I thoroughly enjoyed the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, although the way the game leaned into grotesque murder and quick time events always left a sour taste in my mouth. Luckily, Rise of The Tomb Raider shows not only a maturity in Lara’s character but also in the approach to the finished product.
Picking up some time after the reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider follows Lara on a new adventure as she searches for The Divine Source deep in the Siberian Tundra. Lara follows a set path laid down long ago by her father and deals with some demons from the past game that still haunt her. She is no longer the plucky young girl who falls foul of the situation, but a hardened adventurer at the forefront of her field.
Along with this new found experience, Lara has new techniques for traversing a much denser environment than she is used too. The use of a climbing axe allows her to scale to new heights and swing from tree branches, while climbing arrows add the possibility of climbing aloft tall trees and mountainsides.
Rise of the Tomb Raider consists of two large hub areas where you’ll spend a lot of time hunting and gathering collectibles. There are challenges; like shooting all the bullseye’s across the hub or collecting the chickens to throw into a pen. These are a nice distraction from purely collecting resources to build ammunition. These hub areas branch off into the story missions or tombs for you to explore.
You’ll spend a lot of time levelling up numerous meters throughout Rise, via a simplistic RPG system of upgrades to improve your abilities and also a number of language levels you’ll need to work on. This allows you to discover all of the secrets the game has to offer. They are upgraded by finding ancient manuscripts or enemy communications and will eventually lead to you being able to decrypt transmissions or monoliths that will point you in the direction of collectibles or secret locations across the hub areas. The hubs are a good size with a lot of things to do and the game does a fantastic job of never making you feel completely overwhelmed by the amount of things you could do.
The Metroidvania style tease of showing you everything that is going to be possible when you unlock the right equipment or hit a certain stage in the story can often be a frustration, however Rise of the Tomb Raider does a good job of ensuring the game tells you straight away if you’re straying into an area without the correct equipment. This means I never spent time jumping at a ledge I had convinced myself was scalable only to give up and return later incredibly frustrated.
The story takes some predictable twists and turns throughout, in true 90’s action movie logic. As in the previous game, the final third of the game starts hinting at a larger story filled with mysticism and the potential veracity of some religious texts; this isn’t overt enough to detract from a healthy paced action story. You will find a lot more depth from the collectibles throughout the game, but the main driving force of the story tells you enough that you never feel you need to see any of this to know what exactly is happening. You do a little backtracking towards the end of the game which is disappointing but otherwise each story mission looks different and offers something unique rather than a simple corridor run and gun.
One of the main things missing from the previous game was the lack of actual tombs to be raided; thankfully Rise corrects that with optional side tombs. While I think it was the safe move on the developer’s part to not put these areas as part of the main story, I was disappointed with the amount that was on offer. I enjoy the puzzle elements shown in these tombs and the rewards at the end make them unmissable if you want to truly succeed by the end of the game. The fact these tombs are off to the side probably speaks more to what the modern day audience of Tomb Raider is and not wanting to kill the story pace with a slow, methodical puzzle was probably the right call for this new audience…..
Rise of the Tomb Raider looks absolutely beautiful. With two large and distinctive hubs to operate from and numerous different looking mission areas you’re never bored of the aesthetic on offer. The game truly shows what can be offered on a next-gen console and doesn’t compromise the quality of the game or a fantastic look.
The 2013 reboot felt like a scattershot of ideas like the developer was unsure what would stick with a modern audience, therefore, tried a little bit of everything. Rise of the Tomb Raider feels like a sharper, more refined game that is a lot more polished. The move away from quick time events and murder-porn-esque deaths shows Crystal Dynamics have listened to their audience and the addition of puzzle tombs is a welcome return to the franchise. Rise of the Tomb Raider takes a huge step from its predecessor and is a fantastic experience.