Tomb Raider is something that has become a legendary franchise for gaming. Through her roles in two hit films and numerous games across three console generations, Lara Croft has become the biggest female icon this industry has.
She is roughly the equivalent to the James Bond of video games. She’s tough, gets herself in to impossible situations, and she has the confidence to do it all in a tank top and some short shorts. With this new trailer for the reboot of Tomb Raider, we are seeing Lara in a very different light. Lara looks familiar sure, but what we are seeing is drastically different from the Tomb Raider of old.
What we can see above is the new trailer from Square Enix. It starts off with a death defying escape from an odd looking trap. Typical stuff really, but as soon as she falls, we really begin to see where this reboot is taking Lara. As she lands, she doesn’t land with the grace we’ve seen from her in past games. She lands on a chunk of metal with a scream. This gameplay trailer continues on to add more injuries, gropers, and many other very brutal things for the James Bond of gaming to go through.
It really is a fresh new way to look at a character that has really started to get old in her gaming years.
Is it a good move forward though? I’ve been sitting watching the trailer over and over again asking that. They’ve made a story about survival, not adventure. For all I know, it might start off that way. It might become some grand thing towards the end that we can’t see from this trailer, but there is no hint of that from this trailer. This is a story about Lara Croft being broken and alone in a jungle.
Which really begs the question, is this a Lara Croft game?
Lara’s been the figure of a smart, beautiful woman with an iron will for so long that this representation feels less like an exercise in adventure and more like an act of sadism by the developer and the community that is hungry to play through it. They’ve broken her down in to something very different. She cries, she has fears, she makes mistakes. That’s not really the Lara Croft we have grown to know.
More telling is the effect we see this has on Lara. What once was a woman who used her wits in sticky situations, now lies a woman who can do nothing useful when the time comes. She is broken, and nothing we have seen leads to things getting any better for her.
It starts off with the fear of the unknown. She’s bound in a strange cocoon and hangs upside down in an unknown room. As she tries to break from this, she is punished with pain. She is then shown death and as she tries to leave this terrifying place, she is attacked by the world around her. Rocks and explosions surround her in a melee of violence. Even as she finds solace in her escape, the world will not be kind to her.
She will have to survive. We are given some of the hope that she can hunt and survive here. She may still be tired and alone, begging for help with no sense of rescue,but she will be given a small glimpse of hope. There are people that can help her. So Lara climbs. She climbs and then falls, painfully. Her result is that finally she receives news of a location for survivors. She is once again given hope.
Then the dog attacks and tries to rip her face off.
Finally after killing this beast, we are greeted with the first face to face contact with another person and for a split second things look up for Lara. This is shortlived as her new friend is kidnapped and to put a punctuation on this loss, Lara gets rewarded with the pain of a bear trap snapping shut on her ankle.
The direct connotations of sadomasochism begins as she is beaten and bound. When she is caught after her escape, she is molested. In a struggle from her assailant, she gets in a tumble and pulls the trigger. She has been broken.
Lara has never been one to be fully in control. A million betrayals showcase that, but what seems so shocking is how real this all wants to lend itself. This isn’t a room full of walls that shoot arrows. Really, this is a series that has had Dinosaurs and Bat Ladies since its inception. It lies in this silliness that we see what world she lives in.
None of this level of brutality is the norm for Tomb Raider.
That’s what makes it such a hard pill to swallow. As we see her stand up with gun in hand, we see glimpses of the Lara Croft we all knew. It is amazing, the power a gun has. Understandably as a prequel to the main series and direct tie in with the new movie, a reintroduction of the character is necessary. Is this the Lara Croft we all wanted to showcase?
Did we have to actually break Lara to give her the focus she needed?
That’s actually pretty tough to say as this game seems to garner a great deal more interest than any of the prior games from this generation. We’ve taken the James Bond of games and created something people are intrigued by. In a world where Nathan Drake is the dominant adventurer, Lara Croft is getting a second chance.
Whenever anything new comes forward from an established character, the character has to move from their established features. You can’t do much to change the Tomb Raiding aspect, but you can break the character down and reform her. This isn’t the woman who dove off a sinking cruise liner for a priceless bracelet, this is just a woman.
Despite the interest Lara Croft received with the Guardian of Light, I don’t think it was the push forward that changed the character. The interesting mechanics and new look worked, but something more substantial had to be done for the series.
Maybe humanity is what was needed for Lara.
I’m just not sure we had to be so rough with her. Hopefully Microsoft’s press conference will bring something more definitive on what Lara becomes after she dons her sidearm. I’m waiting on something that builds her up.