When Crystal Dynamics rebooted its iconic Tomb Raider franchise in 2013, the game seemed unconfident – light on puzzles, heavy on linear action set pieces, and overly derivative of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted franchise.
But with the stakes against them, Crystal Dynamics delivers on Rise of the Tomb Raider – a smart adventure that satisfies on all fronts.
After the bombastic ending to her last island adventure, Lara Croft finds herself in London with a newfound perspective on the world. Having seen evidence of the supernatural for herself, she sets out to find her father’s last obsession – a Divine Source providing eternal life. Racing against a new organization set to abuse these powers, she ventures into Siberia on the hunt for a lost city in the ice.
The plot isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s done well enough to warrant your attention. Between the cut-scenes and audio logs littered across the world, you get a great sense of this new mountainous location and its detailed history. It’s a roaring little adventure, even if the plot twists can be seen from ten miles away.
Croft is right at home in the mountains, running through ancient ruins, modern villages and epic glaciers coated in snow. The atmosphere combines impressive technical aspects with a talented direction to the game’s most cinematic moments of action. The gameplay is more of an even split than the 2013 reboot, which favored linear cinematic platforming and cover-based shooting over the series’ iconic puzzles.
In terms of gameplay, Rise isn’t much different than the past. But it makes just enough minor tweaks to turn a good formula into an excellent one. You’ll leap across walls of ice as you dodge gunfire, sprint through a mountain cliffside in the midst of an avalanche, and feel like a prime action hero at all times.
Croft as a character feels like the biggest step up over 2013’s entry. Even though she’s only had one adventure under her belt, she goes after situations with a refreshing gusto. No longer the innocent student who apologized to a deer as she kills it for resources (before eviscerating countless paramilitary mercenaries like Rambo), Lara feels dominant. She’s still a tad naive, still learning the realities of this insane world, but there’s a newfound sense of confidence that makes her a terrific protagonist.
Games like Rise of the Tomb Raider often get ignored due to their subtle greatness. There’s little in this adventure you haven’t seen before, but it’s never been done better. Don’t let it slip by.
Follow Chris Berg on Twitter, @Mushroomer25