Tomb Raider is a franchise that began during the heydays of the first Sony Playstation. It proved to be popular to young adolescent males due to its groundbreaking 3D adventure and nothing else. From then, time proved to be unkind to the franchise with each installment waning in popularity. With that, the developers decided that Lara Croft needed that “Next-Gen” treatment. It worked. With the recent reboot, we were given a female protagonist that’s more realistic, both in bodily proportion and personality. But she whines more. Given the success of the “first” game, the second installment, Rise of the Tomb Raider, has a lot to work out for.
Onwards to a New Adventure!
Rise of the Tomb Raider picks up sometime after Lara Croft’s disastrous island adventure. In this episode, she pursues her father’s last project – proving the existence of the fabled city of Kitezh. Her father’s work ended as a tragedy and Lara thinks that it is up to her to clear her father’s name and get some closure for herself. But as we’ve been told before, the adventures of a relic hunter is one muddled with conspiracy and complex affairs. Her curiosity has whittled the wrong stalks, making her a prime target of a large extremist group called “Trinity”.
As Lara Croft, the finds himself smack in the middle of trouble. It is as if she visited the tombs and temples just to cause destruction upon them. Anyhow, with her string of bad luck comes superhuman strength embedded within her limbs. It is safe to say that 80% of your time in Rise of the Tomb Raider would be spent in hanging on ledges, jumping to escape a breaking and/or burning bridge, or running from goons and baddies.
The game offers a semi-open world approach.
Aside from the ubermensch acrobatics, Lara also has an armory of gadgets in her sleeve. She’s like the female Batman, just less grumpy and ripe with angst. Utility belt not included however. The most important of her assortment of tools is the ever reliable ice pickaxe for vertical ascensions. To stave off boredom, the game then introduces a multitude of useful tools across the game to stave of boredom.
Do this… …then this… … and this. Rinse and repeat.
Lengthening the game’s lifespan are the numerous collectibles scattered across the land of Kitezh. They come in objects of lore or as snippets of recorded information, and they enrich the background of the people and the places involved.
Rise of the Tomb Raider tries to be an action-oriented game while having a bit of RPG influence at its core. To say, it manages to do so without any apparent flaws. The player can build Lara from the ground up and it’s just weird that she forgot Survival 101 during her past excursion. Leveling up requires experience points and these points can then be earned through various means such as hunting down beasts, taking care of the goons, and discovering new artifacts.
Just another tired Tuesday…
Campfires stand as Lara’s oasis in the middle of desolation. Here, the player can assign skill points to make her better in the field. The skills range from the more important ones such as the ability to fire three consecutive arrows, down to mundane and useless ones such as increasing the amount of scavenged resources. And before you ask, no, I did not experience lacking neither raw materials nor ammo during my playthrough (Hard mode).
The campfires also act as a field base where Lara can make more ammo and upgrade her tools. Rise of the Tomb Raider makes use of fast-travel, allowing the player to make return trips should there be something that warrants attention in the previous segments.
Lara’s a pretty lean mean killing machine
Now onto the action part of the game. Rise of the Tomb Raider makes no excuse to arm Lara to the teeth. She’s the model action-lady, capable of carrying four different arms: a bow, a rifle, a handgun, and a shotgun. For melee, Lara goes medieval with her trusty pickaxe, digging the sharp edge onto her opponents skull without doubt or second-thought. First-person sighting is absent even with a bolt-action rifle. Weapon attachments can be found across the game as rewards for optional quests or by buying them.
Though already formidable, Lara is capable of crafting arrows, grenades, and molotovs, with the trash that are suspiciously scattered during firefights. She can even make bullets in the middle of a fight! If the skill tree reaches a certain level, the player can create specialized ammo for better damage and larger spread.
Wanna know if there would be an impending encounter in Rise of the Tomb Raider? Look at the level and see if there’s cover around. Levels that are built to be mini-arenas are so obvious that you’d probably think about where the enemy will come from. It’s not a bad thing but it does remove the surprise.
Often times, the game encourages stealth, but given the instruments available, it’s easier to just shoot them or carefully counter their attacks for a one-hit kill.
A Blissful Scene
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s engine is incredible. How it manages to portray and make snow look real is already an achievement on its own. The weather effects do evoke a feeling of the cold and there’s just too many things to praise here. Draw distance is also something to take note of. I’m actually having a hard time describing the graphics and to best tell you about it, here are some in-game screenshots that I took.
Note that the first one is the only cutscene photo present and the rest are in-game shots.
All of these come at a price though. Running it at 1080p is taxing even for a high-end Nvidia GTX 980, especially during daylight sequences.
It has no multiplayer PvP and the developers decided to utilize a point-based leaderboard instead. Players can do customized missions and use cards earned during the campaign. The cards add another layer of conditions to each custom playthrough, providing significant advantages or disadvantages.
The game also offers a number of DLC, most of which are costumes that can be crafted in-game. Endurance mode is sort of a Hardcore mode where-in resources are more scarce and adds a new dimension of difficulty to the vanilla game. I do wonder why the developers removed this from the final release. Money, perhaps?
While Rise of the Tomb Raider has some new gadgets and features in it, there’s nothing done to change the beaten path of the first one. There’s the subtle application of RPG mechanics interspersed with a solid application of action. The graphics are sublime and the voice-acting is on point. It could’ve been a perfect game. But as the adventure of Lara trudges on, it wanes and loses impact.
The story is well-built and there are no problems save for some minor plot holes. The game manages to make you endure all those platforming moments and firefights for the sake of closure.
The game’s definitely not a sinking ship.
On the otherhand, the game suffers from repetition. Even though it has employed methods to mitigate the problem, like introducing new concepts late in the game, most are nothing new and are just a variables of climbing point A to point B, just faster and farther.
Although there’re a large variety of tools, I usually used just two of the main guns, and rarely threw grenades. Fights are so few and far between that it like Lara is against a gang of street thugs instead of a paramilitary extremist group. The AI does have some brains inside their heads but most of the time, they are keen to expose them for one shot kills.
If you’re concerned about the cringe-worthy moments of the first game, then I’ll save you the trouble by saying that Rise of the Tomb Raider is less gruesome than the first. Lara won’t be impaled, choked, or threatened with rape.
Finally, should you buy it? Yes. With all its faults, Rise of the Tomb Raider is still a solid, fun, and satisfying adventure. Also, ensure that you are patient enough to hear Lara’s moaning redux. Best prepare with this video: