The Tomb Raider franchise is 20 years old. Within that time frame we’ve seen Lara pioneer 3D adventure genre on the console that pioneered 3D games—the PlayStation. So it’s only natural that the console that popularized the franchise will be celebrating the game’s 20th anniversary.
Rise of The Tomb Raider is a direct sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot. So while yes, this is a new game, it still falls into the reboot category I suppose since Lara is still learning to become the explorer we all grew up to love. Lara is now in search of a lost city in Siberia where the key to immortality awaits. As with your typical Indiana Johns type adventure expect to run into an evil organization with money who are half bent on getting there before you. The plot can feel a bit heavy handed especially with the occasional memories Lara faces with her father and religious references but overall it does keep things going. I mean I can’t say I felt any attachments to the characters. Lara on the other hand feels more mature this time around after her experience in the last game and overall kind of a bad ass.
In terms of gameplay Rise of The Tomb Raider mirrors 2013’s TR but with slight variations. There is a deeper emphasis on stealth and options to take out your enemies. For instance being in the forest can allow you to use trees or bushes to execute enemies. Traps can also be set as well. Crafting plays a big role this time allowing you to create arrows and weapon upgrades and more. The exception is that crafting doesn’t really feel like a chore. Things like creating arrows only involve taking branches and holding the R2 button down as opposed to managing menus. The only this is I wish there more variety in enemies. Just like the last tomb raider it seems the enemies are mostly soldiers as opposed to more wild creatures or your occasional mummy or dinosaur (yes, I miss those). I suppose Crystal Dynamic wanted to make sure these new entries would follow a more grounded approach.
Exploration was the highlight of my playthrough. Going to each area allows Lara to explore her environment to discover hidden treasure and tombs to raid. The tombs in particular presented some fun puzzles that can be challenging at times. There are around 3 different hubs with activities which helps break up the action.
Pacing is another element the game manages to get right. At no point did I feel this scene was pointless or the game presented me with some tedious grinding sections (which has seen an increase in a lot of games this gen). Sure we still get our occasional Uncharted moment such as running from the helicopter followed by QTE events but it blends well with the gameplay. It cuts the bullshit and gets to the point. After my 20 hours of experience I was left feeling hungry for more. Despite me spending countless hours upgrading, raiding, and exploring there was this feeling of emptiness that I rarely get unless the game was that good. Thankfully there’s a
New Game+ once I decide to jump back in.
PlayStation owners who were patient for a year will be getting the game full with expansion packs and extra features. There’s an exclusive PSVR game mode which allows you to explore Lara’s Mansion in first person. PS4 Pro users will also benefit from the game’s 4K and HDR visual upgrade. All in all that waiting paid off.
In terms of presentation, this game nails it. Deserts, forests, mountains, and ice caves all drip with detail that rival Uncharted 4’s visuals. One scene in particular that sticks with me has to be this frozen ship stuck vertically in an ice cave. The camera panned away and stood there absorbing the detail of the ship I will soon be exploring.
Rise of The Tomb Raider has managed to beat 2013’s by a landslide with improved pacing, gameplay, and of course visuals. This is by far the most polished game in the franchise that manages to capture the essence of Tomb Raider while bringing it over to the current generation.