Rise of the Tomb Raider Review
Rising above the competition.
Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One
The reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise two years ago took the gaming world by surprise. For years, the Tomb Raider franchise had a string of mediocre games carry the torch for the famed series starring Lara Croft. The best game in that time was arguably a spin off, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.
Tomb Raider (2013) changed things though. After a daring and successful reboot, the Tomb Raider community actually had expectations for an even better follow up. Fortunately, Lara Croft was up for the task, and Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t disappoint.
If you played its predecessor, Rise of the Tomb Raider will feel very familiar. Similar to how Uncharted justifies its sequels with a new adventure rather than a dramatic change in gameplay, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a more polished version of Tomb Raider (2013) with a new story to tell.
Lara Croft will be exploring Siberia in search of the Divine Source, an artifact rumored to give eternal life. It plays out pretty much how you would imagine any Indiana Jones or National Treasure-like story would. Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t attempt to reinvent the genre and offers up a campaign that is more or less of the same quality as that of Tomb Raider (2013)… which isn’t a bad thing as the reboot had a very exciting well-done tale!
There will be lost artifacts from ancient times to discover, new allies to be made, and an evil organization with no regard for human life or relics standing in your way to make your life difficult. Again, if you’ve watched an adventure movie or played an action-adventure game, Rise of the Tomb Raider does exactly what you would expect. Sure it’s predictable and safe, but at least it’s done right.
Lara Croft as a character is also well executed. She’s slowly becoming more like the cocky and confident Lara that fans will remember from the older legacy games. However, she’s not all the way there yet. She still bites off way more than she can chew at times during the story and lets her relationships with others cloud her decision making. That being said, she’s no longer a rookie. Tomb Raider (2013), saw Lara spending most of the game getting her ass kicked and just trying to survive. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara is (usually) the predator.
Just because Rise of the Tomb Raider is familiar, doesn’t mean it’s identical though; it does add some some new and welcomed gameplay elements. The deeper crafting system is what will stand out most for returning players. Hunting and gathering is even more important in Rise of the Tomb Raider. There are much more ways to customize and improve your equipment. As a result, there are a lot of additional resources to gather, and animals to hunt for. This includes new rarer exotic animals that must be tracked and are fairly difficult to take down.
Also, Lara channels her inner MacGyver in Rise of the Tomb Raider. You’ll be able to create makeshift bombs from cans and walkie-talkies, and craft different kinds of arrows and bullets on the fly. Combat, especially on higher difficulties, can be challenging if you elect not to take advantage of these tools. Using the silent poison cloud arrows makes getting around with stealth much simpler. While using grenade tipped arrows are great for taking out packs of attackers that are on your tail. Out of ammo? Find a glass bottle on the ground, add some oil and fire, and boom, you got a molotov cocktail ready to roll.
You’ll also need to use the tools at your disposal to get through Rise of the Tomb Raider’s many puzzles scattered throughout the main campaign and the off the beaten path optional tombs. For someone who is more about the combat and gets frustrated with highly complex puzzles (like myself), Rise of the Tomb Raider’s puzzles offer just the right amount difficulty. There were times where I needed to take a step back and think things through, but I never needed to look anything up online because I was so stumped. If you were expecting very challenging puzzles though, you might find Rise of the Tomb Raider a bit too easy.
Luckily, there are other ways to pass the time in Rise of the Tomb Raider beyond those optional tombs. There are a multitude of hub areas to explore and discover secrets and artifacts. In addition, new to the game are three languages that can you master: Greek, Mongolian, and Russian. Finding artifacts associated with those cultures levels up your skill in that language. By reaching higher levels, you can read monoliths which will point you in the direction of hidden goodies. A nice touch for sure.
Exploring in and of itself is a treat. Rise of the Tomb Raider’s take on Siberia is gorgeous and incredibly detailed. A real feast for the eyes. By the end of the game though, you might get a little tired of the snowy landscape. There are detours to other, more exotic looking landscapes, but for the most part it’s a healthy amount of snow and ice to tread through. As long as Crystal Dynamics promises not to take us back here for the next one, all is forgiven. It was a pleasant (if not cold) trip, but a new locale would be much appreciated.
Also, getting around is a real blast. There are tons of ropes to zip line, ledges to scale, and ridiculous and seemingly impossible jumps to make. Much of the equipment and tools from the first game return (such as the rope arrows). However, a neat new addition are the Broadhead Arrows. These allow you shoot arrows that you can hop onto, after firing them into certain and conveniently placed wooden walls to create your own makeshift ledge. It’s totally absurd as Lara will leap from arrow to arrow like a circus performer, but it’s a video game so why the hell not.
Finally, we have Rise of the Tomb Raider’s new multiplayer modes. They are a bit odd to say the least. Instead of going the competitive route as they did in Tomb Raider (2013), this time it’s based around competitive single player challenges. You can compete with your friends in score attack modes of certain game chapters. The quicker and more efficient you are, the better your score. Fun, but nothing groundbreaking.
There’s also the new Remnant Resistance mode. Essentially, these are challenges that anyone from the Tomb Raider community can make using cards that can be collected that will tack on score based modifiers to the scenario you are creating or playing through. These can be collected via completing the campaign, purchased using in-game collected credits, or with real life money.
The whole pack idea kind of falls on its face. These modifiers could (and should) have been just built in so that way what you’re playing/creating is always as fun and creative as it possibly can be without having to open packs to find cards. There’s no joy in opening up a pack and getting something like a one-time use additional pistol damage card. That’s not exciting. The idea is a silly one that probably only exists as a vehicle to offer micro-transactions.
Putting the cards aside, Remnant Resistance and Rise of the Tomb Raider’s other multiplayer game types are decent attempts at giving fans of the campaign additional replay value without having to resort to a tacked on competitive multiplayer. It scores points for creativity but again, the whole card system muddies it. Perhaps the season pass will make it more worthwhile later on in its life.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a deeper and more polished version of its predecessor. It offers similar action-adventure thrills as its competition such as Uncharted but goes beyond that as well. Its open and explorable hub areas that are filled with optional tombs and hunting and gathering crafting options, give it more depth than other games in its genre. Its shaky multiplayer is a blemish, but harmless, as its single player campaign shines regardless. Lara Croft was already back, but with Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics proved that they can sustain the success. Tomb Raider is once again a top tier video game franchise worthy of admiration.