Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider
PS3, XBOX360, PC
By Janus 32

Introduction

tomb-raider-2013-box-art-pc-800x800The Tomb Raider franchise has always had a female protagonist. Never has it changed with all its games, and still remains to this day the buxom brunette, Lara Croft. Since her debut on the PSone X years ago, she has gone through raiding tombs for riches to saving the day and the world from certain disaster. 

The notion of tomb robbing isn’t a very honourable business. You are going through crypts and ancient places, forcing yourself to learn the secrets buried within to uncover riches that will, or course, make you rich. It is the end that justifies the means. But the TR franchise seemed poignant to provide history but mainly putting Lara Croft in the light of the world for titular purposes.

And there is nothing wrong with that…until now. The predecessors before still held the same formula. Exploration, solving puzzles, taking out enemies of the two legged and the 4 legged kinds with your duel two-tone pistols and eventually reaching the end. The substance and the repeated formula was losing its flare, meaning the last few games did not sell.

Which brings us now to this Tomb Raider game. Ever since its showing back in E3, 2011, the game has impressed a lot of people. Not only for its graphics but mainly due for its look. Lara looks younger, she doesn’t look at all strong but more green, like a rookie. What was also showed was Lara going through painful and brutal encounters with man, animal and the environment. This garnered instant notoriety due to making Lara a very, vulnerable, timid and almost weak person. The complete opposite traits to what everyone has known Lara to be.

This reboot will be exploring the beginning of Lara Croft. How did she become the fearless adventurer? What started her off to raid tombs and find out about history?

Most of all, is this reboot worth going into due to its new look? Or has the franchise dipped so low with this approach that it is not worth your time?


Story

The Endurance. A vessel that was sailing along the high seas runs aground and is shipwrecked during a sudden and violent storm.

In that ship was Lara Croft. A young, green adventurer wanting to find historys secrets and its riches. She is with a team that is finding out the secrets of an island that was under rule as the “Yamatai” myth. A Japanese myth that houses many deep and dark secrets.tomb_raider__2013__campsite_wallpaper_1920x1080_by_mikky100

But with the ship being wrecked, Lara has been separated from her group and before she knows it, someone or something has knocked her out and she is dangling in a chamber filled with candles and other bodies.

Lara is in trouble, and it looks like she has bargained a lot on this trip…

But worst of all, underestimated the dangers that this expedition holds.

What secrets does the island hold?

Gameplay

Throughout the Tomb Raider franchise, controlling Lara Croft has been a third person game. Not ever has it turned first person, so players can check their surroundings and zoom in when equipped with or without weapons. Players will be traversing buildings, landmarks, cliffs and whatever Lara can get her hands on to discover different places that holds secrets and extra unlocks.

TR has predominantly been a game that has run off exploration. Exploring caves, caverns, underwater coves, anything to find out the treasures and clues to further progress the 1 player game but at the same time, give back story  In this installment  Lara is able to summon/use her ‘Survival Instinct’. By the touch of a button, Lara’s senses flash the screen into a black and white palette and for any items/secrets that she can see in her surroundings will glow gold. Approach these glowing golden objects and you will receive rewards. The survival instincts only lasts as long as you are stationary, when you move again it will fade back to color  Survival Instinct has unlimited uses, so you can keep activating it and uncover other areas on your map.

With the items that you can find is primarily boxes filled with ‘Salvage’. Salvage can be seen as currency to use upgrading Lara’s weapons. Lara will be able to hold a variety of weapons from the Bow and Arrow to a pistol, rifle and shotgun. Salvage is used to upgrade these weapons and in these boxes of salvage, you will be able to find weapon parts to upgrade and to ‘strengthen’ weapons.Tomb-Raider2

With the salvage, Lara also gains experience points aka EXP. Experience points are gained through killing your enemies, hunting animals, finding secret tombs and defeating mini bosses. Gaining these exp points, you will able to use them to strengthen Lara’s skill sets in the form of skill points. These skill sets are categorized as Hunting Skills, Brawler Skills and Survivor Skills. Each of these skills have different tier components where as you progress and skill points are built through the activities aforementioned. Hunting skills help in regards to hunting animals, enemies and even improvement in steady aiming. Survivor skills can enhance your climbing abilities and searching dead bodies/areas for extra items and exp. Finally Brawler skills enhance your close quarter combat skills.

As these features are for the single player experience, for the first time in the series franchise, developer Crystal Dynamics have included a multiplayer component. Players will be able to play as either factions, the heroes and the villains. The multiplayer modes are Team Death Match, Rescue and Cry for help. Team Death Match is where players fight in groups of four with one group being the Endurance’s survivors and the other representing the scavengers. The first group to get 25 kills wins. Rescue is when The survivors have to fulfill certain objectives (carry a medipack to a certain spot: “Retrieve and capture the medical supplies”) while the scavengers try to stop them by killing them. The survivors win if they bring back 5 medkits and the scavengers win when they score 20 kills. This mode is also 4 on 4, but can also be played with less players. Finally Cry for Help is an emphasis on discovery and collection.

