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Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft has been one of the most famous game characters in the world. She’s done quite some ancient tomb raiding to find long forgotten artifacts or discover the mystery behind supernatural forces. The last Tomb Raider was a very new and interesting experience for all players; old school players and franchise newbies. Some were very sceptic since the game was a complete overhaul and reboot of the previous Tomb Raider games but in the end, everything fitted perfectly: the storyline, gameplay mechanics, crafting, graphics, … Last year’s Tomb Raider was a breath of fresh air and it made itself stand out from all of the other adventurous games. Tomb Raider has set the bar high for other adventure games and its own sequel… Will we discover a jewel hidden beneath all of these high expectations or should this jewel be buried in an ancient tomb and never be spoken of again?

“A survivor is born” was the ending of the last Tomb Raider which means the story is set for a new Lara Croft. “Rise of the Tomb Raider” continues the story of Lara Croft after her journey on Yamatai. Her eyes opened up brightly when she realized that supernatural forces behind myths are reality and not this fantasy world where everyone only “believes” in. The world has become a more interesting playground that invites Lara Croft to discover the hidden truth behind every story and myth around the world. She becomes obsessed with a couple of questions. What kind of supernatural objects or forces exist in this world? Who’s Trinity, the organization that covered up the supernatural experience on Yamatai? What’s their purpose? This obsession leads her to Siberia in search of the lost and ancient city Kitezh that was built by Georgy the second. This city must contain the truth behind immortality, the eternal life. In her search for the truth, she’s not only confronted with Trinity but also with these mystic guardians called the Remnant that protects their home from invaders of the outside world. The story goes much further and deeper than only tomb raiding, it’s more focused on Lara Croft’s destiny. She’ll have to face Trinity, savages, animals and the environment to become the person she was meant to be.

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The first thing you’ll notice if you start playing the game, is how beautiful the environment and weather effects look. The character design, the physics and shader / lighting effects, and the living world fits perfectly into one bowl of “immersion”. There haven’t been any hiccups or texture popping during my time spent in this game. One of the things I definitely like is the activity that’s happening around you. Everywhere you go, there are animals running around with their own unique behavior and pathways. There’s even a day and night cycle, which has an impact on some animal’s behavior. This makes hunting for crafting components and exploring so much interesting and fun to play. You’ll never know what’s inside the cave or coming out the bushes. It may be a rabbit or it can be a hungry wolf trying to kill you. The character animations are fluent and the voice casting is very good. It’s believable and understandable.

 

A classic is born

 

The gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider is much more action-based than previous game. This doesn’t mean they’re totally redoing the whole gameplay mechanics, but it’s more of an improvement overall. Lara Croft still uses her surviving instincts to know her whereabouts and to find animals, plants, interesting objects(ammo, loot, …) and interactive pathways. These animals or plants are being used to get crafting components. Each time you’re setting up a base near a campfire, you’ll get the chance to upgrade your weapons, crafted materials or improve your skills with skill points.

These skill points are obtained by levelling up Lara. Lara receives experience for everything she does, from killing to exploring. The skill points can be spent in 3 different talent trees: Brawler (hand to hand combat), Hunter (scavenging and hunting) and Survivor (crafting and exploring). Each talent is divided in three lanes. Each time a lane is mastered, you can continue to your next lane which gives you other and stronger abilities. You can spend 15 points in each talent tree. These campfires are also used as quick travel waypoints. So you can always explore a certain area, if you didn’t have the chance to do so.

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Lara is very skilled in combat and exploring, as you would expect but she can still improve her abilities by using skill points or by exploring ancient tombs. These ancient tombs contains ancient techniques that Lara Croft can master. There’s also a good chance you’ll find ancient coins. These ancient coins can be used as a currency for trade with other individuals that you’ll find throughout the game. It’s important to explore for different reasons but exploring will also help in finding weapon parts. These weapon parts create a new weapon that Lara can use.

This crafting and talent system helps you to play the game the way you want it to play. You have a selection of different long range weapons such as the bow and pistols, but it’s up to you to make a choice on how to approach the enemy. Are you going for a more stealthier approach or a more direct version of a not-so-much stealthy approach? It’s all up to you… but keep in mind that your choice isn’t always the right approach. They really put some effort in improving the stealthy approach. You can use sneak attacks, confuse enemies with throwing objects, hide behind bushes or even trees, do aerial attacks, … You can even make different kind of “arrows” that’ll fit perfectly with your own playstyle.

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There isn’t a competitive online multiplayer feature in this Tomb Raider like last time because they want to try something different. There are some challenges that Lara Croft has to overcome during your game’s progression and there are leaderboards that give you an overview on how well you’ve performed beside other players. These challenges are called expeditions. These expeditions give you an arcade like feeling: You’re able to replay chapters of the story but with a twist, in other words… you set up your own challenge. By completing challenges, you earn credit and with this credit you can get access to power-ups and upgrades. You can choose between 3 options: mode, level and difficulty. There are a couple of modes that you can play: chapter replay elite ( replay chapters with challenges and with your already upgraded skills), score attack (finish a level quickly and use your combo meter), chapter replay (replay chapters with challenges) and remnant resistance (help the remnant fight to take back the valley). If this isn’t enough, you can create your own missions in the last mode and customize objectives, time/ weather effects, amount of enemies & animals.

Conclusion:

Rise of the Tomb Raider creates an almost open-world with an interesting storyline with its own plot twists. The quality of this game is outstanding and it seems that Crystal Dynamics has found a winning formula in creating a fun and challenging Tomb Raider experience. Their decision of rebooting the franchise, was the best thing that ever could have happened to Microsoft. Microsoft has a new and wonderful (timed) exclusive franchise to add to its collection. Is Lara Croft Microsoft’s answer to the Nathan Drake, uncharted series on PS4? No probably not, but why should it be? Why can’t we put those 2 side by side and play them both? Let’s be honest the game is very similar to the previous Tomb Raider but it has been improved, it has a good addition with this new multiplayer experience and all I can say is that it works. It’s definitely a game that everyone should pick up and enjoy playing.

9/10