Rise of the Tomb Raider - Not fully risen
The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot caught a lot of people by surprise, myself included. The game took a departure from the previous entries in the series to deliver an inexperienced Lara Croft murdering her way through an open world interpretation of the island from tv’s Lost. Rise of the Tomb Raider tries to improve on the previous game but falls into the trap that many open world games seem to these days, losing narrative focus in the name of a overly bloated game world.
Tomb Raider type games, most similarly the Uncharted series, always require a huge suspension of disbelief. I’m sure there probably is an American Ninja Warrior winner out there that can maneuver their way around a sheer cliff face like Lara and Nathan do, but it’s still a tough sell. Additionally, the sheer amount of murder that occurs in these games has always bothered me. It may be rose tinted glasses, but my memories of the older Tomb Raider games are filled with platforming and puzzle solving, with just the slightest dash of murder.
The narrative is fairly straightforward: Lara is looking for the key to eternal life, following in the footsteps of her father who died a laughing stock for his devotion to the search. The key to this is “the prophet” who many years ago held this secret and hid himself away in the mountains that the game opens in. Standing against her is the biblically ironic Trinity, a ...mercenary group? I think? Hellbent on murdering everything if it gets them what they’re looking for. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and does not have the same punch of the first game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider expands on the open world and progression mechanics established in the 2013 title with a larger world and more side quests to accomplish. The Tombs are also back and in greater numbers than before. None of them prove to be much of a challenge, however the puzzle solving and confined environments prove a nice change of pace from the main game.
Gameplay in the main story usually consists of Lara entering a new area filled with a lot of enemies and trying to stealthily murder them all. Once you’re spotted you pull out the big guns and kill everyone in basic third person shooter fashion. The enemy AI is a special kind of dumb in this game, which is not helped by some of Lara’s more powerful unlockable stealth skills. It’s tedious and not particularly deep or enjoyable.
Personally I do not understand the need for this game to be “open world” and think it detracts from the overall experience. This type of action focused, narrative and character driven game should stay focuses on the narrative and characters. Spending a few hours between story beats gathering herbs and hunting deer makes it hard to feel invested in the story, or truly feel pressured when trinity makes their moves.
Overall the game is solid. If you enjoyed the 2013 game I can’t imagine you not enjoying this one. That said, the open world bits add a drag to the game rather than an enhancement, the gameplay devolves into tedium rather quickly, and the story and characters are really forgetful. I felt like I was forcing myself through the last third of the story. For me, this game is a slight step back from the previous as they’ve expanded on aspects of the game that I wish were left alone and left alone the parts I’d want to see expanded. Action setpieces, locations, characters, puzzles and story are all done better in the Uncharted games so if that’s what you’re looking for then I’d recommend going there first. If you need more though, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a solid holdover.
Value: Grab it on sale