Rise of the Tomb Raider
Let me kick things off here by saying that I played the original Tomb Raider when I was much younger. I’m not really into playing female characters but was trying to impress a certain female friend of mine and so played the entire game with her. I actually felt that it was pretty fun, with a healthy helping of wild adventure and numerous journeys off to distant, exotic lands full of intrigue, mystery, and danger. I also felt that some of the more difficult puzzles stymied the flow of action and adventure at certain junctures, and that it sort of took away from what the game was trying to be: A pure thrill ride.
Out of nostalgic curiosity, I also tried the series reboot in 2013, simply titled Tomb Raider. What struck me right away was the absence of tombs—that’s right, a game called Tomb Raider that hardly featured any tombs. Bizarre to say the least, but not in light of current American mass media culture, which forces this whole silly “strong woman” thing down everyone’s throats. Nothing is more unbelievable than watching some frail (albeit usually with big boobs) little lady beating the tar out of grown men and then mocking them in incessantly. Pretty annoying and totally unrealistic.
2013’s Tomb Raider fell right into goose-step with that same toxic illogic, and Lara was re-articulated as a tough, no-nonsense, highly trained killer—in essence, a man in a woman’s body. It was both pandering and uninteresting, and there wasn’t a shred of femininity to be seen, which was one of the things that made the original Lara Croft much more bearable. The original was determined, yet still vulnerable, tough when the occasion demanded it, but still had a softer, feminine nature underneath it all. The whole recent thing of women trying to step into men’s roles is both disturbing and nauseating, and unfortunately very ubiquitous in these days hyper-political correctness. I’m speaking in terms of North American culture and mass media. Women in other countries are still portrayed as having feminine qualities and embracing them.
When I received a review copy of the latest game in the series, which supposedly went back to Lara’s roots, I was sort of “meh.” As in I literally made that sound when mentioning the game to a gaming friend. But, I’ll admit that I was interested in seeing if they’d really turned things around as some people had been saying. So, after installing and loading it up, I was instantly transported off to a craggy range of Siberian Mountains.
The game starts off with Lara and her companion Jonah (from the 2013 game) braving a highly hazardous range of Siberian mountains. As they ascend its steep, snow-swept ridges, a backstory emerges in the form of both cut scenes and playable narrative sections. They detail how Lara’s father believed that both an ancient artifact, and a lost city, existed, and they both held secrets pertaining to immortality. Of course, no one took him seriously. Since his tragic death, she had taken up the reigns in his absence and was on a mission to prove not only her father’s beliefs, but also his sanity.
Right from the get-go I felt this was a compelling narrative, and coupled with the fact that the game throws you right into the action, everything just sort of threw me off—in a good way. Just an hour or so into the game, I’d haphazardly traversed the side of the mountain, which was more like an adrenaline-inducing roller coaster ride, only to become swallowed up by an avalanche of white powdery death. From there I’d been transported deep into the Syrian Desert, and navigated through some beautiful and ancient secret passageways which led to a forgotten city. The city (spoil alert) should have contained the artifact that her father had mentioned, but it was missing, and Lara also discovered that a shadowy organization called Trinity was also looking for it.
I won’t spoil it from there, but let’s just say that the story drew me in, and combined with the constant threat of danger, made it feel like playing through a highly-immersive Indiana Jones-style action/adventure movie. What was also pleasing was to see that feminine touches had returned to the character and were everywhere in Lara’s movements and demeanor. For instance, when emerging from water, she’d gently smooth her hair back, or when suddenly stopping or tripping she’d swing her arms around daintily. It was refreshing to see.
The only thing that was still rather silly was the return to the ridiculous notion that some average girl could take on legions of paramilitary goons and possibly have a chance of winning. I rejected that aspect of it as just a part of the whole preposterous “strong woman” fad that we’re going through right now, and just focused on how well made the game is in order to not tamper to much with my suspension of disbelief.
Speaking of which, Rise of the Tomb Raider features some of the most fluid gameplay I’ve ever experienced in an adventure game. It is firmly rooted in the foundation of the 2013 game: Lara can still crawl, shimmy, swing, jump, slide, and shoot with equal aplomb. What has changed are the environments that she performs these maneuvers in, they are much more varied and diverse this time around, and there is also more verticality. And what is satisfying about the combat, as always, is that you must use your environment, along with your resources, to your advantage.
The Rise of the Tomb Raider’s platforming segments feel more natural and integrated than ever before, and are far less frustrating than I remember them to be in previous installments. Beyond that, not much has changed in this area which it fine. Looking at the beautifully rendered environments never gets old and so climbing up onto that moss-covered square in the middle of the pool for the umpteenth time just looks so good that even you fall off of it a few times, you really don’t mind seeing it again and again.
When it comes to visuals, The Rise of the Tomb Raider excels. I was lucky enough to be playing on a Cyberpower PC rig with an i5 and GTX 970 Gaming 4G, and so my experience has been heavenly so far (I’m about 10 hours in). Moments such as standing outside of the entrance to a foreboding tomb, and looking down at a dust-swept town in the middle of a blazing desert, as heat waves undulate up from the ground, and the rays of the sun induce beautiful lens flare, is really something. The environments are simply stunning on higher end gaming PCs. The character models are also highly realized and look fantastic. This is one gorgeous looking game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider succeeds as a series reboot, much more so than 2013’s crap-tastic offering. It offers the perfect blend of adventure, an interesting storyline with many twists and turns, brutal, satisfying combat, and challenging puzzles (without being too redundant or difficult this time). Fans of the original game as well as people who love a well-crafted adventure game should definitely purchase it—it’s a definite contender for adventure game of the year and just a great game in general.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best looking PC games out there, it certainly blows away its console counterparts in terms of fully-realized graphics. You’re going to need a muscular gaming PC however, to get some decent FPS out of it. Invest in a new gaming rig today:
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