Combination of action/exploration
Way more tombs
Shooting feels slightly off
2013’s Tomb Raider reboot was exactly what the fading series needed. Lara’s story and look were getting a fresh start and boy did it make an impact. She began that game very timid and inexperienced. Throughout it we witnessed her kill her first human (and animal) and turn into the badass adventurer we knew from the past. Fast forward a year later (in game time) and we join her on her latest adventure. Lara has completely accepted her role of the tomb raiding, ass kicking, treasure finding hero we know and love. Her father is dead and she is out to prove that his last great discovery is real and not the joke it’s made out to be. She is on the hunt for the secret of immortality.
Gameplay wise, not a lot has changed, but that is not a bad thing. All of the moves, weapons, and upgrades that you would expect are in here and Lara has a few new tricks up her sleeve. Along the way you will continue to acquire currencies to level up Lara’s abilities, improve the stats on weapons, and even make some purchases from a pseudo “black market.” All of this feels great! The games controls are crisp and I never felt like I was competing against them in order to do what I wanted to do. Shooting feels good although maybe a little more “floaty” than I remember. (that could just be my memory though) The game is divided into two different types of experiences. There are linear story driven moments where you experience the big action moments and some of them leave your jaw open. Then there are larger exploration areas. These are wide open and really encourage you to explore and gather the games numerous collectibles. Some parts are blocked off until you unlock specific abilities which encourage you to come back after they are unlocked and continue exploring. There are rarely enemies in these areas and it’s a nice change of pace to just jump around and explore. The campfires from the first game are back and serve as your fast travel locations. There are a lot of them, it’s nice to be able to go back to certain locations and not have it feel like a chore to get where you need to go. Playing this game is just a joy.
Tombs! That’s right, tombs are back. The biggest knock about the initial reboot is that there weren’t enough tombs to raid. Fear not, that has been addressed. Tombs are everywhere, in fact they drop you in one within the first 45 minutes. They are generally listed as optional tombs, but you should make it a point to do them all as each one unlocks a new perk for Lara to use. They are yet another example of this game immersing you in the environment without the need for lots and lots of shooting. The tombs are all mini puzzles that you need to solve. They are never very challenging, but they get you thinking about the mechanics of the game in a different way. Lara can finally live up to the name of her game. She is very much a Tomb Raider in this game.
Visually, the game is stunning. It pushes the Xbox One into a new level of what games can look like. The game takes place in Siberia and is beautifully snow capped. There are lots of little touches that continue to drive the immersion. Things like snow piling up on your clothes as you wade through the deep stuff and then melting off as you get near a campfire. Lara will rub her hands together over the fire to warm them. When she gets out of water, she will ring out her ponytail. The whole world feels alive. These go a long way to buying into what Lara is going through.
This game gets a LOT of comparisons to the Uncharted series and rightfully so. In my opinion, Tomb Raider is a much more enjoyable experience. The movement and climbing feels better. The amount of killing is way down, in fact Tomb Raider sets up many of its combat areas to be skippable if you want to take a stealth approach. Lara feels like she is an actual adventurer that has to commit some violence along the way to get what she is after, whereas Uncharted seems like a third person shooter more than an adventure game. (obviously my opinion)
So what’s the Verdict? Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game that will be mentioned an awful lot in a month or so when Game of the Year discussions get underway. I know I will be championing it. Don’t miss this one!!
Final Score: 9 out of 10