hen a company decides to take an iconic series and an even more iconic character like Lara Croft and reboot the franchise, one can only be skeptical. Lara Croft has been a staple video game character for nearly 17 years, since she debuted in the original Tomb Raider in 1996. After nine successful games, spin-off series, books, and movies, was a reboot necessary? Perhaps. The Tomb Raider series wasn’t selling like it once did, with games such as Uncharted taking the limelight away, and new retellings and updates to a game aren’t always bad. Regardless, as a fan of Tomb Raider, I was worried.
Until now, footage and demos of this new game showcased a great deal of combat and very little of the iconic adventuring, puzzles, and collectibles that were staple trademarks of Tomb Raider. Had Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix forgotten what elements truly defined a Tomb Raider game? Has the popularity of the shooter influenced the direction of the new, rebooted series? These were the worries that I and many other fans of the series had. I had the opportunity to sit down with the game for nearly an hour at the recent X’13 Spring Event in Toronto. I am very pleased to say that Tomb Raider still feels like Tomb Raider. Everything we have come to love about Lara Croft and her adventures still lives on. Updated and improved in every way possible. This is the Lara Croft for the next generation yet still staying true to us original fans.
Tomb Raider goes back to the very beginning of Lara’s story and tells her very first adventure. This is before she became the iconic Tomb Raider we’ve all come to love. Before the wisecracks, the dual pistols, and before she ever had to kill anything. She is young, she is naive, and she is thrust into this adventure completely out of her control and is forced to do things she never imagined. When she comes out of this, she’ll be a changed woman.
After shipwrecking on an island and being taken hostage, she must escape her captors and get out of a rapidly collapsing series of tunnels and caves. The story is frantic, believable, and captivating. Oh, and that’s just the first 30 minutes of the game. Everything about Tomb Raider is beautiful. The high resolution graphics are incredibly detailed and the cut scenes even show Lara’s breath in the cold air as her body and hands shiver while she tries to call for help. I was completely mesmerized by everything this game brought to the table in the first hour I was able to play.
Exploration, relics, and puzzles still litter the game as we have come to expect. One new mechanic was added that, normally, I would not be a fan of: QTEs (Quick Time Events). Fortunately, these are used sporadically throughout the story to convey a sense of urgency and drama to the player; to truly put the player in Lara’s shoes. The first example of this comes very early in the game as Lara is scrambling up a rocky incline to escape the caves. Instead of simply pushing the stick forward for her to run, the scene changes to a QTE in which the player must alternately press the L and R triggers to simulate her frantic climb. This sounds a bit strange in writing, but the effect is truly invigorating. The action becomes personal to the player and there is a sense of urgency during the climb and one of relief when it’s over. These QTEs are not meant to challenge the player to see how fast they can react, like in games such as God of War, they are simply there to achieve a higher sense of apathy for Lara. It is a new mechanic that simply works.
I don’t want to spoil anything more about the game because this is truly one you will not want to miss. I found myself incredibly enthralled with the story and the gameplay in Tomb Raider in a way that no game has done before. I am very happy to put to rest all hesitation that our beloved Tomb Raider has been ruined by the shooter generation. Lara Croft is back and ready to take on the world once again and become the hero she once was for a new generation of gamers. Nathan Drake may have taken the spotlight away from Lara for a time, but the original Tomb Raider is back and she means business!