So Rise of The Tomb Raider came out around this time last year on the Xbox One. Sure, it sucked. Microsoft didn’t have an Uncharted equivalent so they turned up to Square Enix with great big bags of money and bought themselves some exclusivity. This was dumb. For a whole year, Square Enix cut their audience from the previous 2013 reboot into a third! I hope that money was worth it. Finally, we mere mortals on PS4 have been graced with Lara’s final arrival. Sure, having to wait for a year was a big shame. Especially if you loved the 2013 release as much as I did.
However, in this 20th anniversary edition, we get spoiled with ridiculous amounts of content on top of what was already a huge game. With Rise of The Tomb Raider being even better than its predecessor in almost every way, let’s discuss exactly why this game is worth every penny that you spend on it.
Raid Tombs At Your Leisure
As we saw in Lara’s last adventure, Crystal Dynamics dipped their toes into the idea of a free roaming experience. We saw fairly large open sandbox areas where we were encouraged to slow down go exploring for loot. Like I said, this is exactly the same for Rise of The Tomb Raider and allows for some brilliant pacing throughout. However, with only a handful of base camp fast travel points, this time there are so many more to unlock. Especially since the PS4 release comes with ALL DLC ever released for the game. By the end of my first playthrough I had unlocked thirty three base camps, giving way to a huge, easy to navigate map. The main quest line was always easy to get to but what about all the other things to see and do?
This fairly large game world is absolutely littered with things to find and challenges to get through. In the interest of keeping this review concise, I’ll fly through the many options available to the player, here. First off, Lara can encounter optional quest givers. These guys are fairly few and far between. While fulfilling their requests may feel a little tedious, the payoff is almost so rewarding, these become essential for leveling Lara up to standard for the higher difficulties. Players can look forward to collecting weapon parts and tools. These aren’t just extra things to get the drop on your foes, either! Weapon parts can involve pulling down obstacles with rope arrows, blowing up obstructions and picking locks. It goes without saying, these things open up the map even more.
Keep Calm And Raid Tombs
However, the hallmark of any good Tomb Raider game is… yup, its tombs! Players will have the opportunity to raid a total of nine optional tombs throughout Lara’s latest adventure. Each of them offering a fairly head scratching puzzle experience. While a majority involve yanking things with your rope arrows, no one tomb is similar. Each of them feel like truly historical delights as you puzzle your way through often gloriously lit and rendered open areas. Cleverly, the game never traps you in any of these tombs. Even after reaching the solution, there’s always a shortcut back to the main map if you look for it. Reaching the hallowed ancient texts at the end of these puzzles rewards Lara with new skills.
Everything in the game, including what I’ve just discussed, rewards the player with varying amounts of XP. As a result, it’s safe to say the new Tomb Raider franchise is becoming an open world RPG genre. Frankly it’s doing a bloody good job. Other XP rewards can be found in hidden challenges, hunting exotic wild animals or clearing an area with total stealth. Then there’s all of Lara’s DLC costumes, each coming with their own benefits… Yup, this is an RPG.
2013’s release made the bold move of replacing Lara’s signature twin magnums with a bow. In the end, it turned out to be a very smart move, allowing the developers to build a whole new kind of game around it. In the case of Rise of The Tomb Raider, use of the bow has been leveraged even further. The back of the box says ‘engage in guerrilla tactics’. Boy is it not kidding! If you choose to play stealthy, Rise of Tomb Raider gives you the tools to become a lady Rambo. Lara can climb up trees and pounce on unsuspecting foes below. She can hide in the bushes and snap necks, craft bombs on the fly out of cans. Lara can also craft poison and explosive arrows on the fly. Throwing flaming gas tanks as super molotovs… the lists goes on.
One of the few jarring things about the reboot was how quickly Lara took to becoming a murdering killing machine. However, this time around, it’s a little easier to believe. After the events of that game and the horrific things Lara went through, it’s pretty safe to say she’s not too concerned about whooping ass where necessary. Despite Lara’s penchant for death and destruction, she is more human than ever before. She yells abuse at her foes as she takes their lives. However, most importantly, she is absolutely un-sexualized all the way through the game. This is a breath of fresh air for any gamer and is likely a new reason for Lara to be so important to the games industry. Gone are the days where Lara is seen as a sex icon to put on the side of Lucozade bottles. She is a strong woman with her own motivations.
