Review: Tomb Raider – reconstructing an icon
Over the years Lara Croft has played the role of archaeologist, scholar, savior, heroine and always kicked major ass. But what about before the tombs, fame and fortune? Crystal Dynamics takes her on a dark journey rebirthing the tomb raider. Do you have what it takes to survive?
Every game has a hero. Whether they’re out to save a city, planet or sometimes even the universe, the stakes are almost always high, the odds insurmountable and ridiculously stacked against you. However, icons are the heroes we all remember who have erned their stripes through trials of blood against a compelling plotline backdrop. For people who grew up with the Tomb Raider series Lara Croft is already iconic, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger in 80s, her character was a time piece that doesn’t transfer into modern times quite so easily. Her hyper-sexualized look today makes her feel more like an archaic gaming relic, something she may stumble upon and unearth in the very tombs she raids.
Crystal Dynamics wants to bring her to a new generation. Out with the old and in with the new. Outside of her visual representation Lara has always been strong willed, focused and an unstoppable force of nature. She is well worth rebooting and the best way to do so is to start at the beginning. This latest version of Tomb Raider is the story of how Lara Croft grew from the privileged daughter of an archaeologist to the famed explorer she was destined to be, and it’s going to be a painful journey.
We begin with Lara aboard the research vessel, Endurance, trying to find the ancient lost city of Yamatai. All previous expeditions to uncover its location have returned empty handed or disappeared all together. On a hunch the ship heads into the mysterious Dragon’s Triangle. As you would expect, all hell breaks loose. A freak storm tears the Endurance apart and Lara wakes up on the beach cold, alone and wounded.
This is a great way to begin. As Lara learns how to survive, so too do you with sections nicely broken up with back story moments seen through a video camera Lara is carrying around. Early on the threats to your well-being are minimal as you get used to the climbing/jumping/shooting mechanics. Once you have finished the basics, the handbrake comes off and you are set against every imaginable kind of threat you can dream of. Along the way you’ll face crazed survivors, cultists, wild animals and ancient supernatural forces. Luckily, Lara is no push over and within a few hours she is armed to the teeth and by the half way mark she is screaming insults and taunting her victims.
On top of weaponry Lara is given a huge selection of upgradeable options. Every campfire she stumbles upon allows her to spend resources that she has scavenged on upgrades for her tools and weapons. Skill points are awarded after you cross a certain amount of XP earned from exploring and thwarting enemies. These can be used to increase health, unlock weapon specific finishing moves or can enhance your abilities. These consist of new moves like dodging and countering by driving an arrow into an enemy’s leg or throwing dirt in their eyes to give you enough time to finish them off.
Lara is true survivor and her struggle will completely suck you in. Tomb Raider grabbed me in a way that no game has in a long time. After the first hour I was so hooked I cancelled everything I had planned for the weekend and decided that this was going to be a single session affair. The game manages to keep you entertained for well over 20 hours, offering small puzzle tombs to break up combat and collectibles are everywhere for those gamers who love to explore. At the near 30 hour mark I was still exploring, and when the conclusion finally came I was incredibly satisfied with both the final battle and the story’s resolution as well.
Tomb Raider left me on a high for hours after I had finished the game. It provided a magnificent balance of combat, puzzle solving and Indiana Jones styled adventure moments. Lara’s journey moved me and already has me yearning for a sequel. Lara Croft has been chiseled into one of the strongest female characters in gaming and Crystal Dynamics achieved this feat though story, not sex appeal. Even this early on it is a strong contender for game of the year and was a near flawless experience.
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