Tomb Raider is a gaming franchise very dear to my heart and by saying that I am not implying that I am the biggest Tom Raider fan of all time. In fact I wouldn’t have considered myself a fan of the franchise until recently. So why is it that important to me? Because the lead character of the game, Lara Croft, is a woman. A woman who can kick some serious ass! And I think I speak for most of my fellow girl gamers (and maybe guys too?), when I say it’s a shame that there aren’t more female main protagonists. I know there are a couple of female heros like Metroid’s Samus or Faith from Mirror’s Edge, but besides those few heroines, females in video-games are usually displayed as sexualized man-eaters or stupid, annoying damsels in distress, who need to be saved. No worries, I am not gonna go all feminist on you and tell you how wrong or whatever that is. I am just really glad that Crystal Dynamics decided to make Lara this young, beautiful, as well as sympathetic woman, instead of creating another big boobed, sexy vamp with little to no clothes. So, I hereby wanna thank Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics for saving the Tomb Raider franchise from completely destroying itself and becoming nothing more than a nostalgic memory. By the way the new Tomb Raider is not a sequel to Tomb Raider: Underworld. Crystal Dynamics decided to completely reboot the Tomb Raider franchise. Now, without any further ado, here is my review of the new Tomb Raider.
Fresh out of college and with her archeology diploma in her hands, young Lara Croft is ready to take on her first adventure. She is determined to find the long lost kingdom of the Yamatai (a place also visited in Tomb Raider Legend). After convincing decedents of the Yamtai to fund her expedition, Lara and her fellow archaeologist as well as friends, set off on a ship to find the Kingdom of Yamtai. After steering the ship into the dangerous Dragons Triangle, it is caught in a storm which leads the entire crew to get stranded on a mysterious island. But not only is the entire ship crew stranded on a mysterious island, which inhabited by a crazy cult, no! Lara gets separated from the crew and also her best friend Sam gets kidnapped by one of the crazy islanders. The player takes over after Lara wakes up hanging head over from the ceiling in a candle lit cave. You will help Lara as she tries to reunite with her friends, as well as help her solve the mystery surrounding the island.
Throughout the game you’re not only able to witness how Lara grows emotionally and becomes a stronger character, but you are also able to upgrade her to your own preferences. This can be done by salvaging elements found on the island and using them to upgrade your weapons or collecting skill points and upgrade Lara’s abilities. You’re able to upgrade her Survivor skills ( for e.g. Retrieve arrows from enemies killed with the bow ), Hunter skills ( for e.g. “Efficient use of bags and pockets allows you to carry more ammunition.” ) and Brawler skills ( for e.g. “Cleverly use dirt and rocks to blind your enemies and leave them vulnerable to your attack.”). These upgrades not only make Lara a stronger character, but because of these upgrades the game offers the player the ability to play the game in different ways. If you like to be sneaky and do stealth kills, the bow and ice tool will become your best friends. But if you just wanna run around gun blazing into fights, then go ahead and equip your shotgun, maybe even upgrade it with an extended mag, the game won’t stop you.
Besides the main story the player is also able to freely venture around the island. You can go ahead and raid some of the tombs, which involves solving a small environmental puzzle, go hunting, or simply enjoy the nice scenery the game offers. Alongside nice scenery and an interesting story, the game also offers, in my opinion, great voice acting. Diary entries are scattered all over the island which contain different point of views from characters of the game. All diary entries as well as every conversation is voiced. So depending on who’s diary entry you just found, you might hear an old Japanese monk voice or maybe one of your crew members. I especially enjoyed finding these diary entries because it let’s the player see a different kind of view and may explain other peoples actions and behavior.
People who know me, know that I am a huge Uncharted fan, especially the second game which is one of my all time favorite games to play. But even as a big Uncharted fan I have to admit Tomb Raider is a really great game – I like to call it “the better Uncharted 3”. Some might argue that the game stole a lot of elements from Uncharted or might even call it a rip-off, but don’t listen to them. To me, it never felt like an Uncharted game. I don’t know if they did or did not steal parts from Uncharted and even if they did, I couldn’t care less. Hell, I would even go so far and say everything Uncharted does right, Tomb Raider does it just as good or even better. Why is that? Because the two things I have to criticize about every Uncharted game, Tomb Raider does so much better. There are no ridiculous amounts of enemy waves thrown at you, like Uncharted has the tendency to do so and (mild spoiler alert) you do face some super natural enemies at the very end of the game, but unlike Uncharted it doesn’t bother me. It is a rather brief encounter and it flows well with the story. Tomb Raider has the right balance between action, story, and stealth, because you decide your game-play style as well as pace.
I do have to voice some critics. For one, I was kind of hoping for more puzzles and the ones that are available are too easy, but then again, I am the one and only Puzzle Master Mandy, so that could only be me. I played Tomb Raider on my Computer and unfortunately I did encounter some compatibility issues with my video card, which was rather upsetting. So, if you plan on getting it for PC, be sure to upgrade your driver, because that should fix the problem. Also, Tomb Raider doesn’t really have an end-boss. I don’t know if this really is something negative, but I would have really liked having one. Other than that, you could complain about the randomly placed ammo or salvaging objects, but that’s really nagging on a high level.
I recommend this game to everyone who enjoys action-adventures, whether it is the Uncharted series or even the Tomb Raider franchise itself, it doesn’t matter. This game is a lot of fun. So, if you can find it for good price, do yourself a favor and buy it.