Rise of the Tomb Raider (for Xbox One)
Reboots may be an overdone entertainment trend of the past few years, but Tomb Raider was truly in need of one. Fortunately, 2013's Tomb Raider not only returned the series to AAA gaming heights it hadn't seen in over a decade, but it also managed to turn Lara Croft from a sexy cipher to a well-rounded action heroine. With all that hard work already accomplished, the Xbox One
exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider £39.57 ( Amazon
) hits the ground running and delivers more of what worked in the reboot while reintroducing classic concepts that had initially been stripped away. This Xbox One game
is a one-and-done experience, but in our post-Uncharted world, it's great to see Lara Croft remind everyone why she's the real Indiana Jones of gaming. Cradle of Life
The Tomb Raider reboot
may have ended with Lara exorcizing Japanese weather demons, but its big hook was that it injected some gritty humanity into the series and its protagonist. Lara agonized over all the death around her, including the deaths she caused. Rise of the Tomb Raider, once again written by Rhianna Pratchett, acknowledges Lara's psychological trauma. But instead of having her do nothing but mope around and dwell on the past, the script wisely lets her grow from the experience into someone closer to the strong, witty Croft of the original games. And while the action is still violent, it's less jarring and fetishistically brutal than Lara's gruesome, horror-movie deaths in the reboot. This is also a welcome change.
The recalibrated tone means Rise of the Tomb Raider can tell a good, old-fashioned, supernatural conspiracy yarn without caring too much about realism. However, it also doesn't care about avoiding cheesiness. Obsessed with the idea that her father was discredited and murdered by a shadowy group called Trinity, Lara ventures to Siberia to find a lost city supposedly holding the secret of immortality, a discovery that would vindicate her father's work. But Trinity has its zealous eyes on the prize, too.
This premise leads the story into goofy The Da Vinci Code
territory. Trinity is essentially the Knights Templar-meets-Blackwater, and one of Lara's major allies might as well be Jesus Christ. The plot also ends on a huge sequel tease, in case it wasn't pulpy enough. Guardian of Light
Fortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider borrows more from action movies than just hammy scripts. It takes about a dozen hours to reach the Karen O-scored credits, but time flies by because the action is so varied and so well paced. Gameplay is roughly split between combat and exploration sections occasionally punctuated with big, rollicking moments of cinematic action like evading a helicopter and staying alive in a collapsing chasm. The events unfold in a gorgeously detailed, open-world version of Siberia with large interconnected areas like snowy valleys, Soviet installations, and hidden groves.
Exploration nicely splits the difference between smooth-looking, automated-feeling movement, like an Assassin's Creed
game, and environmental puzzle-solving very similar to that of The Legend of Zelda
. Players need to recognize precisely how to navigate each type of structure and skillfully transition between them. Jump from a ledge and plant your pickaxe in an ice wall to climb higher. Shoot arrows to create zip lines or new platforms to stand on, and, if something flammable is in your way, just burn it down. On their own, each of these tasks is simple enough, but as your abilities become more layered, keeping track of them all becomes a rewarding challenge.
The combat, by comparison, is a little less inspired. Quiet kills are encouraged but the sneaking isn't anywhere near as robust as in a dedicated stealth game like Metal Gear Solid V
. When a full-on firefight breaks out, the game turns into a cover-based third-person shooter, but its mechanics aren't as solid as the nine-year-old Gears of War
. The light RPG elements let you customize your combat perks and craft new items from collected materials, but systems like these are nothing special. Rise of the Tomb Raider might have one of the most satisfying and versatile bows in gaming, though. Shooting arrows to both silently kill faraway enemies and open new paths in the world unites the game's refreshingly varied but occasionally disparate gameplay styles.Angel of Darkness
The Tomb Raider reboot took some criticism for not featuring that many actual tombs to raid. Rise of the Tomb Raider absolutely fixes this problem. Tombs liberally spread across the map provide one-off puzzle rooms where players have to slow down and really think about how to proceed. When you solve a riddle—usually after flinging Lara's body to manipulate an ancient, massive, multistep mechanism—the sense of scale is only rivaled by the sense of accomplishment. Finishing one usually rewards Lara with a new skill such as a bow technique or an increased proficiency in ancient Greek. Lara cares about her body and
her mind. However, most of these tombs are optional, and most can only be completed if players return to old areas with new gear. I honestly can't imagine playing this game without these tombs. Not only are they full of completely new, beautiful designs, they're also the cleverest parts of the game.
This may be a hot take, but I think a Tomb Raider game should make players raid some tombs. If a mobile game like Lara Croft Go understands this, a console game should get it, too. Rise of the Tomb Raider should celebrate its best sections, not hide them behind needless backtracking.
There's really not much reason to replay the game once you've made it to the end, though Rise of the Tomb Raider does feature a few extra modes to chew through once you're done with the campaign. Score Attack expeditions challenge you to finish a section of a level as fast as possible or without dying. The Remnant Resistance mode features bite-sized combat tasks like kill a bear or a Trinity commander with just a pistol or without being spotted. This mode also uses the poorly explained Expedition Cards. With these cards, you can create new combat scenarios for other players or to give yourself buffs. But cards cost in-game credits or actual money, and the mode itself isn't fun enough to justify the free-to-play trap. There's no multiplayer mode this time around, but then that has never been a vital part of the series. Legend
Rise of the Tomb Raider successfully builds on the momentum and goodwill of the reboot. It's a thrilling, if dopey, action game starring a character you actually care about. And its enjoyable blend of gameplay ideas is more than the sum of its derivative parts. Rise of the Tomb Raider proves its predecessor was no fluke and firmly reestablishes this franchise as one worth paying attention to again. Xbox One owners shouldn't let this one pass them by. Croft's latest outing will eventually hit other platforms, but not for an entire year.Original Article can be viewed here.
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