When it comes to Rise of the Tomb Raider (ROTTR), there is one major question on every gamer’s mind: is this the genesis of Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider legacy? After only a few short hours, my mind pounded with an affirmative, “yes.” This time around, players are graced with the true mythos of Lara’s character, the appearances of a few familiar faces, and some very unsettling new foes.
With a fairly lengthy introduction, the true plot really takes off at least an hour in. You will learn how to strategize, scavenge the environment, and take down enemies in a multitude of ways. After nearly two hours of playing, I was still being prompted with additional gameplay tutorials. I quickly took notice of this and reached the conclusion that the overall momentum to this game is a slow-burning, yet extremely luminous flame.
We are all very familiar with the typical routine of Lara’s expeditions: mission assignment, deployment, revealed enemy and/or threat, bad-assery, mission success and game finale. Although this formula is still present here, there is something truly special this time around — the game’s quintessential ‘secret ingredient.’
Without giving too much away, this includes Lara’s backstory and the depth to her character, her history, and overall personality. After beating Tomb Raider in 2013 I felt fulfilled but I didn’t truly appreciate Lara in all of her glory. In ROTTR, you can’t help but admire her spirit, kind heart, and incredible determination. Lara is not just a cute face with a high pain tolerance and taste for adventure, she is a person and a very likable one at that.
Aside from the intense cinematics, the voice acting and overall abstract intensity is extremely riveting. As I scaled through old ruins and trudged through the icy landscapes, I felt as though I needed to get to a safe spot as soon as possible. With each tumble and every fear inducing slide segment (yes, those are still present here), I felt the weight of Lara’s afflictions.
The exploration elements give players many options. Lara will explore as a hunter, survivor, archaeologist, and treasure hunter. As you venture through mines, tombs, or other open areas, Lara will translate glyphs and artifacts found on the walls, pillars, or floors. As you decipher more ancient markings, your language proficiency will increase, which will in turn grant Lara with extra bonuses. You can also find the typical ancient coin for in-game currency and other archaic items that will play narrated audio once activated. Although they are side dishes to the smorgasbord, they still contribute a fair amount to the interesting historical element to gameplay.
The weapon customization is still very present in this game, allowing players to play as they see fit. Prioritizing the efficiency of Lara’s bow, rifle, pistol, or other weapons is entirely up to the player. Since I was inherently stealthier than I was aggressive, I chose to boost up my bow first so that I could silently take down my enemies with ferociousness, power, and accuracy.
Players are still capable of crafting a multitude of items this time around. With poison arrows, incendiaries, med packs or other craft able goodies, I found myself prioritizing the speedy craftsmen skill so that I may create what I want in a split second, if I had to.
Even though Rise of the Tomb Raider is an excellent, action packed title, it does not come without its flaws. By clicking the right analog stick, players highlight the surrounding area, similar to detective mode in the Batman: Arkham games. By doing so, players can visually see the quest marker, harvestable items, and other scattered points of interests.
Although this system is useful in finding small bushes for medicinal herbs or other small items, I found myself hitting R3 to the point of annoyance. This is mainly because the highlighted items and markers are only lit up for less than five seconds, and if you are looking around and need to highlight them again, you have to hit R3 to do so. After an hour of this, I felt frustrated that there wasn’t a double-click mode where this sight could remain active until I chose to deactivate it.
Another minor flaw is the mapping system. As I came across areas which required Lara to take out multiple armed foes, I was frustrated that I had to constantly hit R3 to highlight and see them across the way. There was no mini map where I could plan my attacks or see if someone was walking up behind me. I mostly played at the mercy of the AI pathways. Thankfully, with the use of bottles and lanterns, I was able to wrangle most of the enemies into one area and then track where they dispersed from there.
A small factor, which isn’t so much a flaw as it is funny, is the ridiculousness of Lara’s actions. In the real world, desecrating and flooding ancient tombs or destroying sacred temples is a heinous crime, but in Lara’s adventures, this is just part of her daily routine. At one point in the game, Lara actually blows up an entire area to flee from enemies. As she rose from the rubble, I laughed and thought to myself, “she would get murdered for this in the real world.” With that said, this high-action and mildly fantastical element to gameplay is what makes ROTTR so undeniable epic in its entirety.
One thing worth noting is the high-caliber visual quality of ROTTR. Although there were a few flat textures, most of the environments — and especially the cut scenes, were a beauty to behold. Walls of ice look detailed in color, the flames of Lara’s campfires look luminous and welcoming, and the character designs look incredibly realistic. Visually, ROTTR is a gorgeous game.
Hypothetically speaking, if 2013’s Tomb Raider was the beta test, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the finished product. You will explore, you will die (a lot), and overall, you will feel more in touch with Lara than you have ever felt before. Aside from the fluid, intense gameplay, pick up Rise of the Tomb Raider just for the story itself, you will certainly not regret it.
This review was based on a digital copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One provided by Crystal Dynamics.