There will always be a special feeling whenever a new title of a long-running franchise comes out, especially if it is one that has conquered the hearts of gamers for many generations already. And the hype can’t be any greater when the franchise we are talking about is one that has one of the most iconic video game characters as the protagonist, Lara Croft. She is one of those characters that will never get too old to be loved. Lara has appeared in several installments as the brave and already-well-experienced-at-surviving heroine we all know but now Crystal Dynamics have come up with a brand new Lara that is different from the rest of her alter egos. In this game, we witness the new Lara developing survival skills from zero while facing more danger than ever in a reboot that feels fresh and more real than ever.
It is not the first time we have the chance to see a Croft learning to be a badass but the way this time it is one is quite unique. It all begins with Lara being so enthusiastic about finding the truth of the mysteries surrounding the lost kingdom of Yamatai off the coast of Japan. As she and her colleagues and friends reach their destination, a huge storm destroys their boat leaving them all stranded in the island. Unfortunately, Lara landed on a different location than the rest and is forced to get over her innocence and build up enough courage to venture into the island by herself if she ever wants to see her friends again and find a chance to escape.
From this point on, everything is focused on Lara’s journey to discover her brave side. Since the very first time we are able to have control of her, it’s inevitable not to feel compassion for our young adventurer. Her most exciting expedition yet has been ruined leaving her apparently helpless and without any real convincement that she will survive. What enhances the tension are the sudden dangers that she is forced to face so soon. But these are the moments in which Lara starts using her young, but gifted, instincts to survive. And that is everything that drives the story forward because as we see her growing up Lara passes that feeling on to the player.
And that is a remarkable achievement done by Camilla Ludington, who plays the role of new Lara throughout the game. Her acting is outstandingly convincing in every portion of the story. The transition from the injured and scared young girl to the now ferocious killer is something worth witnessing. Nonetheless, although the talent is quite evident, it is true that sometimes her constant screams end up being slightly frustrating. But, after, it is a Tomb Raider game. Constant dangers are to be expected. But while Lara is still learning to withstand them, it gets a little tiring at times. Yet, it’s nothing that truly affects the overall experience in the end.
Another aspect to highlight is that Tomb Raider is no stranger for gun fighting. Weapons in this 2013 edition play an important role and definitely have an impact on the gameplay experience. Since very early on the game, you will notice that silently sneaking around is one of Lara’s greatest talents and it is very probably that you end up fond of that mechanic like I did. And that’s because the bow and arrow can be used in a very efficient way that makes you feel like the real predator hunting its preys. However, there will be times when a little use of the machine gun or shotgun will be necessary. Sadly, this is one of the sections where I feel Tomb Raider lowers its quality. Gun fighting can be fun at times, but it doesn’t feel as fresh as other aspects due to the fact that it really doesn’t offer anything new (apart from some clichés).
The gameplay mechanics have its pros and cons. To begin with, controlling Lara throughout the whole game is rather satisfactory. She feels so light whether while jogging or climbing and how she automatically squats to take cover feel so natural as a whole. On the other hand, the difficulty level is rather controverting. To be entirely honest, I felt that difficulty level decreases significantly over time due to a number of reasons. The game teaches you right at the beginning how to purchase skills to improve your combat and survival instincts even more. At first it is cool to help Lara become a brave adventurer, but with the time everything becomes way easier as you keep purchasing the goods. That, and the fact that the ammo is found nearly everywhere doesn’t exactly make it a challenging quest from start to finish.
Last but not least, the world of Yamatai which the story takes place is very nicely done. The game is linear but there are several collectibles spread across every section of the map, including hidden tombs, that might make some players want to find everything because hidden details about some background story are featured in those items, while others might just ignore them and go on with the story. After all, they are not vital. Nonetheless, it sure helps the whole world not to feel empty or too narrow.
In every aspect, Tomb Raider is without doubt and extremely enjoyable experience. The experience of seeing Lara discovering her own wild spirit is something quite touching due to the great acting of Luddington. Sadly, the great involvement is not present in the whole game. It is to thank that Tomb Raider doesn’t rely on clichés for the story, leaving only the relevant elements to be told, but it regrettably does rely on them on some of the gameplay characteristics. Still, it is so pleasant to be part of a game in which a character full of history in the industry of games such as Lara receives as much love as in the previous installments of the franchise. It is a successful reboot, no doubt, and will leave many, including me, anxiously waiting for future sequels.
Rating: 8 – Definitely worth it