Admittedly, this review is late. Normally I will keep reviews timely, but Lara Croft’s origin story is a solid package. Here is my Tomb Raider review.
Rebooting a heralded character is incredibly tricky. To do it well takes a balance of modern game design and mechanics and enough of what made those games good before. Through a lengthy campaign, a swath of collectibles, likeable characters, a compelling story and a beautiful island to maneuver, the return of Lara Croft in her first adventure is worth experiencing. Even for the newest of tomb raiders.
As Lara Croft’s origin story, the game follows her and the crew of the Endurance, off to look for the lost kingdom of Yamatai. They enter the Dragon’s Triangle amid violent storms and get shipwrecked on an island with previous inhabitants and a sordid past. A mysterious character named Mathias complicates things, and Croft must save the day.
She is not her venerable self yet, so we get to see a younger and more vulnerable side of Lara. One powerful moment is when she first kills, a scene which turned controversial prior to release, and after that the action ramps up quickly. The new face behind Lara, Camilla Luddington, gives the character personality and depth and contains her emotions especially well. It is rare to find the perfect voice actor/actress, but Luddington seems to have Croft’s demeanor mentally sewn and that is reflected in the character’s transformation from beginning to end.
As Lara and crew move to different sections of the island, plot largely takes a backseat. The emphasis here is on the series’ staple: exploration. Expansive regions make for areas littered with collectibles and backtracking is imperative. Anything from mines to mushrooms can be shot or dug up to complete challenges. While these sometimes feel needless, Tomb Raider does not deny the completionist in us. The amount is overbearing though, and upon finishing I decided just to turn off the game.
Unfortunately, the collectibles serve no other purpose than to give brief glimpses in cultures that came before. It seems that Crystal Dynamics only put them in as an excuse for players to search around and nothing more. Little descriptions of each artifact are interesting, maybe, but it would have been better if Lara gave some background or context when referencing the many civilizations and time periods she does throughout.
Campfires act as checkpoints, and Lara can teleport between these to easily access visited areas. As well, it is where she progresses through skills. The levelling system rewards players for advancing the plot and for “finesse” kills, like close up shotgun blasts and back-of-the-head hacksaw silent kills. It is forgiving, largely because enemies peek their heads out of cover quite a bit.
The island is rather welcoming of Croft’s acrobatic ability, featuring impossibly high plateaus and a variety of towns and buildings Lara graciously explores. Climbing to these perceivably unreachable areas is worth doing just to gaze upon the island below, sporting haunting jungle vistas and gorgeous mountain ranges. The sea hugging the shore is always in view, too. One particular scene with a radio tower has the sun in full glare as heroic music plays, emphasizing how Lara and gang struggles with the island as much as they do with Mathias.
While bringing back Croft, Tomb Raider also features competitive multiplayer, a fact that came as a shock to many. Relatively insignificant as a mode, it will please those who enjoy the same offering from Uncharted. The single-player campaign overshadows multiplayer by leaps and bounds, however some may love the mode at least until multiplayer-heavy titles start pouring out later this year. But, according to Crystal Dynamics, all DLC will be focused on multiplayer. Dedication, to say the least.
Tomb Raider is a wonderful concoction of everything old and everything new. Lara Croft triumphantly returns to a new generation, and fans finally learn where it all started after demanding it for so long. Let us hope a sequel explores more of her rebooted backstory, like what happened to the family Croft.
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