Iconic figures have their origin stories, and what comes next is usually their transition into greatness; their struggles and ventures are what craft their bold personalities and develop the moral codes they believe in. Lara Croft is one of gaming’s most beloved and celebrated heroes, and the rebooted series has seen its praise and spawned a sequel to her gritty origin tale. Rise of the Tomb Raider is set to deliver an even more action packed adventure and the return to what made Lara Croft so great …. It’s raiding tombs, if you haven’t heard. But do we get that epic adventure Tomb Raider fans crave and a reason to buy the Xbox One? Or should the series be left in the tombs for future raiders?
Lara has made a name for herself after the events of the events of the first game, but the news and gossip aren’t not good. People claim her venture on the Japanese island was all a hoax and that she’s just as mad as her late father who believed in a city which housed the key to immortality. So, Lara decides the best thing to do is to continue her father’s work and find the Divine Source located in Siberia. Along the way, you can guess there’s going be some religious extremist making things difficult for our English Rose, and Lara must once again toughen her skin and battle head on with the beast known as Trinity.
Sounds like a pretty solid plot right? Well…
The game’s major flaw, sadly, is the flat and incredibly predictable storyline. It’s something you’ve seen a million times before, with elements that hardly differ from any Uncharted game. Compared to the edgy and bleak story of the last game, this Tomb Raider returns to familiar elements but doesn’t improve or heighten the narrative structure. It’s pretty much a paint by numbers story; Lara wants to the find the source (never mentioned before) to clear her father’s name (some standard daddy issues included but not explored very well), but a super evil religious organisation wants the divine power along with the standard betrayals and all. Even if you didn’t like the story in the 2013 Tomb Raider, you could at least admire how it took Lara in a new and refreshing direction.
You can guess every betrayal, where the story will turn, and even how Lara will overcome her personal struggles. Rise of the Tomb Raider could have packed a few narrative punches. Maybe examining a Lara, who is broken individual, recovering from the past experience in the last game, possibly even tackling PTSD. This could have been a very interesting theme along with some new ideas for enemy types, or something more original for Lara to look for other than the Divine Source. The story could have continued the gritty and harsh, yet gripping tone of storytelling which this new Lara was born from. The game even takes elements from the last game, bringing in immortal warriors akin to the Sun Queen’s army, and dressing them up as Greek warriors. They are very cool, but it’s a recycled concept from the last title. There are some interesting diary entries, delving deeper into character motivations and past events, but many are, again, unoriginal and uninteresting.
However, the voice acting and soundtrack in Rise of the Tomb Raider are flawlessly executed. They never miss the mark and only add to the refined aesthetics of the game.
With the weak narrative, Rise of the Tomb Raider excels in other fields, and gameplay is the major improvement. This installment evolves the action adventure structure further with new mechanics and gameplay elements. Siberia is represented with a fantastic looking and deeply immersive game world, which is far larger and far more engaging than before. The game world itself looks stunning and feels highly organic in comparison to the previous game, with a larger involvement of wild life and weather making the game feel more alive. The detail in textures, colour and dynamic lighting really stand out, making this one of the best looking Xbox One games along with Ryse: Son of Rome and Halo 5.
New features include actual side quests from NPCs, more methods and gear to traverse the environment, bigger set pieces, and a major improvement on the tomb raiding aspect with some wonderfully designed environments that history has long forgotten. There is a huge amount of content to engage with around every corner, and each of the larger open areas demand you to return to them and seek out the hidden loot and tombs they hide. It was shocking to see how much each location had to offer in context of exploration, loot, and unlockable content. There is even a merchant who sells additional add-ons for your gear and weaponry. The game can be completed without ever visiting him, but it’s a nice touch for those looking for advancements on their gear.
The tombs are incredible and are the one feature that has been vastly improved with more complex designs, stronger lateral elements, and greater depth in back stories and artistic value. The aesthetics have greatly improved, taking Lara to locations such as disused Soviet mines, flooded bath houses, Golden Tombs, frozen Viking ships, and more. Each tomb offers a mini adventure in itself and each takes a great deal of time to complete. It’s advised to take advantage of these tombs as they now hold vital skills as rewards, as opposed to weapon upgrades like in the previous installment.
Rise of the Tomb Raider does another great job at bringing some intense and brutalizing action–it isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re given a mixture of grand scale set pieces, involving avalanches or out running attack helicopters on a railway bridge. To large open areas for exploration, and encounters that can be tackled with predator like stealth, using trees and traps to your tactical advantage. Or you can blow the crap out of everything with a range of heavy weaponry. You can even use the environment to kill your enemies, such as setting off a warehouse explosion.
There are a host of new skills to learn and tactics to develop over the course of the game, from making smoke bombs to booby trapping dead bodies for passing NPCs. Some skills will feel a little redundant towards the end of the game, but the options are open enough for players who use stealth or action to have freedom over what they learn and use. Even the weapons have been given a major boost with new additions, such as poison arrows which cause a toxic cloud to kill off anyone caught in the radius. Some items like the poison arrows can make the game feel a little too easy, seeing as I could kill five enemies with one arrow, some players can abuse this technique for a number of segments. With the lower difficulties feeling way too underwhelming, it’s best for seasoned adventurers to consider the higher difficulties for their first time playing.
The game is also long. The campaign can last around ten hours and along with the side quests and extras, you can double that time easily. Other new implementations include the language skill, which is an interesting (if not odd) idea but is still something new to the series. It allows Lara to find more secrets in the world by translating monoliths, paintings, and scrolls scattered in the game world. This pushes players to improve and read documents (some of which can be very amusing) to tighten the language barrier and find hidden secrets and gold, which used for improvements and upgrades.
Along with the campaign is a new game mode called Expeditions. This allows players to replay tombs and sections of the game world again for the sheer joy of exploring a tomb, acquiring high scores, or playing the game with some added tweaks. As they progress, players will earn cards which have modifiers, cheats, and other game changers for the Expedition mode. These include harder NPCs, increased weapon damage, big headed NPCs, and shooting chickens from your bow (I’m not kidding). It’s not a major or innovative concept, but it’s one that is pretty enjoyable and definitely worth while to those who fancy playing through some of the excellent tombs and settings with added bonuses to make the game refreshing and dynamic on every play through.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a vast improvement for Lara, making this one of the most dynamic Tomb Raider games and her greatest adventure since The Last Revelation. This will appease old fans that enjoy the more puzzle/exploration focused elements of older games.
An Xbox One copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider was provided by Square Enix/Microsoft for the purpose of this review
[…] review of Rise Of The Tomb Raider; we already have one for the Xbox version, which you can see here. I’ll briefly go over my thoughts on the game as a whole, but I won’t go into much […]