Video Game (transfer) review: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

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These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now. Everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

I gotta be honest, I wasn’t always a Tomb Raider fan, game-wise. I never played any of the games. I mean, I did watch the Tomb Raider movies, starring Angelina Jolie, which I enjoyed fine when I was younger (today, I think they’re fun-bad), but I never played any of the games until the Xbox 360 games came out, LEGEND, ANNIVERSARY, and UNDERWORLD. Particularly, I think TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY was my first Tomb Raider game, then UNDERWORLD, then later picked up LEGEND (wasn’t until later I realized that UNDERWORLD was a direct sequel to LEGEND and ANNIVERSARY). And you know what? I liked the games just fine… which puts me in the minority if I remember correctly, as most fans of this franchise didn’t like these games.

Now, fast-forward to 2013, video game developer Crystal Dynamics (who also created the 360 Tomb Raider games) and long time video game publisher/partners Square Enix (of FINAL FANTASY fame) had their eyes set on rebooting Tomb Raider again, but this time with the intention of hopping on the modern reboot bandwagon: retelling a story with a darker tone and more grit. When the first footage was shown at ComicCon prior to the game’s release, I think I remember a lot of people were… not enthused by what was shown, mocking the new Tomb Raider game to be closer to an orgasm simulation rather than a hardcore survival story. Of course, as soon as the game was released, most gamers promptly shut up and the rebooted TOMB RAIDER was a big success.

I am among those who praise the game. The title character of Lara Croft was such a well-written character, whose transformation from a borderline college student to grizzled bad-ass was probably one of the best games that came out for the 360 that I played. In fact, I loved the game so much that when the Xbox One came out, I bought the Xbox One DEFINITIVE EDITION (after trading in my 360, of course). So you can bet your ass when RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER was announced, I was pretty damn stoked. Now that the game is out… well, I’ve got stuff to say.

Starring: Camilla Luddington (JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK [2017] and 6 episodes of TRUE BLOOD [2008 – 2014], and the upcoming SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER [2018]), Charles Halford (LOGAN LUCKY [2017], INJUSTICE 2 [2017], CONSTANTINE [2014 – 2015], and the upcoming THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN [2018]), Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (FALLOUT 4 [2015] and 1 episode of CASTLE [2009 – 2016]), and Kay Bess (additional voice work in both MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017] and DEAD SPACE [2008])

Support: Earl Baylon (TOMB RAIDER [2013], and the upcoming SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER) and Jolene Andersen (RESIDENT EVIL: DAMNATION [2012])

This is my honest opinion of: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

(SUMMARY)

In her childhood, Lara Croft’s father was working on finding an artifact that may unlock immortality, but the science community ridiculed him and his findings. Sacrificing career and family (which angered Lara as a child), Lara’s father eventually died having never found what he was looking for and died a disgrace to the world.

Now an adult and having experienced the super-natural (and for all intents and purposes, the unnatural) firsthand finding the lost kingdom of Yamatai of the immortal Sun Queen Himiko, Lara (voiced/modeled by Camilla Luddington) thinks that maybe her father wasn’t crazy at all. Determined to discover the truth behind her father’s findings, she encounters a sinister organization, called Trinity, that’s been around for hundreds of years, hellbent on finding exactly what Lara’s looking for. After failing to kill Lara, she and Trinity, led by Konstantin (voiced by Charles Halford), find themselves in the frozen wilderness in Siberia, all looking for the mythical Prophet’s Tomb, which contains the secrets to immortality and Lara seeking to bring the Croft name back from the brink and seek redemption for her original beliefs of her father.

(REVIEW)

This game is fantastic. In fact, since I purchased the game, it was this game that I wanted to come home to play. Not FALLOUT 4, which I bought at the exact same time as this. For a few days, I was bouncing back and forth between the two games.

Where do I even start?

First of all, where the first game was flirting with the concept of RPG elements, upgrading weapons and Lara herself, this game went full-force into it. Now the upgrading system is more complex. For example, in the first game, you only had one pistol. As you progressed, you collected upgrades which made your pistol hold more ammo, get more accurate or powerful, add a silencer, all that stuff. In RISE, you had choices between pistols that you could equip. One may be more powerful, but holds fewer ammo and may be less accurate. Same applies to the assault rifles, shotguns, even bows, and you can still upgrade them individually, for the most part. And you can continue to upgrade Lara herself, making her stealth kills more stealthy, craft unique types of ammo, zip-line quicker, it’s a great deal of fun.

