Lara Croft is back. She’s seen terrible, spectacular things in the series reboot of 2013, but they’ve only made her stronger. This makes Rise of the Tomb Raider something much more than a videogame; it is an epic tale told through the eyes of an iron survivor, a seasoned explorer on a quest to clear her father’s name through her hunt for the secrets of immortality.
While it might all sound relatively difficult, it gets even worse; as Lara is forced to stand against a mysterious organization by the name of Trinity, and the Siberian forces of nature, including rabid wolves and sudden avalanches.
Developers at Crystal Dynamics have done an excellent job at making Lara Croft a three-dimensional character. The slowly hooking storyline puts her up against a series of challenges that force her to evolve into the iconic Lara Croft; fearless and intelligent, from the original game series. Players get to witness the birth of a legend.
While the ending was predictable and the storyline feels almost lacking at first, the details and context provided upon finding artifacts and reading journals truly engage the player.
Rise of the Tomb Raider can be played on low settings and configurations, but players who choose (or are forced) to do so will be missing out on some of the best visuals of the year. The cut scenes are particularly stunning, as well as the background scenery throughout the game. As for audio, Lara Croft has a memorably mesmerizing voice, thanks to voice actress Camilla Luddington. In addition to that, the soundtrack helps intensify every moment of the game.
Gameplay is quicker than the previous installment, and definitely more action-packed. It seems as though Lara Croft is cursed, unbelievably so, since she spends half the time almost falling off cliffs or running into heavily-armed Trinity mercenaries. Players must counter her bad luck through choosing between different play styles; from Assassin’s Creed stealthy to Grand Theft Auto violent.
While stealth mode itself might be considered a puzzle, players will be disappointed if they were expecting the return of trickier tomb puzzles to solve in Rise of the Tomb Raider, especially while playing with the Survival Instinct feature on. The system, which is similar to the Instinct Mode seen in Hitman Absolution, allows Lara to analyze anything of interest around her, which ultimately simplifies the game too much.
A tomb raider should be able to explore… wait for it… tombs. Finally, RTR returns with a series of challenge tombs and other interesting areas to explore in the semi-open world. Present as well are a variety of side missions to help Lara earn new gear and upgrade her skill points. Looting and crafting are given particular importance in the game, and our protagonist must improve her translation through field experience if she wants to read certain plaques and sculptures.
Some might hold a grudge for the abandonment of the signature double guns from the original series, but there is no doubt that the new signature bow feels and ultimately plays much better than any other weapon in RTR.
While most of the features and mechanics were already present in 2013’s Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics did a great job at taking those features, upgrading them, and presenting them once more in the new installment. Rise of the Tomb Raider is, most notably, fast-paced and strikingly visual; a cinematic adventure that should never end.