I’m not going to sit here this week and try to convince you how Rise of the Tomb Raider is a RPG. In the classical sense it’s not. What I will try and do is convey how it is a finely crafted game with a strong narrative that allows you to take part in what some of the best RPGs have to offer. A truly engaging experience.
Having a strong main story is one of the central pillars to modern cRPGs. So too is the ability to make choices that have dramatic and lasting impact on your character or the overall narrative. That last part is the biggest thing missing from Tomb Raider and what sets it apart from modern cRPGs. No matter what you do you will not have the ability to make choices that clearly impact the story. That’s because the game plays out like a cinematic experience. You can make choices that allow you to impact the moment to moment gameplay but nothing you choose to do will impact the overall story arc. For me that isn’t a bad thing in this case.
If you have already played 2103’s Tomb Raider then some of this column will be a bit of a rehash for you. I promise it’s worth the read though if you are one of those gamers that like RPG’s and look at Tomb Raider and say, “Lara Croft? Yeah I remember her from the late 90s. A huge gimmick with some puzzles thrown in.” I had read and been told that Tomb Raider was a good game but for any number of reasons, time being chief amongst them, I hadn’t played it. Three weekends ago I finally caught a break in the action and was looking for something to do on my Xbox One. It’s mostly sat on a shelf and collected dust since I bought it and I needed to justify its existence in my collection. I had Tomb Raider the Definitive Edition free from Games with Gold. I also have a copy on PC from a charity Square Enix was running but I wanted to play this game on the big screen and not my PC monitor. So at this point I have two copies of the game and made the decision there was really no reason for me not to play it. I powered it up. Then I devoured it. Once I got a chance to dive into the game and experience what I had been missing I didn’t want to quit. I managed to clear time in the evenings over the next week to game when I would normally write. Between work and Blue’s playoff hockey I managed to complete the game and was thoroughly impressed. 2013 Tomb Raider is hands down one of, if not the best reboot of a video game franchise.
I immediately ran out to get Rise of the Tomb Raider for my Xbox One.
This isn’t a review of Tomb Raider but if you asked me to give it a score I’d say it was an 8.5. The main campaign really was that good. Sure it has some multiplayer slapped on to it as well but I didn’t really give it a chance. Dragon Age Inquisition has multiplayer slapped on it too but that doesn’t make it a multiplayer game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is superior to Tomb Raider in every way.
From a ship wreck in 2013 to an avalanche in Rise of, Tomb Raider’s beginnings are gripping and they don’t let off of the gas until you are done. A central theme to both stories is dealing with betrayal. In the first it was by Lara’s crew. In this entry to the series it is by a person close to Lara, trying to steer clear of spoilers, and to a lesser extent her father.
While the game is full of adventure it is also focused on exploration. Lara is a tomb raider / treasure hunter after all. She isn’t all guns and brawn. Lara is a student of history and in this newest adventure is racing against a secret society to find a mysterious holy relic. Think Indiana Jones racing the Nazi’s to find the lost Ark of the Covenant. The game rewards you for peaking behind every bush and turning over every stone. You’ll get a snippet of information about lore tied to the game and experience points. Each time Lara gains a level she is rewarded with a skill point to spend on different abilities. You’ll also pick up collectable items. In Tomb Raider Lara would collect salvage to improve her kit. In The Rise of the Tomb Raider Lara collects a number of different resources, cloth, leaves, sticks, hides, and mushrooms just to name a few. These items allow her to do everything from improving her weapons and making ammunition to creating bandages to heal in combat. While you could improve your weapons through crafting in 2013s entry in the new one you can also craft gear and outfits. These allow Lara to have additional abilities such as better camouflage, and more room to store ammunition and hold more crafting items.
In a lot of ways playing Rise of the Tomb Raider brought back memories of playing Metroid Prime games on the Game Cube. It has large areas that aren’t truly open but do allow for a good deal of exploration. You are also encouraged to back track across these old areas with new equipment later in the game to unlock previously unreachable areas. A number of these unreachable areas are tombs. One of the chief complaints for fans of 2013’s Tomb Raider was there was little emphasis on tombs in the game. Crystal Dynamics rectified that in Rise of the Tomb Raider and made sure there are more tombs in the game. They also provide better bonuses than they did in the previous game. If you complete a tomb you can be rewarded with bonus abilities. This makes the tombs not necessary to complete but definitely worth your time to try and figure out the giant puzzle. That and they are just fun.
If you find yourself stuck in a MMO or RPG rut like I recently did I highly recommend taking a look at Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year. Lara Croft is back in a strong follow up to her 2013 reboot performance. Now excuse me while I dive back in and tackle the DLC.