Lara Croft has never felt as tangible and human as she does in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and it’s this refreshingly relatable portrayal of the now 20 year old heroine that drives the game’s fantastic, cinematic story. Taking place in a vast valley, teeming with ancient history, breathtaking beauty, and perilous danger, Rise of the Tomb Raider follows Lara as she continues in her late fathers footsteps, and sees her mature into a legend in her own right.
Going up against the mysterious Trinity organisation, and their leader Konstantin, Lara finds herself in a race to find The Divine Source, an artifact believed to grant immortality. On her journey Lara will experience loss and betrayal, face the harsh elements and dangers of the wilderness, and learn the power of both independence and unity.
No Rest for the Weary
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s spectacular opening sets the pace for what’s to come, with an exhilarating mountain accent set against the harsh, icy tundra. This momentum never lets up for the game’s entire 10 hours, as you’re propelled through flooded tombs, Soviet-era industrial complexes, frozen wilderness and luscious green valleys. Although you feel like you’re perpetually powering forward, Rise of the Tomb Raider imbues you with a liberating sense of exploration, with it’s well laid out open world structure, and plentiful yet streamlined content.
Much like the 2013 prequel, the world is split into hub regions that offer a bounty of side missions, challenges, and optional tombs to raid. This makes everything feel very manageable, allowing you to methodically work through areas in conjunction with the main story. The light RPG elements also present in 2013’s game make a return, and feel even more efficient than before, lending just the right amount of depth to Lara’s skill and weapon development. Combat is suitably satisfying, although a little too easy, with room for both offensive and stealthy approaches. Each weapon also has an alternate ammo type which helps mix up combat encounters, and the on-the-fly crafting system works well to keep you out of menu screens and in the action.
Lara is a tomb raider, and this time around her title is fully embraced. Each of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s challenge tombs present Lara with a distinct and beautifully detailed environment which showcase the game’s impressive sense of scale and contrasting claustrophobia. The ingenious physics-based puzzles that are to be found inside will test your lateral thinking and platforming prowess, and reward you with unique skills and treasure.
Situations in Rise of the Tomb Raider always seem to escalate. What may start out as a simple path from point A to B will soon develop into a heated firefight with Trinity forces, then elevate further into a frantic chase through a burning building and over a crumbling mountainside, eventually climaxing in a daring dive into frozen waters, among flying debris and a barrage of gunfire. Every set piece is executed with extraordinary cinematic style and a perfectly paced crescendo, these moments, each more exhilarating than the last, are some of the most thrilling I’ve experienced in any action game.
For all it’s scale and grandeur, many of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s most affecting assets lay in it’s subtleties. From little affectations, like the way Lara rings out her pony tail as she exits water, or the little remarks Lara makes to herself as she studies a relic, to the nuanced character portrayal and performances. Camilla Luddington brings life and soul to Lara with her empathetic performance; I felt like I was this character and every hardship she faced felt personal. In fact, every character in Rise of the Tomb Raider feels authentic, even antagonist, Konstantin, has a relatable motive.
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s story is somewhat familiar; a hero and a villain race to retrieve a fabled artifact from a lost city, but this story is told with humanity and grit, and always manages to keep itself grounded. Even when it takes a predictable turn for the supernatural, it does so in a way that makes sense to the story, and doesn’t waver from the established tone. It’s Lara’s dark, palpable world that really connects with me, something that Uncharted’s lighter, more whimsical one has trouble doing.
After all, you’re a Croft
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a phenomenal achievement, it’s compelling story is packed with spectacular set pieces, strong, relatable characters, and expertly refined gameplay, all presented with breathtakingly beautiful visuals, slick UI, and a suitably epic score. Minor gripes, like the overly easy combat (at least on standard difficulty) and the entirely ignorable cards and micro-transactions, can be easily forgotten when a game is this fantastic. I urge you to take a break from your current addiction, be it Fallout 4, Black Ops 3 or Star Wars: Battlefront, and rise to the mantle of Tomb Raider.
- A gritty, grounded story with a strong, relatable heroine
- Spectacular action and set pieces
- Beautiful art design and presentation
- Combat is a little too easy