Rise of the Tomb Raider has been on my wishlist for a while, and last weekend it went on sale for 50% off. I have a general breakpoint for AAA games, and that appears to be $30. That doesn’t appear to apply to indie games, as I paid full price for PoE, Tyranny, Grim Dawn and quite a few others. I think it has more to do with expectations, where a AAA game must be super polished, and in most cases, that doesn’t happen until a few months in. Dishonored 2 is a good example…
Anyhow, back to Tomb Raider.
I had played the reboot a few years ago, and have re-run it a few times since. It boiled the series back down to basics – exploration, combat, and story. It played a lot like an action movie. I much preferred the structure here than within the Uncharted series, which focuses almost entirely on combat and story. Don’t get me wrong, the story is good, but I can only take so many waves of bad guys before I’m noped out.
So, RotTR takes what the reboot did very well, then expands on it. There are more options for movement across the world. Crafting combat aids is now present. Self-healing, skills, customized weapons, outfits… it’s all there. So where the previous game had 2-3 options for combat, this one has a solid half dozen or more. My favorite right now is 3 silent arrow headshots, followed by an incendiary grenade (molotov), a grenade arrow, then some more fire. You can wipe out entire streams with that. And the beauty is that combat is usually limited to 5-6 enemies at once, so you strike, move on, and strike again. Short and sweet.
There’s one fight in particular where you stalk enemies from the water, while surrounded by a haze of gas. It’s a strike and flee scenario, and it works wonderfully.
Exploration also gets expanded upon, with the majority of content available when you encounter it. There were only 3 tombs where I needed to backtrack once I had the appropriate skills/tools. There are more hidden treasures, the lore is all over the place, little nooks to explore, caves to spelunk and animals to hunt. Animals in particular are an interesting twist, with wolves, tigers and bears coming out of nowhere to lay a beatdown on you. Killing them gets you some extra resources to further improve your character.
A few spots have actual quest givers, sans question mark, that rewards extra materials or the unique gold currency used to purchase items from the in-game shop. You can get a silencer, grenade launcher, laser sight… even a tool to unlock the final upgrades on weapons, though that one is supremely expensive.
So combat and exploration have undergone a rather significant expansion. Great. What about story?
Tomb Raider has always been about a MacGuffin chase. Heck, all of these games are based on this premise. Here it’s a divine source that provides immortality. You’re competing against Trinity, a secret cabal that’s lasted for centuries, bent on world domination. Their avatars are an interesting pair, one a fervent believer, the other more practical. There’s some grey here, and their story is fully exposed. This provides them motivation that you can relate to – it’s their ethics that don’t line up.
There’s certainly a theme of immortality in many of these games, Tomb Raider in particular. The last one was about an immortal spirit keeping people on an island, this one is about a tool that gives people eternal life. It’s certainly a trope, but it works.
Overall, the game is a definite improvement on the previous game and that was the best one of the series in a long time. RotTR is to me, the best game in the exploration/combat genre, and well worth the play through.