Also, there is a ton more shit to explore. In the first game, you had the option to fast travel to different parts of the island you’re stranded on, but each individual area was fairly limited in exploration potential. That’s not to say it wasn’t possible to find stuff, it’s just not like a traditional open-world RPG like FALLOUT or ELDER SCROLLS. Here in RISE, they took it to the next level for a Tomb Raider game. You can still fast-travel to different parts of the region you’re in, but there are some WIDE open places ripe for exploration. This becomes a great deal of fun, especially when you’re higher leveled and upgraded Lara to streamline getting around these maps. Granted, there are still smaller maps whose sole purpose is just to transition from one map to the next. The variety is remarkable and I was still not able to find everything, packing a ton of replayability. You can bet that as soon as I’m done with FALLOUT 4, I’m coming back to this game not long after.

I do, however, have to tilt my head at the story. In the last game, Lara is dealing with crazed natives of the island that want to be set free of the Sun Queen’s grasp by completing some kind of ritual. In short, a crazy cult led by a crazy dude. And on the side, you have to deal with ancient warriors and monstrous men-like Oni that aren’t easy to kill. In this game, it’s the same deal, albeit more intimidating enemies, but… let me explain.

Like in the last game, you deal with a fanatical group, although instead of a cult, it’s a highly organized and well-funded organization called Trinity. Trinity’s been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years, but have evolved with the times. They, or at least this particular sect of Trinity, is led by an one-track-minded jerk-off named Konstantin, who is after the same ancient artifact that Lara is after. I give the game credit, while the Solarii Brotherhood in the first game were imposing, these guys are much harder to deal with. They take cover, they throw grenades like mother fuckers (seriously got more annoying than challenging), they flank, they’re not always easy to deal with. So the enemy A.I. is much improved over the last game, but the real issue I take with the enemies isn’t so much that dealing with the humans isn’t fun, it’s that Tomb Raider has always delved into the super/unnatural, and that’s almost completely tossed aside until the end of the game. I see what they’re going for, the 2014 GODZILLA approach. Making the audience wait as long as possible until the inevitable reveal that will payoff big time. However… it’s not done well here. While the human enemies are a challenge to fight, there’s far too little of the supernatural in this game. I kind of miss the older games and they’re constant throwing mythical creatures at you and the challenge is fighting or avoiding them. It’s not a huge blow to the face, but I can’t get past it, especially since there are some pretty solid twists and well-written characters… even though Jonah is saddled in the backseat for ninety-percent of the game, which is a shame. Jonah’s the shit.

And last but not least, Lara herself. Oh man, I was THIS close to not liking her this game. I give the developers some major props on making Lara not over-sexualized in the first game, and this game does an even better job of putting more focus on HER and not her tits, but her personality takes a soft, but noticeable jab. What do I mean? In the first game, Lara is essentially a college student thrown into a highly dangerous situation. Not only is the environment trying to kill her, so are the people. She’s out of her element and forced to adapt. If anyone dares to say that Lara was too whiny, it’s because she’s not a warrior and not used to, you know, killing people. Her fears and hesitations are completely justified and she does adapt quite well later in the game and gets seriously more bad-ass as the story progresses. Here in RISES… I don’t know, she’s… almost too whiny. Okay, the story is basically her trying to find this artifact that will prove that her dad wasn’t insane and will restore the Croft name back to its former glory. On paper, this makes sense that she’d be so driven to redeem her father’s name, but nearly every cutscene, every campfire catching-of-the-breath, she’s ALWAYS talking about it to the point of obsession… which isn’t an attractive personality trait. I am a little forgiving, as Luddington does a stupendous acting job, vocally and facially, to really help the players feel for what she’s going through, but I really hope this doesn’t carry over into the inevitable sequel and is much more grounded and less… desperate.

Also, did anyone else notice that her mouth never closes? Seriously keep an eye out for it. Her mouth is always open. I’m not sure if that’s some real-world technique in survival in freezing temperatures, but… it’s bizarre. I can’t unsee it.

Overall, I love this game. It’s got some flaws here and there, but nothing to completely derail the game’s value or fun. Highly recommended.

My honest rating for RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER: a strong 4/5

UPDATE (2018): After playing this game for so long, I’ve grown used to fighting the human characters. In retrospect, it’s not like you fight the Stormguard throughout the game. It takes some serious time to get to them too, so I don’t know what I was whining about. And Lara’s personality no longer bothers me either. All of her actions make sense for her character and all of it tying back to her father that she didn’t believe in. But yes, the open mouth thing still bothers me.

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2 Replies to “Video Game (transfer) review: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER”

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