Rise of the Tomb Raider Preview

1996 was the year the first Tomb Raider game was released and one of video games most iconic characters in Lara Croft was born.  On November 10, 2015, the latest edition to the Tomb Raider franchise will be released and this is a preview that will cover what made the previous game good and what new features will be in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

I’ve been a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise since I played the first one as a little kid, but had low expectations for the last Tomb Raider game and only rented it months after its release due to it receiving great reviews. 2013’s Tomb Raider was a reboot for the franchise.  Gone was Lara Croft’s signature short shorts, duel pistols, and 13 years old and up violence.  Now Lara wore pants and her body was covered in scratches and dirt, her primary weapon was a bow and arrow, and her game featured bloodier 17 years old and up violence.

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All the changes to the franchise helped revive a dead brand, and it started with changes to its gameplay. 2013’s Tomb Raider was a modern third person shooter.  Lara would hide behind cover to avoid enemy bullets and would pop her head and gun above the protected area to return fire, all of Lara’s weapons were upgradable, and occasionally Lara could use stealth to sneak up behind an enemy and choke them to death with her bow or bury her pick axe into their head.  While everything I just mentioned could easily be seen in several other video games, the bow and arrow was unique to Tomb Raider.

The bow and arrow was the best weapon in the game and it wasn’t a close competition.  Part of this had to due with the guns being surprisingly weak until the last third of the game after they were full upgraded.  There was also limited ammo for the guns and Lara would almost never run out of arrows, because she can retrieve arrows shot into dead enemies and there seemed to be more ammo lying around for it.  The bow and arrow did more damage than guns for most of the game and it allowed players to use more stealth, because arrows killed enemies silently and guns didn’t.  Later in the game the bow and arrow gains the ability to shoot fire arrows.  Fire arrows do not only light up enemies, but when shot in an area with wood floor can set part of the environment on fire burning multiple enemies.

The bow and arrow was also used for puzzle solving and platforming.  To destroy a structure a short distance away, Lara would shoot an arrow with rope attached to it and pull on the rope after the arrow hit its target to open a new pathway to the next section of the game.  She would also use the rope and arrow trick to travel distances that were impossible to jump or climb to.  By shooting her arrow into an object the player knows it will connect to, she connects the other of the rope to an object next to her and uses the rope to slowly pull or climb her way towards the area see shot, or use he pickaxe to quickly slide down to her desired location.

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Lara’s pickaxe does more than allow her to play the killer in a slasher horror movie (though it was a fun way to kill enemies), it’s also used the way it’s intended to by allowing Lara to climb mountains.  Mountain climbing in Tomb Raider is basically platforming, but there are only certain areas Lara can climb.  Finding climbing areas, structures that could be destroyed, and not running around aimlessly for hours trying to figure out where to go, is accomplished by using Lara’s survival instincts.  Survival instinct is just a button you press to make the screen change color highlighting anything of remote importance similar to Assassin’s Creed and Batman Arkham games.

2013’s Tomb Raider was an impressive looking video game from character models to environment.  It also featured several Quick Time Events that rivals some of the best action movies or Uncharted games.  Going through all of the Quick Time Events from Tomb Raider two thoughts crept into my mind.  First no video game character takes a beating more than new Lara Croft.  Even if the player never missed a button press and successfully completed every Quick Time Event, Lara should have broken every bone in her body.  Second if the player screws up the Quick Time Event, Lara dies in many unique and brutal ways.  Thanks to YouTube user XCVii007r1, you can watch the video below to see Lara’s many deaths.

2013’s Tomb Raider’s story can best be described as it gets the job, but is nothing special. Lara was good, but I didn’t care about the supporting characters and Lara went from being sad she killed a dear to being okay killing hundreds of people pretty quickly.  The game did a great job creating lore for the fictional island Lara was on and establishing the tone and world the new Tomb Raider lives in.

Rise of the Tomb Raider seems to take a “if it ain’t broke why fix it” approach.  You can expect everything I just wrote about the last Tomb Raider to be in the new one, with the obvious exception of story elements.  Rise of the Tomb Raider’s revolves around Lara’s question to complete her father’s work on discovering the secret of immortality and fighting against an evil organization called Trinity, and below is a trailer that focuses on the story.

Rise of the Tomb Raider brings more actual tomb raiding to the rebooted franchise.  While the last Tomb Raider game had puzzles and optional tombs, there surprisingly weren’t that many the player had to do to compete the main story and I only found and completed two optional tombs during my time playing it.  Rise of the Tomb Raider should have several puzzle based tombs and that includes death traps like the giant stone ball or spikes coming out of the floor you would see in a classic Indiana Jones movie.

The last Tomb Raider was technically an open-world game, but it had a very linear feel to it.  While players could fast travel to previous areas when Lara is at a campfire, (where player could upgrade Lara’s weapons, skills, and change her looks and this appears to be the same in Rise of the Tomb Raider) I never felt the need to go back to previously explored areas.  Now they added side quest and non-playable characters that gives Lara added missions, extra story relevant content, and more ways to upgrade the character.

There’s also a unique upgrade system that involves translation.  This doesn’t involve having to remember what you learnt in Spanish or French class in high school or going to Google translator, but helping Lara understand ancient languages.  The first time Lara tries to read some weird looking text on the wall, in a book, on an item, or on a scroll, she will not understand it.

After looking at things written in the same language several of times, she will be able to read it.  Being able to decipher languages will give players some form of reward and might make you want to return to previous areas to find things you missed due to not understanding what the game was trying to tell you.

The Tomb Raider franchise is known for having Lara fight against creatures.  Wolves, sharks, and dinosaurs all had Lara Croft on their lunch menu at some point and time, but only wolves and a giant samurai monster thing were the only non-humans trying to murder her in the previous game.  This seems to change in Rise of the Tomb Raider, with bears and what appeared to be a cheetah in he trailer below.

While I mentioned earlier how combat worked the previous game and that this one likely works similar to the last one, one change that doesn’t sound like much but could make a significant difference is the addition of choice.  Last game can players could use stealth in certain situations, while Rise of the Tomb Raider will still force players to kill there enemies several of time, it will not always require the death of every nearby enemy.  It’s possible to go Metal Gear Solid and sneak past enemies in one area to the next without killing anyone.  They also added traps Lara can set to kill her foes, like putting a bomb on the dead body of someone she killed earlier and detonating it when his allies check on their fallen comrade.

Lara has two new types of combat abilities this game.  The first is the crafting system.  Anyone that played The Last of Us would understand how this works.  Lara could find a can, some gasoline, and knives, and in the middle of hiding behind cover to avoid gunfire, she combines the three items under a minute to make a shrapnel bomb that she then throws killing the people shooting at her.  It might not work exactly like that in the game, but my example is likely close to how it works.  She can also perform special abilities like being able to shoot two arrows at one time to get double headshots.  How often Lara can perform special abilities and what most of them are, will be answered when the full game releases.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a single player only game that releases on November 10, 2015.

Author: Michael Bronson

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