Lara Croft is one of gaming’s greatest heroines since she first debuted in 1996. Crystal Dynamics has gone back and given Lara an origin story. What was the catalyst to triggering her curiosity to explore all dangers? What gave her the capacity to kill. Tomb Raider answers those questions in this harrowing tale of survival and growth.
When the crew of the Endurance is stranded on an island after a terrible storm shipwrecks them, Lara begins a journey that she could not imagine ever going through. She’s captured and must fight to survive and thus takes Lara on an incredible ride. Over the course of the game; she will be beaten, get a spike driven through her side, tumble down rocky hills, fall of ledges, be attacked by wolves, and other scrapes and encounters that would kill most mortals. These are the things that mold Lara, that changer her, and make her become a powerful woman.
On the flip side, these are things that should have killed her, but that wouldn’t have made for a very exciting game. It just detracts from the overall experience to see her not break any bones during this ordeal or recover from very serious wounds quickly. Though, the evolving scratches, scrapes and developing scars on her body show an amazing transformation. The Uncharted series were inspired by the Tomb Raider series, and now things have come full circle as Tomb Raider is now influenced by the Uncharted series. It’s a nod of respect among developers and shows that they can learn from one another.
Lara will come across many camp fires to upgrade her weapons, invest skill points, and fast travel. Well that certainly sounds like an RPG, doesn’t it? It is quite like that. You’ll collect salvage from enemies and by finding crates around an area that you can use to improve the weapons and gear you’ve found. For instance, Lara will start with a poorly constructed bow made of driftwood, but by the end of the game will have a professional hunter bow. While scavenging you’ll find upgrade parts that evolve the weapons into their best form.
Through scavenging, killing, and discovery will Lara earn XP that unlock skill points. There are three categories: Survival, Hunter, and Brawler that you can invest in. They are broken up into tiers, and once enough upgrades are spent, you’ll unlock the next tier which offer better rewards yielding passive and active rewards. There was never a point I felt I was wasting a skill point or had accidentally invested in something meaningless. All of them work for you and you’ll find the right upgrade path.
When you complete the game, you’ll be able to revisit each location to find the hidden items, search optional tombs, and explore. This of course makes for a new kind of experience, where all of the enemies are removed. This works on multiple levels, because you killed everyone.
About that multiplayer, it’s actually not bad. It features a full multiplayer suite that features playable characters from the game on both sides of the conflict, the locations from the game, and even the taped and wrapped up weapons from the singleplayer. You being able to play as a character from the game is hardly a reward or immersive experience. It simply feels tacked on.
You have your Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag variant called Rescue. There’s also a Cry For Help mode, all of them are standard and seen elsewhere in games. If you consider Uncharted 2 and 3′s multiplayer a success, you can see why Crystal Dynamics may have felt this was needed here. I’m reluctant to report that the multiplayer for this game is dead on arrival. This review comes almost a month after the game’s release and matchmaking is unable to find anyone playing.
Tomb Raider is one of the finest games to show true character progression and how they evolve. Watching her evolve emotionally, physically, mentally, and even visually through cuts, bumps, and scrapes. Then, being able to see your skill upgrade choices being used in practice. It may not be your character, but Lara Croft is a strong character that you can believe in. The world around you may be supernatural and improbable, but Lara’s naivety and instincts carry this story as you see her become the Tomb Raider we have come to know. Even if she can cheat death, by the game’s standards. It’s just a shame the support cast around her are completely uninteresting and the included multiplayer was a waste of resources.