Welcome back Lara Croft. Or should I say hello to the new Lara since this is a reboot. I know that much was made of how would Tomb Raider respond to the success of the Uncharted series. Though both Drake and Croft share a lineage that includes Indiana Jones and Doc Savage, I always felt that Lara was closer to James Bond. Maybe it’s just the British accents, but the world spanning adventures often thwarting a global conspiracy using technology and gun play always made the connection for me. Lara had a few snazzy outfits as well. The uneven nature of the ambitious adventures didn’t hurt the connection either, at least on the video game front.
I wasn’t reminded of Nathan Drake while playing the new Tomb Raider. It actually was more reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed 3, especially the parts with young Connor. You were working your way to becoming truly dangerous and powerful, but you were still vulnerable. This new Tomb Raider feels like it dives into that part of Lara’s life. There are also some obvious parallels to the TV series Arrow even though almost all of work on Lara’s story must have been done before that series premiered. Regardless, it makes for some good synergy if you experience both.
This is young Lara out on her first adventure. She starts out injured and unarmed with minimal skills. By the end she’s a machine of rolling death that even the slow witted antagonists start to fear. I actually think they could have gone further with this. She’s done so much that it would have been rewarding to see some enemies break ranks and flee once they realize SHE’S attacking. I guess that means I was invested in the journey and development.
There’s a pretty good story here, but it’s bound to be controversial. It’s not due to need to protect Lara. It’s that the story is a puzzle that the developers let the player piece together as they as they find journals and artifacts. In other words, you could miss most of it if you don’t go searching for all the collectables. It’s a good idea in that you’re right there with Lara trying to piece together this mystery. Again this could have been taken further. There are several cut scenes that were written to be clear regardless of how much information the player had uncovered. It would have been quite effective if they could have tailored them based on the player’s collection success. It probably wouldn’t have made financial sense though.
The action is solid and the combat rewarding (especially if you concentrate on the bow). You don’t have the freedom of movement of an open world game. Everything is signposted and restricted in true metroidvania style. It is more fun to play around old areas once you have all the gadgets. The two big areas of success are pacing and sense of place. The island feels big and hostile and alive. You definitely feel like a raider even if the tombs are short, few and far between. You also feel that everything is building towards a climax. Your skills, equipment, the characters and the story are all soaring upward like the rockets from a fireworks display. When the explosion hits, it’s satisfying and worthwhile. I even appreciated the little head fake they gave us toward the end.
In summary, there are many things you could nit pick about Tomb Raider, but the game much more than the sum of it’s parts. In the end you feel like you’ve been part of Lara journey from a young woman to the beginning of a legend. Highly recommended.