favor of the team based at a drastically more viable vantage point over the other. If it wasn’t for this one major oversight in poor design, the multiplayer at best would be at least passable for consistent play.
It goes without saying that Tomb Raider will without a doubt be one of the last great games of this generation before an all new console war starts out. It going to be a long time before we see a title of any genre top what this title has brought to the table in an almost flawless fashion. If this can be any foresight as to what we can expect series reboots to look like in the coming generations, a lot of past gaming Legends will be born again, better than ever, in similar fashion ofÂ Tomb Raider… Until then, one can only hope for the best with the right developer behind the wheel like Crystal Dynamics!