With Rise of the Tomb Raider hitting shelves in this year’s fourth quarter, I thought that it would be fitting to revisit Crystal Dynamic’s 2013 title, Tomb Raider. As a reboot of the series, this game was designed with the intention to explore Lara Croft’s origins as well as her ascent to the fully fledged warrior that we’ve come to know and love.
Quickly, the game immerses you with the exploration ship that Lara is aboard crashing on a remote island. She is almost immediately captured and dangled from the ceiling of a cave by an unknown group of men, creating a sense of urgency and danger that the player can truly feel. The game then uses this time to give the tutorials which are relatively simple and teach the most basic skills; how to jump, how to climb, and how to track and shoot animals. However, the tutorials don’t just end here though as new mechanics are slowly added into the game as you progress.
Because it is an origin story, the developers decided to create characters that would help Lara seem more human and relatable with. It’s done decidedly well by introducing two important characters. One is a father figure that helps Lara overcome challenges through flashbacks and memories and the other is a very close friend who functions as Lara’s motivation to stay alive and push forward on the island. On the other hand, the other characters introduced, including Lara’s archaeological mentor as well as the ship’s crew feel empty and forced. When they are introduced during a brief found footage-esque flashback, they seem to have no real emotional stake in the research trip aside from the boat itself although the game tries to portray one.
The game developers even managed to weave character development into the core aspects of adventure gameplay, that is, upgrades. Every time that you find a new base camp, which is necessary to the advancement of the story I might add, Lara begins one of her ‘journals’. These provide the player with both ambient sounds when you’re scrolling through the menus as well as a look into the current psyche of the hero.
Another way that they’ve woven development into the game is through the use of collectibles. Unlike games such as Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64, the collectibles in this game tell a story instead of just being essential to complete the story. As I played, one of the first collectibles that I stumbled across was a journal written by Lara’s college friend and cameraman, Sam. This decision by the creative design team made the already immersive world even more so.
However, like all games, this one has flaws. The first that I want to talk about is the weapon system. Almost as soon as the game begins, you get your bow and arrow. The feel of the weapon is comparable to games such as The Last of Us and Far Cry. However, unlike those two games, missing with the bow and arrow doesn’t feel punishing; ammo is literally everywhere. In addition, once you get guns the bow becomes obsolete.
Another issue that I had with this game was its use of cut scenes. Normally, games use cut scenes to bridge the gap between one part of the story and another, although Tomb Raider uses them for the sake of using them. To justify it as gameplay, they use quicktime events. Normally this would not be an issue, but nearly every quicktime event is exactly the same except for a select few towards the end. Unlike the quicktime events of games such as the God of War series which easily flow and feel like a part of the game itself, these are just tedious. It felt as though they realized that they should have made the quicktime events more diverse, but didn’t go back and change what they had already done.
This doesn’t define the game though; the things that it does well more than make up for the things that it doesn’t. Overall, I would give it 85/100. For a free game thanks to free games with gold, this game was definitely worth the time that I spent on it and, hopefully, tweaks will be made in the sequel.
(Note that the multiplayer is not a factor due to the lack of players playing it on Xbox Live. This review only reflects the Xbox 360 version.)