The collaboration between publisher Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics continues with Rise of the Tomb Raider – Lara Croft’s newest thrilling adventure. This time, Lara’s passion for archaeology and getting into trouble drives her to the most remote places on Earth. She finds herself travelling to both Syria and the harsh Siberian wilderness in search of a lost treasure from the time of the crusades, and along the way crosses the path of mysterious group of mercenaries called Trinity. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a unique survival experience that continues the story of Lara Croft, while building her up along the way.
The story takes place roughly a year after the events of the initial reboot. However, any connections to the former title are negligible at best. After a small misunderstanding in Syria with Trinity, Lara find herself stuck in the middle of an ancient war that started years earlier and left her father discredited and outcast. She becomes increasingly isolated and is forced to join the hunt for a supernatural artifact in order to prove her own sanity. This self-contained story offers little to truly care about, however, history enthusiasts will have fun with the smaller side stories, revealed through collectible items and translated artifacts. From ancient religious leaders to artists and more, the collectible items in the game provide a backstory that is more entertaining than the main one.
Lara Croft does well at playing an intelligent character, but hasn’t grown into the role of badass explorer just yet. She complains a fair amount, often spouting lines like “This is gonna be cold”, or “Man, I need a rest”. She’s also the target of fake jump scares in an attempt to drive home the point she is still vulnerable. Ultimately, it feels a little out of place, considering the fact that she is always able to figure her way out of incredibly dangerous situations.
Puzzles have always been a staple of the Tomb Raider series, and although they can get challenging, most of the ones in Rise of the Tomb Raider can be solved by simply exploring the environment. Each level is filled with small goodies to collect, from coins to ancient paintings that help Lara learn more about the world around her. Typically after searching around long enough for hidden gems, players will discover that one small thing that solves the puzzle and gives you the satisfaction of moving forward in the game. The reward is simple, but it’s a satisfying reward none the less.
Exploring is also a great way to collect resources. The semi-open world of the Siberian mountains is filled with everything a survivalist would need to upgrade her gear. Different upgrades require different items. For example, stronger bows require wood and better handles require leather – all of which can be found in abundance throughout the game. Players aren’t necessarily punished for feeling bad about hunting and killing digital animals, but there are a lot more perks in doing so and collecting the skin. Besides resources, modern weapon parts can be found hidden in ancient tombs, and are combined to make powerful guns that are well worth the flimsy logic. Lara’s Ice-picks on the other hand, can also be upgraded to become faster and more deadly.
Apart from the equipment, Lara can also expend her abilities when visiting one of those camps. Arguably simplistic, the leveling mechanic lets you choose from three classes: players are free to make their Lara a a stealthy assassin, a long-range archer/gunslinger, or a tough brawler. You can focus whatever upgrades you want to either help your specific class, or counter-balance it to cushion your weaknesses, like improving the melee to counter-balance a gunslinger’s difficulties getting out of the more contained action sequences. One ability that is present across all classes is the Hunter’s sight – the ultimate cheat. It shows you where to go, highlights collectible materials, enemies, animals, and more. Like the rest of Lara’s abilities, her Hunter’s Sight can also be upgraded to include hidden enemies, and exotic animals.
The gameplay boils down to a very intense mix of stealth and action that does well at making each enemy encounter feel like a matter of life and death. Trinity soldiers operate like standard bad guys – they tend to hang out around the story’s plot points and near cool items to steal. Taking them down can either be a nail-biting sequence of stealth finishers, using Lara’s trusty knife and bow, or a blazing shootout – it’s really up to the player. Luckily, Lara is a young woman of many talents. Players who prefer stealth will find themselves perched high on tree branches and rooftops as they plot which route to take and how to make it through an area alive. Meanwhile, the gunsdlingers with get to test the game’s long range combat. Lara doesn’t start off as an excellent marksman, but after a few levels and a slight learning curve for the player, she’ll be getting the most satisfying headshots in no time.
But Trinity isn’t the only danger lurking in the Siberian frozen wilderness. The environment is Lara’s greatest enemy, with freezing temperatures, bears lurking in caves, and the occasional avalanche or trap-riddled tomb. These woman-vs-nature sequences are action packed, and enormous fun, as well as having some pretty brutal death animations when you mess up.
The graphic capabilities of the Xbox One highlight its own strengths and weaknesses in this sequel. Rise of the Tomb Raider may not be a significant step up when it comes it visuals, but it does prove that a game can rely on an established look. The environments utilize all of system’s strengths in lighting to make small spaces feel tight and claustrophobic, especially when faced with flooding tunnels. On the flip side are the brief moments where players are given a look at the expansive mountain range, which are elevated even more as you struggle to climb all the way to the top. As incredible as any blade of grass may look, the characters models end up feeling lacking and one dimensional in comparison. The player will always feel empowered when breaking down a door or climbing to the top of a mountain, part of it is because they’ll be so focused on the game itself that they can overlook the fact that Lara’s look isn’t on the same level as her surrounding.
In her newest entry, Lara Croft scales perilous mountain ranges while taking on the brutal Siberian wilderness, and even if it doesn’t break any new ground, her adventures are a journey worth undertaking. Rise of the Tomb Raider sets itself up to be an amazing adventure, and though it definitely lives up to the hype it creates, the story doesn’t have a lot to do with it. The credit mostly goes to the incredibly fun gameplay and stunning graphics. At the end, players will feel the satisfaction of uncovering legends, solving mysteries, kicking some serious ass and finally becoming the titular Tomb Raider.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.