Yet Still Gorgeous
It’s safe to say Lara looks absolutely gorgeous this time around. Not aesthetically but technically. It’s easy to see that the most work went into her character model. Even after L.A Noir, I’m still surprised by what devs can do with facial animation. During gameplay cutscenes, Lara’s face is literally good enough to qualify for a full budget animated movie. Sadly, all this effort in Lara makes other characters look a little sub-par. While it may be a bold claim, this same level of care and attention to detail has carried over to the world design in Rise of The Tomb Raider.
Watch your footprints fill up with snow during a blizzard. Or the gradual gathering of snow on Lara’s shoulders. Or perhaps the way she so subtly shivers in cold environments. The way she sorts her hair out when climbing out of water. These are just a few examples of the many nods to realism that the game is packed with. Many developers don’t bother with these things, seeing them as little unnecessary trifles. However, when there’s as many of them as seen in Rise of The Tomb Raider, the overall experience is utterly engrossing. I just couldn’t get enough of staring at the beauty of this game.
Rise of The Tomb Raider is Still Packed With Origins Lore
Rise of The Tomb Raider’s characters bring most of the new canon to the surface. Last time, this was not explored very much. However, a large portion of the brilliant story is told through Lara’s perspective on doing her late father proud. As such, we learn a lot about what daddy Croft was up to as Lara grew up, as well her privileged background allowing travel around the world.
We learn all about her father’s demise and the enemies he made in his last set of historical inquiries. Setting up future titles very nicely, we quickly learn that Lara has unknowingly inherited an enemy. Her curiosity about her father’s endeavours only stokes the fire further, putting Lara well in harm’s way even by the story’s conclusion. Even more information and lore can be mined from the Blood Ties DLC, popping you into a massive puzzle in the form of Croft Manor. As you can guess, it’s filled with memoirs and documents from the past.
Aside from Lara feeling human, so too do her foes. Even typical grunts, soon to fall to your ice pick, have interesting conversions around fireplaces. They leave recordings and documents, perhaps about their indoctrination into the fanatic merc group, Trinity. Or perhaps, they’re having second thoughts about following a holier than thou religious nut job, leading them to their deaths. Like any good bad guy, Lara’s nemesis is humanized by revealing his own motivations and even a little backstory from his younger years.
After The Credits Roll, There’s Still Tonnes To Do!
Once you finish the main story, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied. Aside from heading back to the main map to continue looting and raiding any tombs you may have missed, there’s still all that DLC. I’d recommend cracking into all this after finishing the story as there may be some mechanics / gameplay spoilers lying in wait. Players can also look forward to Blood Ties, which can be played in VR. This is all about exploring Croft manor, learning its past and discovering a way for Lara to continue owning it. You see, her evil and hateful uncle seems to want to take it from her.
Most interestingly, however, is the arrival of Expeditions. A card system sets different rules and handicaps. Microtransactions again, but most of it is already paid for supposedly as a sorry to PS4 owners. Different players can team up in an open survival map to last as long as they can in harsh, loot filled climates. Lastly, we have Lara’s Nightmare. Everybody loves zombie wave survival right? Well now you can do it with Lara and the wonderfully solid combat system.
Rise of The Tomb Raider Solidifies The 2013 Reboot’s Success, Paving The Way For A Modern Gaming Franchise We Can Count On
There’s still so much I haven’t discussed. I even fear I may not have described accurately enough just how brilliant this game is. It is a very solid, glitch free experience. Enemy A.I is fairly smart. The environment is beautiful. The combat and stealth is fluid. The story and characters are engaging and believable. The list goes on. If you never found time to invest in the new Lara… Even if you became a gamer who said ‘I kinda just had enough of Tomb Raider when I was a kid’… Stop cheating yourself of an amazing experience and just buy the game. I can 100% guarantee that you won’t regret it.
With such a fantastic return to form for one of gaming’s most loved franchises and the totally complete package you’re getting, Rise of The Tomb Raider is worth every last penny with at least fifty hours of game to get through, here. It has the honour of taking the 10/10 podium at ATPS4.