The multiplayer aspect works exactly like the single player campaign. Heroes and Villains are able to run, jump and traverse terrain and zip line ropes moving through the level. There are also two super weapons that you will be able to find to turn the tide and rank up your score. They are the competition bow and arrow and a large mini gun  Players can also go through crates and pick up salvage to customize their characters, their load outs and their skills/perks they can attain as they level up. The multiplayer mode is certainly a throwback to the Uncharted series, it feels familiar for those that have played that series but feels new for newcomers to the TR franchise.Tomb-Raider-2013-00

Though there is something wrong with the multiplayer, or it could just be my machine which I hope isn’t the case, that can halt play. Sometimes when you’re exiting out of a lobby or even switching between multiplayer to single player, the game will freeze during the loading screen. This is frustrating. No doubt this is frustrating for any game that you are playing multiplayer and the game should be running properly instead of freezing. Go figure right? And this is an inconsistent problem. Again, I’m hoping this is just my machine.

There is no real save feature when you press start and wanting to save the game. TR has an autosave feature, but at certain times through the adventure, there is savepoints when you end up at a ‘campsite’. Camp sites is where you can rest, upgrade weapons, increase your skills.. Campsites also enable ‘fast travel’ between other camps. This is a great addition as travelling between places is not only faster, but some places cannot be traversed due to past events. Such as a bridge that has been disconnected or the entrance to whatever building/gates cannot be opened again.

Presentation

The one thing that has had so much attention for this reboot of Tomb Raider is its presentation. When it was first shown at E3, 2011 people just had this feeling that this game was different and that the game in some shape or form was something to put their money for the future investment. Including myself.

And it seems we were right.

Crystal Dynamic’s re-think of the franchise I believe is the right choice and has been done at the right time. The franchise of its predecessors seemed to have been stale. With the cartoonish look of Lara Croft, believability and credibility seemed to be dwindling because the protagonist seemed invincible. But Crystal Dynamics have put Lara Croft in this game as something completely different. A vulnerable woman, forced to fight the elements of where she is stranded and more so a character that players can connect with, emotionally.

Presenting Lara Croft as she is in this gritty game, we can only imagine what had been going through with the voice actors. Lara Croft who is voiced by British actress Camilla Luddington (known for roles in Grey’s Anatomy, Californication and True Blood)  replaces veteran Keeley Hawes who voiced Lara Croft for Tomb Raider Anniversary, Underworld

Camilla Luddington, the voice of Lara Croft

Camilla Luddington, the voice of Lara Croft

and Lara Croft and the Guardian of the light, er contribution spanned four years; the longest role of any of Croft’s voice actresses in English. The writing doesn’t feel campy at all. It actually does feel…very realistic. For a team of explorers being stranded on an island that just looks lush but at the same time so haunting, it’s actually mesmerizing. We ask for you to stop and check out the landscape, with all the animals running about and the trees and bush, it is actually quite magnificent.

As player progress, the presentation is even more accentuated specifically on Lara’s adventure. What do I mean by that? The story. Lara is on a quest for the legend of the Yamatai and the Shaman Queen Himiko. Queen Himiko who ruled the Yamatai Kingdom was prosperous in her reign, but for some mysterious reason or another, the inhabitants all had disappeared and the Yamatai was lost, even in record books. Being on an island, the origins have been a mystery to locate, which brings Lara to try and discover its location in “The Dragon’s Triangle” which is a real location that to this day, Japan has put the area as a strict danger zone for no ships to cross. In the peacetime years between 1952-54 Japan lost 5 military vessels with crews lost totaling over 700 people and that the Japanese government sent a research vessel boarded by over 100 scientists to study the Devil’s Sea, and that this ship too vanished; and finally that the area was officially declared a danger zone.

This story is based on actual real life contoversy. Japanese historians are unsure how to put the Yamatai Kingdom whether it is considered to be closer to the chinese seas or even be considered as “Yamato” which means “Japan”

Final Comments

Lara Croft’s latest journey is one of heartache and of desperation. Crystal Dynamics seemed to have hit the balance on graphics, story telling, gameplay and everything else I haven’t thought of into this neat, revamped package. It’s refreshing to see that heroines like Lara in this instalment are not bulletproof or indestructible. That they do go through hardship, loss and turmoil and they are human. They make mistakes. To compare, it is like Commander Shepard of the Mass Effect series. He is not perfect. He makes decisions on what he thinks is right at the time, and I would think that most gamers like that franchise because it is not only about choice and sacrifice, but it is of one persons will to make the difficult decisions that any other average man/woman would have to make depending on what circumstances they are in.

Get it
Rent it
Forget it

Get it. Veterans of the Tomb Raider franchise will most likely be pleasantly surprised by this revamp. Lara is a different person compared to the predecessors, but this is a refreshing change. Newcomers will also feel right at home as a 3rd person shooter game that can be approached by stealth or by noise to despatch enemies, the choices are there for the player to tackle. All in all, a well rounded game that seems to have quite a bit of replayability to seek out other treasures and unlockables. Multiplayer is fun as well too!  

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