Action-Lara

TL;DR – Rise of the Tomb Raider is really bloody excellent. Get excited.

If I did not own an Xbox One already, Rise of the Tomb Raider would be the game I’d buy that system for. I know it’s coming to PC in three months or so, but it’s too good a game for me to wait. I’m not going to dodge spoilers for three months on a game this stellar. If you liked the Tomb Raider reboot a couple of years back, this game could well be a system seller for you. Yes, Rise of the Tomb Raider IS that good.

In many ways, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the same game at its core that we got a few years back. If you didn’t enjoy the movement, shooting or set piece pacing of Lara’s first modern adventure you’re still likely to dislike those elements here. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game that takes the core of that last entry, and improves on it in key ways that are going to appeal primarily to fans of the last game whose complaints could be fixed with additions to the formula.

In Rise of the Tomb Raider we thankfully see a far more confident version of Lara, setting out into the world on her own in search of ruins, tombs and artifacts written about by her father. Long gone is the sense that Lara needs to be sexually assaulted for personal growth, replaced with a Lara who understands what she did to get where she is and what she will have to do going forward. Lara here feels like a character with a subtle and cohesive narrative arc, rather than an arc that relied on sudden sharp turns to force development onto its cast.

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Lara’s villain in this new adventure is also much better fleshed out, leaving an enemy that was not only memorable after my adventure was over, but set up a nice antagonist for the ongoing series. Lara spends her adventure racing a shadowy organisation named Trinity, clearly well funded and well trained, who are after many of the same rumoured locations and artifacts Lara is hunting down. Giving Lara a direct antagonist to race the world for added a sense of urgency to the narrative, and provided some really interesting plot progression points. I really like Trinity and their leader, and can’t wait to see where the series goes from here with them.

Dialogue both from Lara and from Trinity’s leader are superb in both writing and performance, both were quick witted, decisive and generally badass. Seriously, Lara in particular felt freaking awesome to watch in direct confrontations.

In terms of mechanical changes, while the core gameplay loop is largely unchanged, there are some notable improvements to the world design in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Hub areas are larger, more activity dense and more freely explored from moment one, while managing to retain the sense of well paced tight design that made areas in the first game so enjoyable.

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The game features a far higher amount of environment variety too, alongside a number of narrative focused tombs and a far higher number of optional tombs scattered through the world to explore. These optional tombs are better signposted, longer and more complex than any in the last game.

Oh, and there’s a lot less outright attempts at Lara Croft torture porn in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Any time Lara is about to walk into a moment of instant, gruesome death time slows and she is given an opportunity to escape. If she does die, the deaths are generally toned down comparatively.

Really, I came away from Rise of the Tomb Raider with nothing but good things to say. As a fan of the first game’s formula this fixed everything I needed fixed, while leaving the core unchanged. I really bloody like this game. Seriously, I think it’s rather amazing.

Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. Sounds like an awesome ride. Unfortunately I’ll be waiting until its pc release , because i can’t afford the xbone

  2. Laura, I enjoy your reviews. I am absolutely convinced that you write them sincerely and without any inappropriate outside pressures. What’s more, I don’t expect you to use your position to use a game review as a tool to criticize tangentially-related business decisions. You talk about your feelings on a game, and that’s that.

    However, making a implicit call to action (buy an Xbone for this game because it’s too good to wait 3-6 months for) just feels wrong. I understand you actually feel this way, and frankly, I believe the game is as good as you say. I’ll be getting an Xbone in a couple months, and now Rise of the Tomb Raider is on my watch list thanks to you.

    But in even mentioning MS’s (frankly shitty) timed exclusivity in a positive context implies that, at the very least, you’re OK with it. Your wording seems to indicate that you believe RotTR *could be* system seller. And if others feel the same way and say so, what’s to prevent Microsoft (or any other hardware producer) from trying this again? Or worse, trying to buy permanent exclusivity for a previously multi-plat series?

    Again, I’m not saying you should have used this article as an opportunity to talk about MS’s and Squinix’s deal (and make no mistake, I feel Squenix holds just as much responsibility here), but I think you may have inadvertently condoned it. And even if you don’t feel it’s a particularly anti-consumer thing, do you actively want to see more of it?

    • Short version – I get that it’s an anti consiumer practice, but as games as a business I totally get why it happened. Tomb Raider reboot one took several months to cross into profitability, which makes funding a sequel a risky move to investors. The up front guarenteed cash for making this a timed exclusive likely guarentees profitability for the title, ensuring sequels are possible. I don’t like that it’s exclusive to a platform after the last was multi plat launch, but I get why this happened.

      Thias being said, as a critic I have to acknowledge the reality that is, not the one I want. The reality is a REALLY stellar game is released first on Xbox One, I have no complaints to make about the game itself as a series fan and this game really is one of those games that for me personally, I’d have been willing to buy a console for.

      I never intended to make this a “call to action” for others to buy a console for this game, that’s their call not mine, but for me this was system seller quality. I know others have been considering buying an XBone for a while, and if this was one of their factors in their decision I want them to know yes, I’d say fall on the side of make that purchase you’re considering.

  3. So sad I’ll have to wait a year for this on PS4 :(. I loved the last game. But I’m very glad to know it’s good! Something to look forward to.

  4. I was very worried that a similar adventure to the first game but with Lara now going off in search of such bloodshed would have this series fall down Uncharted’s sociopathic rabbit hole, but between yours and Jim’s review, it sounds like they managed to avoid that.
    Now the three month mark can’t come soon enough for me;D

  5. I am really hoping to pick this up next week.

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