I have played most of the Tomb Raider games, and much like the Star Trek Movies with the original cast, there are good ones and bad ones. The 2013 Tomb Raider, however, was far and away my favorite of the series. It’s hard to compare it to the original as the games of today are on a totally different level, but still it was a great game. The story line was probably the strongest of the series and the gameplay was fun and easy to pick up. I played the game through twice and during the second run I really took my time and explored every nook and cranny of the maps. I was obsessed with reaching 100% completion of each level. Needless to say, my expectations for Rise of the Tomb Raider were extremely high and possibly too unreasonable.
Let’s start with the story line. I just didn’t like it. Laura seemed whiney and petulant about her father who had this theory about the Devine Source which is supposed to grant immortality. Throughout the story she pursues this goal with an obsessive passion and does not put any thought about if she should even be searching for it. She meets a group of people who are destined to defend this from the rest of the world and have done so for centuries, yet when Laura comes around she befriends them and they help her. I mean, after just a couple interactions, they are willing to let Laura go after this item they have been protecting for hundreds of years with just a couple lame attempts to stop her. Here is basically how the interaction goes.
Laura: I am searching for the Divine Source, do you know anything about it.
Jacob: Yes, me and my people have been protecting it from the world for hundreds of years.
Laura: Well, I have to repair my father’s legacy so the world does not view him as a crackpot.
Jacob: Makes total sense. We will just forego the last few centuries of sacrifice so you can save your dad’s legacy
Of course at the end of the game, she realizes her folly and destroys the divine source with Jacob admitting that he knew she would destroy it in the end. I get the idea. The idea is Laura needs to discover that she should make her own way in life and not worry about making decisions based on what she thinks her father would do. When you look at the Survivor Laura Croft from the 2013 game, however, it is hard to imaging it is the same Laura. Obsessed? Yes. Driven? Absolutely. Petulant brat? Not buying it.
Then there is the gameplay. There are too many new tricks to learn. It was nice to see the grappling hook make a return, but with the rope arrows, it really is just redundant. Also, the whole one arrow in the soft wood thing doesn’t make any sense either. Late in the game, you find yourself having to use all of these different skills in what I call the “fleeing” segments. I normally love these and I like trying to make it all the way through the first time, but now you have too many choices to make it fun. You have the leap, the wall leap, the axe climb, grappling hook swing, grappling hook scaling, arrow in soft wood climb, rope arrow swing, and rope arrow descend/climb. I am all for adding new abilities, but these new ones really do not any new play-ability as you can do the same thing with other items.
Another new feature was being able to target up to three enemies with your bow and fire essentially at the same time. It’s a cool feature, but it was hard to understand and learn during the normal course of the game. I had the feature for a while and went through several battles when I would have liked to have used it, only to figure it out very late in the game.
The weapon system is clumsy in general. After a while, you realize there is no need for the silencer/suppressors and I wanted to take them off because I thought they looked stupid (don’t judge… it’s what I wanted to do). I still have not been able to figure out how to remove them. You also can’t change the ammo type on the fly for anything other than the bow. So the shotgun has explosive and fire shells, but you have to choose one or the other at a camp and you are not able to change on the fly. Then there was the shack were you could buy items from a deserter. This makes total sense <insert sarcastic eye roll>. He hangs out there all the time with over priced items waiting for his one and only customer to return time and again. Then he makes stupid comments on the times you buy. Pointless.
I could also complain about the various items you could find and turn into smoke bombs or grenades or just distractions, but I have a feeling these just did not appeal to me but they may to other players. I thought they were more of a distraction than anything else as they were all over the place.
I also would have like to have had a little more control over her movements. For example, I would have like to have been able to enter and exit the sneak mode when I wanted to rather than when the game felt I should. Same with the glow sticks. I like to explore and using the glow stick when I wanted it would have been a nice option.
The biggest thing for me, however, were the puzzles. With the original Tomb Raider, what it lacked in action and adventure, it made up for it with the puzzles. The puzzles in this game were not very challenging; after just a few minutes I had a general idea of what I needed to do. So while there were more tombs, they just were not very challenging. Rise of the Tomb Raider it is mostly climbing, swinging, searching, and killing. Not a lot of problem solving.
Arguably, you could say the same thing about the 2013 Tomb Raider as there were not a lot of great puzzles in that one either. The problem solving in these new games is more about figuring out how to navigate from one area to another, and that’s great, but if you are going to do that, you are going to need a stronger story line to keep things interesting.
Now for the Good
It’s Laura Croft. I love the new Laura. I love her voice and I love the way she delivers her dialogue. I love that she is a strong, confident female lead. I love that the outfits are appropriate to the game setting. I love that she gets dirty and beat up and tired. Laura has never seemed so real.
I also love the bow. In my opinion, the bow was the best thing that ever happened to Laura. I know in the earlier games and even the movies, the attention was given to her dual pistols, but the bow is awesome. I love being able to sneak through and pick people off. I also love the new arrows; between the poison, fire, and explosive arrows, they are just a bunch of fun. These are some wonderful additions to Laura’s arsenal and between the combat knife and the bow, I found I rarely used the guns.
Unfortunately, that’s about it. I did play the game all the way through and I do plan on playing the game again, but it really was just kind of okay for me. I did not feel like I could not wait to play it again. It just was kind of more of the 2013 version with some added functionality that just seemed kind of redundant.
Don’t get me wrong, I would still recommend this game highly, I mean it is Laura Croft after all. The graphics were amazing and I am just getting into some of the cool replay features of the games. For example, you can continue to explore after the game ends to get to your 100% completion and that’s kind of fun and it looks like I can replay an entire level with my current equipment so that seems promising. When I look at Metacritic, they give the game a score of 86 out of 100 which is the same thing they gave for the 2013 relaunch, but I think the score should be closer to 80.