-Reviewed on Xbox one-
The sequel to Crystal Dynamics 2013 stellar Tomb raider game, Rise of the Tomb Raider sees Lara take up her father’s research to attempt locating a supernatural artefact that grants immortality.
The game is a visual feast in the opening minutes, with incredible vistas of snow covered mountain tops; Lara’s feet making marks in the snow, barren ruins to explore, neon lights reflecting off cave walls that light up unsettling dark areas and more beautiful attention to detail make this is one of the best-looking Tomb Raider games out there. As cut scenes go, they are merged within gameplay like the first one, but they don’t affect it too much, and don’t interrupt game flow. Animations are intricate and full of detail throughout the game; little features like Lara warming up near a campfire, reaching out to stay on balance, huddling up with the wind picks up – all of these make a huge difference.
The main enemy in this game is Trinity, an evil organisation trying to get to an artefact which will grant immortality – along with heaps of twists and turns throughout the story.
From the very start, the player is thrown into the fray, escaping from avalanches, a helicopter chase and running across collapsing ruins defying death at each turn. I really felt for Lara during those moments; she can’t seem to catch break with crumbling masonry and aged stonework. There were a few incidents that, after the frantic start of avoiding the avalanche, felt just as hectic, but like the last game, quick thinking on the game pad and pressing the right buttons at the right time is the key here.
While the game is not a sandbox, it certainly gives you free reign of some vast areas for you to climb; some locations, while open, branch into more areas that can only be accessed with certain weapon unlocks and skills to advance. With the camp fire system, you can fast travel to any location that you have discovered, and this will allow you to go back to a previously explored area to navigate a “Challenge” Tomb – you can also return to find missing items that were unreachable before, helping you to upgrade your weapons, gear and unlock more skills. “Challenge” tombs involve more platforming and puzzle solving, and can range from water themed temples to icy caverns. These tombs give a sense of accomplishment once complete; they provide enough of a challenge that will have you trying multiple times, and even getting stuck on a few.
Lara’s skill tree has been split into three disciplines – Brawler, Hunter and Survivalist; each tier offers more specialised abilities as you progress tiers, for example you can customise Lara to whatever playstyle you want to go for. Some of these skills do overlap in a way to another Skill on a tier so be wise on selecting them. It is possible to max out each of these skill trees if you kill enemies efficiently, and collect each and every collectible item throughout the game. There are also bonus skills that you can earn by completing the optional Challenge tombs. The skills are the reward for finishing them, meaning you can save your skill points, so try to complete the Challenge tombs whenever possible.
Lara has several weapons in her arsenal of gear, that she can use throughout the levels; from a bow and arrow to several types of guns, if you do happen to run out of ammo, there’s always some handy ammo crates lying around. Rise of the Tomb raider uses the same 3rd person POV as it did in the original game, but now Lara has the know-how to create items on the fly, from customized arrows to explosives. If long range sniping isn’t your style, you can always use your trusty ice pick for a devastating melee attack or a silent take-down; the beauty of the game is that you can choose your own methods of death and destruction to advance.
While I myself found the story hard to get into at times, overall, Square Enix have raised the standard once again; stepping up the bar from 2013’s dazzling reboot, no longer are we seeing the frightened shipwreck survivor on Yamatai. Camilla Luddington’s performance ushers a bolder, braver Lara into the role of Tomb Raider, towards the legendary Lara Croft we know and love for many years.
Check out our “First Fifteen” to get a feel of the intro: