Rise of the Tomb Raider. Or, as I like to call it – Murphy’s Law with Lara Croft. Anything bad that can happen to Lara will happen. Stumble upon a cave? It’s probably a wolf’s den. The one next to it? A big grizzly waiting to eat you. How about that rickety ledge? You know it’s about to collapse.
Crystal Dynamics is back with another Tomb Raider entry after rebooting the series in 2013.
I’m a sucker for history
Who doesn’t love a good romp through history? Even if it’s surrounded by myth. And Crystal Dynamics dug deep for this one. They trade the Lost Kingdom of Yamatai off the coast of Japan for the Lost City of Kitezh deep in the mountains of Siberia.
It’s been one year since the events on Yamatai. Lara witnessed the unexplainable and knows there’s more out there. Her latest journey sets her on the path to finding the secrets of immortality. With power that great, it’s no surprise others are looking for it. A mysterious organization called Trinity is hell bent on finding the artifact known as the ‘Divine Source.’ And it gives Lara plenty of bad guys to shoot.
One of Lara’s main motivations is restoring her family’s name, mainly her father’s. She’s also driven by her quest for the truth. What happened on Yamatai is unexplainable, and Lara wants to know what other unexplainable things lie out in the world.
The motivations of the game’s villains are equally as personal. Konstantin, the game’s antagonist, is a religious zealot who believes he was chosen by God for this quest. But even his motivations run deeper.
Documents help flesh out the backstory even more. Read the journals of a Trinity member as he seeks the Divine Source in ancient times. Or, the Soviets as their mining operations reveal portions of Kitezh. The motivations of the game’s villains are also expanded on. You don’t need them to understand the story, but it helps flesh out the characters and setting – both past and present.
It’s a looker
Rise of the Tomb Raider is stunning. That moment when you first walk into a tomb, see the frozen mountains of Siberia or the geothermal valley below will make you say ‘wow.’
Tomb Raider (2013) was a looker, and Crystal Dynamics pushes it even further with Rise of the Tomb Raider. And you can’t talk about a Tomb Raider game now without mentioning Camilla Luddington’s portrayal of Lara Croft. She kills it. Watching Lara grapple with every decision comes to life through Luddington. Crystal Dynamics and Luddington have set such a high bar with this Lara Croft that I don’t think anyone can do it any better.
As I said above, the vistas of Rise of the Tomb Raider are incredible. From the deserts of Syria to the blowing snow of Siberia, there’s a lot happening on the screen at any given point, and the game never stuttered for me.
A lost city in Siberia doesn’t sound like a lot of variety in environments on paper, but the geothermal valley changes that. You’ll trade the icy peaks of mountains for a lush valley teeming with wildlife and plenty to do. Challenges, caves to explore, resources to gather, relics and documents will keep those who want to 100% the game busy. Or you can focus on the main story. Just make sure you hit those tombs.
Tombs are a blast
Rise of the Tomb Raider could have just been one tomb after another as far as I’m concerned. Whether it’s reaching the top of a wrecked Byzantine Galley or an ancient cistern, tombs were the highlight of an already fantastic game for me.
Each tomb lies a bit off the beaten path. You will get a notification when a tomb is nearby so don’t worry about skipping over one by accident. I found myself exploring every nook and cranny just in case to make sure I didn’t miss one.
One question a lot of you have is how hard are the tombs?. For me, they weren’t so challenging I couldn’t beat them. The best way for me to describe them is they are just fun. Some tombs were simple; others took a little bit to figure out. All of them were fun, and I couldn’t wait to find the next one.
Plus, each tomb has a reward at the end. These range from better archery skills (shoot two (three later) arrows in quick succession) to perks making exploration easier (resource nodes glow when you get close to them).
The tombs are great, but I wish there were more. How cool would it be to have a ‘Forge’ mode for tombs? I’ll say it one more time. Don’t skip over tombs.
Lara is a badass
While exploring tombs is a blast, there are also bad guys that need stopping. And Lara is more than up for the task. Her trusty climbing axe and bow make short work of any foe in her way. There’s also several guns to choose from including pistols, rifles and a shotgun.
Combat is punchy and satisfying, for the most part. But, the AK-47 stands out with weak sound design (sounds like a BB-gun). Plus, running and gunning feels like every other average third person action game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s combat stands out when you use all of Lara’s tools and the environment at your disposal. Pick mushrooms to make poison arrows (these are handy for even the toughest enemies). Other resources augment shotgun shells to shoot incendiary rounds. Or hollow point pistol rounds. Cans of oil will make fire arrows and ore for explosive arrows.
Bottles, cans and urns litter the environment. Grab one, hold RB and you’ll have a Molotov, makeshift grenade or smoke grenade to use against anyone in your way.
Want to be sneaky? Go for it. Stealth won’t work for some of the more action-heavy sequences, but it’s a viable option in many areas.
Traversing the icy caverns or lush valley is a breeze. Platforming starts off simple as it’s just you and your pair of climbing axes. But things open up quickly as you get the rope arrow. You’ll get broadhead arrow later in the game. You can either shoot them into areas of soft wood or jump into it and tap ‘Y.’ Later on, you’ll pick up a wire spool that you can use to grapple onto ledges.
Controls are tight, and I never had issues with platforming or combat during my playthrough.
Go on expeditions
Crystal Dynamics ditched multiplayer for Rise of the Tomb Raider (a move I agree with). In its place is a new challenge mode called Expeditions. You can choose from several type of challenges and replay any story mission you’ve already completed – with certain objectives added.
There’s also a card system with modifiers. These range from increased difficulty and extra challenge objectives to modifiers for Lara. Depending on which ones you choose, your score will increase or decrease.
It adds some replayability to Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I would have liked to see more tombs.
A thrilling ride from start to finish
Did you like 2013’s Tomb Raider? If the answer is a yes, picking up Rise of the Tomb Raider is a no brainer. Crystal Dynamics took everything from 2013’s game and made it better. Controls are tight. The presentation is outstanding. It is one of the best looking games on Xbox One. And the tombs. Man, I love the tombs.
I know we’re all playing Halo 5, Call of Duty and Fallout 4. Hell if you’re like me, you’re probably still trying to make your way through The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid. But if you own a Xbox One, take a look at Rise of the Tomb Raider. You won’t be disappointed.