Video Game Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft, the dashing polygonal heroine that everyone fell in love with back in the days of the PS1, is no more. The Lara who fought a T-Rex with dual pistols, the Lara WHO KEPT GRABBING THE WRONG FUCKING LEDGE, the Lara who solved all those crazy death trap puzzles, the Lara who spawned two awful movies that were only worth watching because Angelina Jolie was perfect for the role? That Lara is dead. From her ashes rises a new, more versatile and more fun Lara.
Note that this is a relatively late review, because I wanted to wait for the PC version instead of buying an Xbox for a single game.
Before I go in depth about this game, which is a sequel to 2013’s reboot of the franchise Tomb Raider, let me give you a quick summary of said reboot: Lara and her crew shipwreck on an island that is filled with actual crazy fuckers who are following an actual insane dude who is following an actual batshit crazy undead bitch who in turn has an army of psycho undead followers defending her tomb. Such luck Lara has! Anyway, the game revolves around Lara fighting for her life and realizing, through doing all the things she has to do in order to survive, that she is a “Croft” in more than just name. Basically she realizes she’s a fuckin’ badass. To keep thing simple since this isn’t the game I’m reviewing, just know that she defeats the baddies in the end and everyone lives happily ever after, except for the people who died. Those people probably aren’t too happy.
Rise of the Tomb Raider starts with Lara and her friend from the previous game searching for a lost city that her father wrote about in his journals. We see a Lara that is extremely confident given what she overcame in the previous game. Avalanches and collapsing cliffs are the norm for her it would seem. It looks like this:
The story here is more or less the same as the previous game. Crazy bad guy with crazy followers wants to find a crazy artifact so he can do crazy shit with it. Crazy right? What I really want to focus on for this review is the gameplay, because that’s what video games are about anyway as well as what really makes ROTR shine.
Real quick though, let talk about the graphics. The game is downright gorgeous and easily in the top 5 best looking games right now. From the environment to the facial animations and textures and even the way the snow behaves down to the littlest detail. The lighting is some of the best I’ve seen and is on the same level with games like Uncharted and Last of Us. There’s also a lot of unnecessary, but welcome attention to detail. By unnecessary I mean things like the way she will wring her hair out after she’s been in the water or how she will run her hand along a wall while walking through a narrow hallway or across a ledge. Little things like that aren’t necessary, but they add an incredible amount of immersion to the overall experience.
Gameplay-wise, the story will take Lara to these absolutely massive areas that I’m gonna refer to as hub areas. Within these areas are side missions you can do for various NPCs, tombs and caves that you can explore for crafting materials and all sorts of little hidden collectibles. You’re going to want to explore all these areas, because those crafting materials allow you to upgrade your weapons as well as give you materials to craft things like poison/fire arrows as well as healing materials. I can’t stress that enough; crafting materials is your best friend in this game because they allow you to hone your arsenal of death dealing murder tools. Upgrades consist of things like silencers, extended magazines, hollow point rounds, explosive arrows, grenade launchers and much more. However, if you don’t want to use those you don’t have to. That is one of the huge strengths of this game. It allows you to come at every situation however you want. If you want to go in stealthy and kill everyone without being seen you can. Similarly. you can go in like a ghost, sneak through the area and not touch a single soul if that’s what you want (if you are boring). Or you can do what I do and be stealthy until you get detected and then just go ape shit on everything. Don’t take my word for it though, check it out and enjoy the completely default soundtrack that totally came with the game:
As you progress throughout the story Lara will earn points that allow her to unlock skills for use in the game. Skills are broken up into 3 categories and include things like the ability to get more crafting materials out of resources, being able to fire two arrows at once (not realistic at all, but hey it’s pretty damn fun), being able to perform brutal finishing moves with various weapons and one of my favorite things that you can see in that video, death from above. There’s also a really fun skill that allows you to booby trap a dead body with a poison proximity mine. This is great when you see a bunch of guys because you can kill one, place said booby trap and wait for them to investigate and get a face full of that sweet sweet noxious green death gas. While those bros are busy suffocating, Lara can be busy snapping sniper bro’s neck. It’s ridiculously fun to experiment with the various skills and adds a lot of replay value.
Speaking of replay value, there are also a few other game modes that are in a menu called “Expeditions.” There are modes like chapter replay and time attack as well as a few DLC modes that add a survival mode, which is really really fun if you’re a dark souls masochist like I am, as well as a zombie type mode. What makes these modes so fun is the card system. Playing through the game and performing various actions allows you to unlock cards that will allow you to apply various modifiers to the gameplay. These include things that make enemies stronger, or make Lara weaker, as well as goofy shit like big head mode or a bow that shoots exploding chickens. It’s much more lighthearted than the main campaign and that’s OK, because its extremely enjoyable. The other mode, which is my favorite, allows you to play through previous chapters of the game with your upgraded gear and is basically new game plus.
Bottom line here is if you dig adventure games and you haven’t played this game YOU’RE DOING EVERYTHING WRONG AND SHAME ON YOU AND SHIT. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best games the genre has to offer and should not be missed. Aside from the rather cliche story, it’s a fantastic experience that you don’t want to miss. I’m eagerly (impatiently) anticipating the follow up to this game.