Game Review: Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider is a very iconic franchise and it’s been quite some time since Lara Croft had a great game. Crystal Dynamics tackled the challenge of brining Lady Croft to both new and old fans in this refreshing reboot with great gameplay that helps tell a great story, showing that there is still plenty of life left in Lara Croft.
Lara Croft is already a well established character. But rather than just churn out another Tomb Raider that has any ties to the previous games, they chose to start fresh and reboot the franchise starting with a retelling of Lara Croft’s origin so to speak. Here we see how Lara Croft becomes the badass adventurer we love and it is a great transformation to behold.
Lara is on an expedition with her best friend and other crew members looking for the island which holds the ancient Japanese kingdom of Yamatai. Of course things go wrong and Lara and the gang are stranded on the island. But they are not alone as soon enough Lara is captured by an inhabitant and the game turns into a survival tale.
The story is good, but not great. Lara as a character is well developed here. The transition from being a rookie explorer to a hardened tomb raider is well done. Crystal Dynamics was smart to not hold themselves to Lara’s original origins, so they were able to tell a fresh tale that fans of the series would appreciate while delivering something great for new comers to the franchise. However everything else related to the story seems to take a backseat. Aside from a few side characters, everyone else in the game was there just for the sake of having a broad cast. The antagonist only shows up when it is relevant to the story and in the end his motivations aren’t quite clear.
While the story may not have been great, the gameplay certainly was. The game starts of slow, but once Lara is forced to make that first kill, that’s when we see Lara’s transformation begin not only as a character, but gameplay wise as well. Unlike the previous Tomb Raider games, Lara doesn’t start off being an expert with weapons. Over the course of the game you gain multiple weapons and are able to upgrade them with add-ons as well as your proficiency with them. Throughout the island you’ll find salvage that you can use to upgrade your weapons as well as your skills. Combat is fun and brutal, really showcasing Lara’s transformation throughout the game. While the game doesn’t have a traditional cover system, Lara will automatically crouch when near enemies, making it easy to sneak around and perform stealth takedowns as well as moving from cover to cover.
Lara has three different categories of skills which upgrade her survival skills, weapons skills and melee skills. Throughout the game you’ll earn experience which allows you to level up. With each level you gain a skill point which you can then use to upgrade your skills. It’s not an original concept, but it is one that works. However in this case you can only upgrade your skills and weapons at a base camp. These are small camps where Lara can rest and are all over the island. However it is rather tedious to have to constantly go back and forth to these camps just to spend your points.
The base camps also act as fast travel stations. The island is not huge, but it is big enough that having fast travel takes a lot of time out of having to constantly back track and making the same climbs over and over again. This is especially helpful when you find yourself going back to older areas to find all the collectibles strewn throughout the island. These range from journal entries to relics. There are some collectibles that serve no purpose other than to force the player to explore the island to find them. The journals do add more to the story and the relics give you a glimpse to just how knowledgeable Lara is which adds to her character. You can also hunt animals for experience points, but it becomes tedious and felt unnecessary.
You will also find hidden tombs throughout the island that act as small challenge rooms. However none of the puzzles are even remotely challenging and the overall design of each tomb is rather bland. None of them look interesting nor do they give you a sense of the history of the island. After solving them you earn a treasure map which reveals the location of all the collectibles in the area. Lara also has Survival Instinct which allows her to see for a short time any nearby collectibles or object of interest. It will also act as a navigation system by showing you the way point to your next objective.
Unfortunately as the games comes to an end it falls into a rather familiar design pit of simply throwing waves of enemies at you. The game could have benefitted a great deal with having some more puzzles or at the least making the puzzles challenging. Lara Croft is a highly intelligent character and it would have been nice to see that transition into the gameplay as well by testing her wits.
While the campaign was a blast to play, the same cannot be said for the multiplayer. The multiplayer was created by Eidos Montreal and it certainly feels like it was made by someone else. There are only four game modes: the typical team death match, free for all, Rescue, and Cry for Help. The last two are very similar; the only difference is the objectives, which both have one team on defense and the other on offense. Each mode only allows for eight players, which make for very small matches. They try to extend the matches by have three round per match, but ultimately doesn’t work.
The gameplay in the multiplayer feels clunky most of the time. Since climbing isn’t very fast as it is in the Uncharted series, it becomes rather pointless as it makes the player a very easy target. Many of the single player components make their way into the multiplayer, but some feel tacked on such as the Survival Instinct which doesn’t do much other than show you where your teammates are.
You don’t have much in the way of weapons of upgrades. You can unlock different characters to play as and you have only a few loadouts to customize. But other than that, there is not much depth to the multiplayer. Ultimately it feels like a watered down version of Uncharted’s multiplayer and should not have been included in the game.
The game looks gorgeous. Many of the island’s landscapes look great and give the player a sense of the islands history and previous inhabitants whether they are natives or people who were lost at sea. There are a few times when textures don’t load properly, but nothing the ruins the game in anyway. While you are free to explore the island there are time when it feels very linear, defeating the purpose of exploration in the first place.
Overall, Tomb Raider is a worthy addition to the franchise and a fantastic reboot to a much loved character. While the story could have gone further to push the point of Lara learning how to survive, it does a great job of showing this transition from an innocent women into a full on badass. The game looks great and the voice acting and music are spot on for the most part. Aside from the weak multiplayer, this is a great game that is well worth your time.