Tomb Raider Review (PC)

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“There are no heroes on this island, only Survivors”

Tomb Raider brings a harsher, darker, more mature take on a classic character in the gaming world, Lara Croft. Crystal Dynamics brought their ‘A’ game with this realistic reboot into the adventurous and dangerous world that the lovely Lara Croft brings us into. As you’re sucked into the peril Lara faces, you’ll soon find yourself concerned for her and what she is becoming. I’ve been asked many times what I can compare Tomb Raider to and I’d have to say it’s a little bit Batman: Arkham Asylum, a little bit Far Cry 3, and a little bit Uncharted. This game still stands on its own as Crystal Dynamic’s best work yet.

 

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Story

As expected, the story of Tomb Raider will take you on an emotional roller coaster feeling worried, happy, excited, and downright disgusted for our favorite female protagonist. The start of the story is a little on the slow side as it preps you for what’s forthcoming, but it does serve a nice intro into the kind of situations that will make you understand what Lara has to do to survive. You’ll go from the very linear, but intense, opening to big open maps where you may traverse and raid those tombs. The game progresses forward from map to map, backtracking from time to time, but you’ll never once feel like its tedious since there’s almost always a different way to travel. Upon the beginning you’re introduced to the crew of the Endurance and the disaster they sail directly into.

From the introduction I could already tell that I wasn’t going to care for half of these characters and towards the end I was sad to see that I was actually correct. It’s fine considering the one character you should care about is the one you’re enduring all this hardship with, but at times you’ll feel a bit angry with how flat everyone can be in comparison. This very well might be because of the top notch vocal and motion capture performances of Camilla Luddington as Lara. The most intriguing section in the main story is just how drastic of a change in Lara we see as the game progresses. We’ll see her going from this sweet-natured adventurer to a hardened killer up until the very end of the game, setting a much darker tone for Tomb Raider. This is something that is very different from the rest of the series, seeing as how Lara slowly finds it easier and easier to kill in the name of survival. One of the most interesting features was the persistent change that Lara shows physically.

What I mean by this is the subtle change in her appearance from being covered in mud, to blood, to cuts, and my favorite, the constant pain she endures from the wound she gets within the first few minutes of the game. Very few games these days, probably due to the inclusion of character appearance customization options, actually show a gradual change in characters that are so subtle that they really add to the story immersing you into the experience. The intense scripted moments and quick time events were very tastefully done and I never once felt like I had fallen out of the full experience. At times, however, it felt like things can get pushed a bit too far, but when you really sit and think about what you would do in the horrific situation Lara and her crew mates have been forced into, you’d do it all the same. All in all, you’ll love the adventure you’re set on as young Lara solves the mysteries of escaping the firm grasp of death and the peril the island she is stuck on throws her way.

Gameplay

07This game truly shines in its gameplay and Crystal Dynamics has definitely gotten a firm grip on the combat system, but it’s not without its flaws. The combat is fluid and fast but will feel like it could be a hair faster at times. There’s a splash of stealth and cover added for a nice rounded out experience. I have three main issues with the game. First off, the stealth element is broken. As a survivor, if I get spotted in the middle of a heavily wooded and dark forest, I should be able to lose sight of enemies, right? WRONG! Once you’re spotted, you better find a good vantage point to fight from because at that point, running becomes useless because enemies always know where you’ll be. Secondly, you’ll feel like Lara is just lightly jogging at times of high distress. A simple sprint or run feature would have been nice in these situations, however, you’ll have to deal with Ms. Croft getting her routine workout with a light jog to the next location. The third issue is the survival element of the game. This is mainly pertaining to the hunting options given to the players for a sense of survival. Why was this added? It serves almost no purpose in the game except for a few extra spare parts and achievements; otherwise it plays no role in survival for Tomb Raider.

 

06The single player progresses really well with all the upgrades and gadgets given to the player as you complete the story. There aren’t very many weapons, but there really shouldn’t be if you’re on an island that doesn’t have much to work with anyway. The weapons you’re given go through a number of upgrades from extra magazines, better accuracy, flame rounds, so on and so forth, and because of this the combat really starts to go from survival fighting to “Lara with a vengeance.” These aren’t the only helpful tools you’ll discover. The further you progress the more experience you’ll get to gather skill points (similar to what Far Cry 3 does) to be used towards upgrading Lara’s skills over 3 separate trees. You can choose between skills that can help you gather more parts as part of the Survival tree, or get stylized kills with the Brawler tree, or become more efficient with weapons as part of your Hunter tree. All of this is done at the random campfires you’ll find spread out across the island, most of which act as fast travel spots between different sections of the island. The island itself is somewhat of a gorgeous marvel where you’ll wonder how something so beautiful can be so deadly. It’s safe to say that in the end everything felt very good mechanically. The climbing is smooth and accurate, the combat is fluid and quick, and the adventuring is vast and enjoyable.

Multiplayer

Although I haven’t really played much of the multiplayer, it wasn’t all too terrible. I won’t lie, it wasn’t the greatest mode added to Tomb Raider and it felt like it was just added for a lasting appeal. Let’s all be honest here, who bought this game for the multiplayer? If you say yes, you’re lying to yourself. For the brief encounter I had with it, I enjoyed what I played to an extent. The mode isn’t too in depth, the maps feel a bit lacking, and it feels as if it can be a bit uneven at times. From the start there are a handful of characters to choose, all of which are from the main storyline. You also have a handful of weapons to start with, including one of my favorites, the bow. Overall the mode is enjoyable, but not long lasting in the least. In the end what matters most is the single player element of the game.

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The Bottom Line

Tomb Raider is an intense but rewarding journey from start to finish, so much so it makes it hard to put down the controller. Although it’s fair to say that this game doesn’t come without its share of shortcomings, it’s not enough to break the game or make you want to stop playing. The road that follows Lara from shipwreck to savior is an astonishing tale that forges the way for future installments to come. I can say without a doubt in my mind that Crystal Dynamics has done a fine job rebooting a beloved series and has created a new spot in my heart for the adventurous Lara Croft.

 

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