I finally got around to playing this game, I wrote a gut-feeling reaction when it was announced a long time ago, criticizing the impression I had that it just wasn’t Tomb Raider.
Well, I was wrong. Sort of. It does have platformer elements to be sure, Lara Croft does a lot of hanging off of ledges and climbing walls, but is that enough? Take a look at my full review of the latest incarnation of the Tomb Raider Saga.
The story, in a nutshell, is that young Lara Croft is part of an archaeological expedition searching for the lost kingdom of Yamatai aboard the ship Endurance. Lara votes that they go east and they run into a horrible storm that wrecks the Endurance, leaving the crew stranded on a deserted island. It’s not as deserted as they thought, in fact, a strange cult has arisen, led by the psychopathic Mathias, who worship the Sun Goddess Himiko, who controls the weather around the island and will not let any planes or ships come or go. Anyone who tries is killed, as we see constantly as rescue planes and helicopters get blasted to the ground. Lara and her companions have to try to find their way off the island while surviving against the cult and nature itself, all the while Lara tries to solve the mystery of Yamatai.
I’ll be real honest, Lara Croft is her own worst enemy in this game and it highlights something I really hate about a lot of these games. The story requires you to walk right into traps that are blatantly obvious, just to keep the storyline going. She does tons of stupid things in the cutscenes, she gets shot, stabbed, beat up, tortured, you name it and most of it is totally unnecessary. I know they want to show how she became the tough character we’ve seen in the past but all they did was turn this into torture porn.
But it’s not just Lara, her companions are just as bad. They throw themselves into dangerous situations left and right, almost entirely unnecessarily. One cutscene, where Lara and Ross get ambushed, they’re firing with unerring accuracy at the the bad guys, Ross runs out of ammo and clicks ineffectively. Mathias throws an axe at them and he turns around so the axe hits him in the back, saving Lara. Then, he pulls out a fully loaded gun and keeps firing. Wait, what? If he had that gun, why did he stand there pulling the trigger on an empty one? He could easily have killed every one of the baddies, as he did seconds later, had he just pulled out that gun immediately.
And why is everyone using guns anyhow? This is a deserted island, yet the majority of baddies are loaded down with enough ammo to take on the Bolivian army. Yes, I know that tons of planes and ships crash on the island all the time, so many that it’s inconceivable that the island hasn’t been declared an international hazard to travel and everyone avoids the place like the plague. You’d think that, given the situation, most people would be carrying melee weapons and bows, but no.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a perfectly serviceable game and I had a lot of fun playing it, but so much time was spent roughing up Lara Croft unnecessarily, there isn’t a hard surface in the game that she doesn’t get slammed into repeatedly and it gets sort of comical in a bloodthirsty way by the end. I know this is supposed to be an origin to the character but when you consider she’s making absurd acrobatic leaps almost from the very start, it doesn’t really seem that way. And what about the scene where she has to kill a deer in the trailer that people make a big deal out of? It really isn’t and they don’t really carry that mechanic anywhere beyond that first scene. Oh sure, you can shoot deer and boars and pretty much anything else but you don’t really get much for it and you don’t ever have to do it again. She never is shown needing to eat beyond the first bit. I’d have much rather been made to hunt to survive or heal wounds or whatever but you just don’t have to and while I occasionally took out small animals like sparrows or crabs, it wasn’t because I got anything from it but because it was fun.
This is a good game but it could have been more. There’s plenty of platforming and problem solving but that takes a back seat to running and gunning. There are a couple of tombs in the game that I suppose she raids, although wandering around in and finding some undefined treasure is more apt, but it’s not a game about tomb raiding, which seems strange for a game called Tomb Raider. You could easily have changed the name to something else and had the same experience, this game seemed very similar in nature and plot to Farcry 3, where the main character also went from retching and crying over killing people to blowing people away with gleeful abandon in about 45 seconds time. There’s never the option to be peaceful here, to sneak around danger, you have to go in with guns blazing and you get rewarded for headshots and other gruesome kills. It’s got me looking forward to what’s on the horizon for this franchise but I still think it’s not the perfect gaming experience.