Tomb Raider; By Hazel Moss



I should probably let you all know, when it comes to Tomb Raider, I am a fangirl. I have loved and adored Lara Croft since the first ever Tomb Raider game, back in 1996. So when it was announced the franchise was getting a reboot, I almost wet my pants. 
 
I’m a big fan of reboots too, when they’re done correctly, and I eagerly looked forward to seeing what Square and Crystal Dynamics had to offer. I was not completely disappointed!
 
Before I get into the meat and bones of gameplay and mechanics, it’s important to take a look at the character development of our lady protagonist.
 
The reboot takes us back to Lara’s younger days, before she becomes the grizzled kickass explorer we know today. The Lara we meet in Tomb Raider (2013) is young, naive, and fragile. The developers have done a tremendous job at portraying this through both vocal and physical shows of weakness. Before now, the only sounds to come from Lara during game play would be the occasional grunt of effort, the authoritative ‘NO!’ As players tried to open doors without the relative key, and of course the iconic and legendary scream as we threw her, in a swan dive, off the highest platform possible. 
 
Expect to hear, literally, a lot more from Lara now. Every step she takes after an injury is a flinch inflicting affair. She gasps, moans in pain, stumbles, trips, limps, and holds her aching wounds with surprising authenticism. Her cries for help are genuine, her frustrations real, and it all serves to pull you deeper into her world and experiences. Which is a good thing, because if you were expecting a classic Tomb Raider game, this experience falls flat on its face.
 
Moving away from room by room puzzle solving, with injections of action and gunplay rarely intertwined, this iteration of Tomb Raider is an all out Action Adventure game. This isn’t a bad thing, but it certainly means this portion of the franchise is not your classic Tomb Raider experience. The game play for the main part smacks of Splinter Cell Conviction, without as much pressure applied to stealth. 
 
The puzzle rooms are replaced with areas you must battle through to progress to the next section. There are several routes you may take through each area, and you can choose whether or not to approach the battle all guns blazing, or sneak in and take out opponents with well timed arrows and trap snares.  The action is absorbing, and the storyline is intense and interesting enough that even this hardline fangirl can forgive what they have done to the actual Tomb sections.
 
Because they are the most underdeveloped, pathetic attempts at squeezing in classic Tomb Raider action into the TR game I have ever witnessed. And I played Angel of Darkness. 
The tombs come in the form of ‘hidden’ tomb sections throughout the game, and are essentially a corridor attached to a puzzle room. And oh boy, are those puzzles lacking. The biggest letdown of this entire game is right here. The tombs feel like they were added on at the last moment to attempt to pacify hard core TR fans. Because when it comes to puzzle areas, this is pretty much as much as you’re going to get. And their simplicity, lack of depth, and insulting rewards just scream last minute add on. Fortunately, there is more to Tomb Raider (2013) than these areas, and therein lies the saving graces. 
 
The storyline is interesting, though not as indepth as some previous Tomb Raider games, (Legends and Underworld.) And takes us through Lara’s formative expedition. As she starts as a naive greenhorn, you actively see her become stronger and more determined as the game progresses. The action sequences are intense and thrilling, and the shooting mechanics are superb. 
 
Lara has the ability to come equipped into battle with bows, pistols, automatics, and shotguns, and the game is pretty free and easy in letting you choose your battle style. Sneak in stealthily with the bow and ice pick, or blow them all to hell with the shot gun and pistols? It’s your call. All weapons can also be upgraded. And whilst this is an excellent idea for the system, the actual implementation lacks some.
 
Rather than find specific parts for your weapons, the game lets you scavenge for, well, junk. Hunks of scrap metal etc can be taken to campsites, and is used to upgrade your weapons. The only actual input the player has is deciding which hunk o junk to attach to which weapon. This for me is really lacking, and misses some great potential for turning Tomb Raider into a truly open world experience. I shouldn’t be able to just hamfistedly tack pieces of crap to my weapons and they’re magically better than before. Gaming has evolved beyond that, it should make me work to find useful pieces in order to upgrade my armoury. The idea in theory is a great addition to the game, but again, it just feels rushed and poorly executed. 
 
This brings me to my next point, I have an entire island at my feet and yet hunting, scavenging and trying to survive play next to no part in the game place. The sub title of the game is ‘A Survivor is Born,’ so why, oh why isn’t it letting me Survive?! A huge opportunity has been missed here by Crystal Dynamics, to turn Tomb Raider into a genuine open world survival action adventure game. Instead we have a slightly claustrophic feeling journey through a game area filled with trinkets and shinies to collect, like this makes up for the lack of 'real' Tomb Raider experience.
 
The story line is gripping, involving, and tantalising. The game mechanics as far as shooting and traversing the map are better than anything we’ve seen in a Tomb Raider game, and they make the game a truly enjoyable experience. For one play through, at least. It’s hard to be so honest about this game. Because I do love it, it does what I love most about Tomb Raider; it tells an amazing story. But there just isn’t enough content to back up the story arc, or to keep me coming back for more. The ideas implemented all feel rushed and last minute. The game itself feels like it plonks you at point A, and spends the entire time letting you fight your way to point B. 
 
It has its moments, the quick time events actually work very nicely, and the set piece action sections are great fun. It’s not a bad game, its extremely enjoyable, but it is not all that Crystal and Square built it to be. 
 
The multiplayer is a rushed, terrible, ill conceived add on. It’s clunky, repetitive, and feels like it was added as an excuse to drain money for maps, rather than have the developers focus on extra single player DLC. Its so bad infact, this is all i’m going to say on it. It’s best we pretend its not there. Remember Bioshock 2’s failed multiplayer attempts? This smacks of that.
 
All in all the game is a great experience, but all developers need to start and realise, that in 2013, their audiences are demanding much more in depth, realistic experiences. Camilla Luddington gives a superbly realistic and gripping performance as Lara, and she is let down badly by a huge lack of realism and in depth focus on the survival aspect of gameplay.

Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics, and produced by Square Enix.
It is available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
DLC and multiplayer maps are available at additional cost.