I’d never played a Tomb Raider game before the 2013 Reboot. Well, I played one of them, the second one maybe? I just remember locking the creepy butler in the freezer. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up.
This time around in Rise of The Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is focused and stronger but somewhat damaged. The events of the previous game have opened up her eyes to the secrets of the world, which in turn has led to her obsessing over her late father’s research into something known as “The Divine Source” and “The Immortal Prophet.”
Like its predecessor, the strong theme of desperation is still present, at first, Lara was simply desperate to survive. In Rise of the Tomb Raider she’s still desperate, but for so much more. Lara Croft is desperate to find the truth behind the Divine Source, she’s desperate to stop Trinity, she’s desperate to clear her disgraced father’s name. This time around, Lara isn’t stranded on a mysterious island but exploring an abandoned Soviet installation. Inhabited by dangerous natives just trying to protect their land from the forces of Trinity while Lara finds herself caught in the middle of it.
Rise of the Tomb Raider follows a similar style to the previous Tombraider title, Lara starts with limited equipment and skills, but as the player progresses they’ll find more equipment, some new things like a rebreather or something old like rope arrows. As she survives more enemy encounters, finds collectables, secrets and other items she can upgrade and learn new skills relating to combat, crafting and survival techniques.
Weapon wise it’s largely the same. You’ll start off with a bow then as you progress through the story, you’ll find a pistol, an assault rifle and then a shotgun. With a little bit of exploration, you’ll be able to find materials to upgrade your weapons or even find large crates containing weapon parts, find them all and you’ll unlock new variants of your weapons such as an SMG or a Compound Bow.
The crafting elements have been increased as well, you can scavenge wood from trees, feathers from birds’ nests and certain plant types to produce items. Health regeneration has been modified to take much longer, so you need to gather herbs and cloth to heal up. Wood and feathers can be used to produce arrows, with additional materials allowing players to upgrade arrow types. On the other hand, animals largely just serve as materials to craft equipment to increase things such as ammo capacity.
It doesn’t make much of a difference, but it’s still enjoyable. The gunplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider is still challenging in a way that means I can’t just run and gun like a madman, yet it feels satisfying when the bullets hit the target. At the same time, you don’t always need to shoot every guy down. Sometimes you’re presented with stealthy segments where you can move through bushes or find higher ground and avoid gunfights in favour of stealthy killing enemies or just avoiding them altogether with XP bonuses if you can avoid detection. I would like to give fair warning, I’m terrible at stealth in literally every single game so I may be way off with my thoughts on the stealth mechanics. It seemed fair for the most part, enemies largely had patrol routes so observation skills were necessary to avoid detection while a keen eye for the environment could help me find alternative routes which in turn felt pretty rewarding on those rare occasions I managed to stealthily clear an area without detection. It’s a shame that usually I’m too impatient to actually complete areas in a stealthy manner, even in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The story itself works out well, it’s great to see a different Lara Croft shaped by her experiences on the island. She’s stronger and more focused, her search for the Divine Source leads her into direct confrontation with the natives who seek to protect their land from invaders, so when Trinity rocks up with military grade equipment and explosions, Lara finds herself torn between helping the invaders but finding the Divine Source. It shows an interesting split in Lara’s motivations, in which she feels guilty for leading Trinity to the natives, but yet still wants to discover the secrets they want to protect so much. That being said, I found myself predicting a major plot point fairly early which then came true towards the end of the game. Despite this, Rise of the Tombraider still provides enough character driven scenes to establish them as more interesting elements. Even the antagonist gets quite a bit of depth and development if you pay attention to the audio logs.
The climbing segments are still here but large part serve simply as time wasters. The climbing is straightforward, ledges are marked with white paint, and the camera frequently positions itself in a way to clearly point you in the right direction. At the same time, the whole “old decaying structures” card is played way too often when you jump towards stuff and it suddenly collapses as you reach for it and Lara finds herself tumbling down or clinging on for dear life when a ledge comes loose. Is that a roof I need to land on? Oh boy, I hope it doesn’t collapse when I land on it. Oh dear it did collapse. Well Lara hit the ground hard, for maybe the 20th time so far? It just gets repetitive.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also uses the whole “everything is exploding/breaking so run really fast” set pieces a little too often, which in turn means nearly everything you jump for and try to climb is breaking as you move. So that makes it even more tedious, by the time I reached the final stretch I was expecting everything to explode and break so pretty much none of it had any impact or helped to add any tension to the scenes since I’d already been through it a hundred times.
Outside of the main story is “Expedition mode” which is a score attack, arcade style challenge mode.
You pick a map, add a few modifier cards and then try to earn points. I played a few rounds and it was kind of fun but there’s a part of me that just believes that Expedition mode largely serves as a way to shovel in microtransactions in a game that otherwise doesn’t feature any direct player vs player modes.
In closing, despite its flaws and also microtransactions being a thing in this game. I enjoyed my time with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics are moving in the right direction with the Tombraider franchise. Rise of the Tomb Raider serves as a solid sequel to the 2013 reboot and leaves clear seeds for another sequel, I’m excited for the next Tombraider game.
- Good story with an interesting villain
- Optional tombs are challenging
- Combat and stealth mechanics are fun
- Nicely Designed Environments
- Crafting systems provide more reason to explore
- Expedition Mode can be a fun time waster
- Boring climbing section
- Most puzzles hinge on using the rope arrow
- Gimmick enemy types become boring quickly