Beneath the ancient rubble of Rise of the Tomb Raider is a gem of a game. An unpolished one, but a gem nonetheless. Rise of the Tomb Raider takes everything from its 2013 predecessor and improves upon it in almost every way. The intrepid bow-wielding, gun-slinging archaeologist, Lara Croft is back and her career is definitely on the rise.
In an attempt to explore the truth of her experiences on the island of Yamatai, Lara turns to her late father’s research on immortality and the lost city of Kitezh. Croft being Croft, of course, sets out on another expedition and as expected, her adventure is nothing short of thrilling.
As a whole, Rise of the Tomb Raider shines. But spend enough time with it and you’ll discover a twisty but predictable story. Lara’s search for The Divine Source, a mysterious artifact said to grant immortality often feels more like a means to get her from point A to point B, rather than grant her any sense of purpose. Her motivation: “I now empathize with my father and considering he died for this, he must have been on to something.” It’s good foundation for what could have been a potentially great story, but in the end it’s simply serviceable.
Furthermore, the characterization in Rise of the Tomb Raider leaves much to be desired. Lara has come a long way since the 2013 reboot. Short cut scenes and inner monologue at base camps reveal the layers to her character. The focus is squarely on Lara and the rest of the cast pales in comparison when it comes to characterization. Rise of the Tomb Raider’s main antagonist is a man named Konstantin, who represents an organization called The Trinity. Konstantin has a bit of a messiah complex, and his own pursuit of the Divine Source, provides a reasonable conflict, as well as some complexity, to Rise’s story.
Not that it ever occurred to me to question fighting through the mobs of the Trinity. Combat in this game is filled with options. The addition of stealth and crafting makes combat gratifying regardless of how you choose to clear each encounter. Early in Rise of the Tomb Raider, you might be inclined to avoid combat entirely or depend on stealth kills to remain unseen. But as you acquire skills and upgrade weapons, Lara turns into a killing machine.
Rise of the Tomb Raider has been billed by marketing as an open world game, and while that’s a bit misleading, the expansive environment does allow for many interesting diversions. You can breeze through the game by focusing on main story missions or veer off in pursuit of dozens of optional challenges, tombs and collectibles. Some of the challenges are downright silly, but that’s their charm. When you stumble upon an intricately designed tomb, it can be very rewarding.
And it’s definitely worth your time to explore. Resources littered around the world are necessary to craft items, first aid kits and weapon upgrades. Caches, strongboxes and crypts reward you with weapon parts and coins that can be spent on items. Relics and documents expand on characters and lore. Completionists will be happy to know that the game has significantly improved Fast Travel. You can quickly travel to any base camp – which serve as a geographical or narrative checkpoint in the game – which makes going back to collect items and complete challenges more convenient.
Rise of the Tomb Raider takes you across multiple landscapes. From ice-covered mountains to ancient ruins, the brilliant color schemes and lighting give each area its own unique character. Simple weather changes and a shift from day to night influences the atmosphere and makes individual trips to an area different each time. I was really impressed with Lara’s animations. She warms her hands near campfires or shivers when she steps out into the cold. It grounds the game with a human touch. Every detail is well-thought-out and every design choice makes sense.
And although there’s so much content to go through in Rise of the Tomb Raider, it’s tempting to just stand there and ogle the scenery. The underlying mood is one which intrigues. The visuals, ambient sounds and music all blend together to make Rise of the Tomb Raider as immersive as possible.
TASTES LIKE: FRENCH VANILLA. If its predecessor is plain vanilla, then Rise of the Tomb Raider is the kind of vanilla that is richer, deeper and more rewarding.