Crystal Dynamics’ Rise of the Tomb Raider released late last year on the Xbox One, and the game has now made its way to PC. It’s functionally identical, but visually superior to that of its console counterpart. That may not surprise anyone, but this sequel surprises at nearly every turn with refined combat and improvements to the core gameplay that simply does everything right.
Editor’s Note: Justin Celani reviewed this on Xbox One, for those looking for another viewpoint that dives deeper into the game’s story and mechanics.
Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s introduction is a much easier one to swallow than that of the rough and tumble, dire, and damn near torturous beginning to 2013’s Tomb Raider. Lara Croft is a bit older, wiser, and much more confident. A striking contrast to her prior self. This makes her more enjoyable as a character to watch and to play. Lara is no longer stuck between the duality of a naive woman struggling with taking the life of another and a woman on a murderous rampage in need of survival. The result of this shift is being able to enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider from the get-go, because now both the player and Lara are of the same mind, and the game is all the much better for it.
While exhilarating and highly entertaining, Rise of the Tomb Raider stumbles at delivering the story as it feels disjointed. It jumps between the past and present, as well as several locations, but eventually settles on the mountains of Siberia to deliver and excellently paced game that truly makes you feel like a tomb raider. Once you reach the Soviet Installation Base, it serves as a hub area and the game really opens up and lets you do things as you see fit.
A cursory glance at Rise of the Tomb Raider might get you to think that nothing has changed. The core of the game is the same as the first, as you’ll be required to take refuge from the harsh elements. Lara is now better equipped this time, bringing a lot of her tools for this expedition, which accelerates the need to redo what’s already been done before. She does have to craft a bow again from just branches and twine, but she has the knowledge this time, and is able to craft ammo on-the-fly, which creates for some intense firefights and encounters.
One outstanding feature for Rise of the Tomb Raider is that Lara will learn Greek, Mongolian, and Russian as she progress through her journey. Some walls cannot be read until a educational requirement has been met, this is done by collecting artifacts that give this insight. In games where there are collectibles, they almost always feel forced or added in for padding, here the collectibles make sense. You are a tomb raider, an adventurer, why wouldn’t you take things for your own upon discovering them? It’s just so smartly handled.
As you earn experience from kills, discoveries, and crafting, Lara will eventually level up and be be able to invest points into skills to improve her abilities of crafting, weapon effectiveness, and her own survivability to withstand damage and deliver more devastating attacks.
At campfires is where you can upgrade weapons from items scavenged through the environments. You can also fast travel to and from previously visited campfires. The game is wide open, allowing you to go back for treasures and craftables that you missed initially. And thankfully, you can save whenever you choose. Rather than waiting for a checkpoint (which are generous autosaves), you are free to save your progress anywhere you like.
Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC is chock-full of PC-specific features. Naturally you can play this game with a gamepad. While it does support a DualShock 4 (as long as you have a program that makes it act like an Xbox 360 or Xbox One Controller), it does not remap control icons to that of a PlayStation 4 controller that you are using. The Xbox One controller works as intended with no configuration. Mouse and keyboard also work well, and will provide ample opportunity to get quick and tight headshots – though the on-screen prompts for what button to press are lacking.
I’ve experienced and odd set of issues with Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC prior to release. This was fixed by not only new NVIDIA GeForce “GameReady” drivers, but also a big patch to the game as whole that smoothed all of that out. Surprisingly, there’s no benchmark mode or tool that’s been a staple of Square Enix titles that have been ported by Nixxes. It was easily the best way to show off the game and see how the game fared. It has been recommended by Crystal Dynamics that the best place to do this is in The Acropolis which is about an hour into the game.
– Microsoft Windows 10 Pro
– Intel Core i7 3770k @ 3.9Ghz (Turbo)
– 8GB (2x4GB) Kingston HyperX blu DDR3 RAM
– NVIDIA GTX 780 Classified (3GB)
Rise of the Tomb Raider is an absolute must-own. Whether you’ve played the previous game or you haven’t, Crystal Dynamics have made several improvements to the gameplay flow that makes this a sequel worth playing. Rise of the Tomb Raider is absolutely superior to its predecessor in every way, excelling on every front, delivering a powerful female protagonist. Lara Croft is stronger this time around, and the game benefits from that strength as well.
A pre-release Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.