Rise of the Tomb Raider
Developed by Crystal Dynamic/Eidos Interactive
Published by Square-Enix
Available on Xbox 360, Xbox One (Other platforms: 2016)
Rise of the Tomb Raider continues Lara Croft’s adventures from the previous game and moves the franchise into the future. As with Crystal Dynamics’ 2012 re-imaging of Lara Croft, this latest title follows the same formula of scripted action sequences interspersed with an open-world. While many of the scripted sequences fail to deliver satisfying results, most everything else offers sizable excitement and rewards. Rise of the Tomb Raider does little to change the formula, but those who loved the last title will be plenty satisfied with Lara’s new adventure.
Lara Croft’s many adventure’s seem to borrow from the premise of Indiana Jones films’ and the pulp serials of years past. Rise of the Tomb Raider continues that trend as Lara must locate and recover an artifact that her late father coveted. The aptly named Divine Source, which might as well have been called the McGuffin, is supposed to provide prolonged life and that prospect sends many individuals to the mountains of Siberia in hopes of obtaining it. Interweaving flashbacks of Lara’s father with the militaristic shadow group, Trinty hot on her heels, Lara fights and climbs her way through the harsh environment.
Outside of the main story, Lara Croft finally gets to have some of the adventure that made her franchise so adored. After a few set pieces, the game world opens into smaller networked hub areas that contain many of the collectibles. From artifacts, crafting gear, or history on the land, Rise of the Tomb Raider has no shortage of items to collect. That might seem like a good thing to increase the longevity of the game and create more tasks to complete but the issue is that Lara is equipped with a sense that allows her to scan rooms for collectibles, enemies, and access points. This makes every room a case of stopping, sensing for hidden items while rotating the camera, and then moving forward. Not only does it disrupt the flow of the game, but when traversing back to previously explored locations during the endgame, there’s nothing to tie the world together. It mostly consists of teleporting between fires, checking the map, and then heading to another location. While none of these flow issues are game killers, there must be a more elegant way of bringing the world together.
Perhaps the greatest improvement to this iteration of Tomb Raider, is how many ways combat can unfold. The upgrade system from Tomb Raider is back and offers an easy to learn leveling system for Lara to improve her skills. She is given more stealth weapons this time around, including poison arrows and more abilities to take down her foes silently. One of the most satisfying combat weapons in gaming continues to be Lara’s crossbow. Unfortunately, the game has sections that introduce new weapons such as machine guns and shotguns, typical gaming items, which pretty much force players to abandon the bow. Not only does the bow include various new arrow types, it is also key to solving many of Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s more challenging puzzles.
Not only do the various hub sections contain items, but they also include traditional tombs for Lara to explore and also side missions she can take on from the natives. The tombs require the usage of a number of her abilities and will really test the skills of players. The game does a good job of providing context hints to the tombs, but they are still difficult enough to require some effort. Similar to the tombs, side missions consist of revisiting areas to rescue hostages, destroy radio towers, or even light signal towers. While not lengthy diversions, each one provides a little more scope to the world.
Currently exclusive for the Xbox One, the graphics on Rise of the Tomb Raider do little to expand the scope of the previous title. Whereas Tomb Raider looked like the future, Rise of the Tomb Raider likely recycled plenty of animations. Perhaps the greatest improvement is just how many characters appear on screen on a single time. The set pieces still look fantastic and the finale offers the bulk of what separates this title from its forebear and while it will make appearances on PC and PS4 sometime next year, just how much improvement can be made remains to be seen.
Nitpicking aside, Rise of the Tomb Raider is another exciting entry in the new adventures of Lara Croft. It continues to showcase the wonderful new additions to the franchise. While the new story will likely surprise no one, it does set up events for many more outings. Although a worthy sequel, it feels like more of the same and gamers’ without an Xbox One can feel confident in waiting for the game to appear on their PC or PS4. That said, anyone with an Xbox One shouldn’t hesitate to add this to their collection. It is easily one of the best exclusives on the platform.