After the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, the most iconic female videogame protagonist is back for another adventure in Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game originally released exclusively on Xbox platforms for limited time, then released not too long after on PC and an year after on Playstation 4. I did play it on PC but since I could not get it at release I decided to wait for the inevitable complete edition to come along with the PS4 version and I have to say, what a fantastic game it is! Even more than an year after its release it is still far better than most games I’ve played in a very long time.
Before I even start talking about the game itself, please forgive me if I make some comparisons to Uncharted because it seems one game has been taking inspirations from the other for years now and both have became so good, so above other adventure games that it seems to me there’s no reason to try to say which is better but instead be thankful us gamers have two great franchises to look forward to.
Starting with the plot, Lara travels to Syria only for a brief introduction level while looking into an artifact into her father’s footsteps, the divine source. There you find a lead that it could be in Russia and that’s where the rest of the game takes place.
If I have one complain about this game is the plot. Not that it’s bad but it’s not as memorable as the one in the previous game and also because everything else stands out so much that the plot kind of feels lackluster.
Even so, while the plot is not great the story is evolving enough you want to know what will happen next. Lara herself is still great, as a character and her performances as well, sad is that the same cannot be said about the supporting cast. Their performances are good but they are all pretty forgettable.
Graphics wise, this game looks stunning. Not only on a technical aspect but I think what makes it singe is how everything is put together. When exploring the snowy Russian base, entering caves or tombs. There is so much detail, the way the light shines into objects and water reflects many things, pretty much every area in the game has something interesting to look at.
For example, in some tombs you can even imagine a small story of what happened there based on the decoration of the area and some murals on the walls. It may not seem like much but every one of those things really add to the immersion.
While talking about immersion, if I can give anyone a hint when playing Rise of the Tomb Raider is to turn off subtitles. They are an awkwardly big font that takes too much space of the screen and gets in the way of this beautiful game. The subtitles even have a background which is especially unnecessary given the size of the font. Since the plot is easy to follow even if you miss a word or two, believe me, it’s better in this game to leave subtitles off in favor of immersion.
The gameplay is composed between a mix of traversing the areas, exploring them for treasures and fighting using either stealth of straight up shooting enemies. In my opinion each of those moments are great and really fun to do.
When I said I might be making comparisons to Uncharted, here they begin. Both Rise of the Tomb Raider and Uncharted 4 have upped their game in the gameplay department. While in Uncharted I feel like you have more options when in a fight, in Tomb Raider I feel like each option you have had been more refined. Sneaking here is much more seamless, at least to a point. Using Lara’s bow to snipe enemies feels great, it has a weight and you feel great after every shot.
While talking about combat I think it might be worth mentioning about the difficulty options the game presents. When I started I got a little conflicted when I had to choose between five difficulties with just a small description between them so I did a little research about which might be better to give me a good experience. In the end I picked “Seasoned Survivor”, which one short of being the hardest. In all honesty, it’s not that hard, really. All throughout it was a great balance of challenge without being frustrated. The previous game, the 2013 reboot, I played on normal and honestly, in this difficulty this feels like that but with a more balanced increase in difficulty as the game goes and less spikes, so it’s more balanced all the way through.
I played both games using a Dualshock 4 and even though both control very good I have to say that in Tomb Raider the controls feel much better and more natural. Aiming is just as easy as when playing a triple A shooter while in Uncharted the aiming is a bit sluggish by comparison, not that it’s bad but a little worse.
Another inclusion worth mentioning that also begs a comparison to Uncharted 4 is the addition of a grappling hook to Lara Croft’s equipment. The funny thing is that while in Uncharted the hook is supposed to be used mainly in combat, here it’s solely for exploring. Not to say it’s better or worse but funny that both games that have been compared for so long include a similar tool but used them in different ways.
Another great part of this game are the tombs, which were severely lacking in the previous game. I did look for all of them in my playthrough and I can vouch that all of them are fun and worth doing for the challenge alone. I have to say that I’m a big fan of puzzles where you can interact with things in the scenario, using physics and such, so the puzzles here remind me of games like Portal, The Talos Principle, Quantum Conundrum, not as challenging as the harder puzzles in those games but in the middle range.
One thing I really appreciate is when games that are not puzzle focused have well thought out puzzles. An example I could give is the God of War series, where most of the game is great but the puzzles are (in my opinion) bad and only server to hamper the experience.
Another nice touch to the game is that you can find some artifacts hidden across areas. Just like in Uncharted, you find nicely modeled objects, ones which I’d love to have a replica in my living room. There are also some audio logs you can find which unfortunately, unlike the previous game, are mostly forgettable. Instead of expanding the myth of what you’re searching for you find mostly people rambling about uninteresting stuff.
Lastly there is the Baba Yaga DLC. Some may argue if its length is worth the price of admission but since I got it together with the game and it is seamlessly included into the main story I have to say not only that it’s worth it but it is a very welcome inclusion. It fits with the mood of the game, it also has some pretty awesome moments and the final confrontation of the DLC I think to be even better then the main game.
Overall I had a great time in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The main story itself and supporting characters may leave something to be desired but everything else is top notch, engaging all the way through the end and with everything combined this game is a must for Tomb Raider fans and for those new to the franchise as well.