- Game: Tomb Raider (2013)
- ESRB: Mature — Blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
So I have to admit: I’m a little late to the party on this one. As in nearly 5 years late. Tomb Raider was revamped in 2013 breathing new life into the long-running series. Lara Croft is no longer the self-confident explorer gamers know and love from previous titles. Instead, Crystal Dynamics begins the story with a still-learning, uncertain-of-herself–yet totally capable–Lara.
If you didn’t grow up with the Tomb Raider series, the new direction of the game may be satisfying. And hey, even if you’re a long-time fan of Ms. Croft, you might still like it. But I’m not too sure how I feel about it.
Maybe I’m biased. After all, Tomb Raider does hold a special place in my video game-loving heart. As a young gamer, I purchased the original TR game without really knowing what I was leaving the store with. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked. Watching in amazement as the pixelated adventure seeker jumped and shot her way through ancient tombs, I loved every minute of it.
As more and more TR titles were released on PS1, PS2, and PS3, I watched as Lara battled the worst villains to save the day. After over twenty years of doing what she does best, Lara has a fresh start to her legacy and I was all-too-eager to find out where her story would take her next.
But things got a little disappointing when I finally got behind the controls on the 2013 release of Tomb Raider.
The game, overall, is good. But there are a few setbacks to be mentioned.
Repeatedly, I found myself longing for the simple ability to hug a wall for cover. When enemies are present she will assume a crouch position giving her only slight cover from bullets and arrows if not properly positioned. Add in the awkward dodge mechanic and fight sequences become unnecessarily challenging at times.
There’s also the lack of empathy for the main character (or any of the secondary characters for that matter). More than once I found Lara to be annoying wishing that she would just get the job done instead of feeling insecure. Listening to Lara’s excessive heavy breathing for an entire game was cringe-worthy. I get the whole concept that Lara’s skills are being put to the test for the first time and that she’s not comfortable with taking human lives. Or animal lives. But for someone with zero confidence, she continues to miraculously survive what no one else can.
Meanwhile Sam got to play damsel in distress for the entire game crying for Lara to come save her. And even when Sam isn’t captured by the mysterious shaman Mathias, she can be found accidentally discharging a gun or sleeping on the ground while everyone else is working. Great job, Sam.
However, there were a few shining moments in the game. The developers gave gamers a decent stealth system that–when it works–is pretty awesome. The combination of the bow with the open-ended gameplay allows gamers to choose how they want to take down enemies. If you can manage to sneak up behind an enemy, you can perform a chokehold attack and take them down silently. Yet, most of the time enemies will appear in groups/hordes and initiate the fight.
And while the puzzles have been all-but-eliminated from TR, the not-so-hidden tombs do add an appreciated element to the game. While they are never lengthy or difficult to solve, I do enjoy taking a brief moment to feel like I’m playing Tomb Raider and not Uncharted.
You know how I mentioned my dislike for the new Lara Croft earlier? Well, let me come back with a positive comment on Ms. Croft in her 2013 release. Towards the end of the game, Lara has had enough. She’s slinging threats and taking charge. She’s no longer passive, but rather taking matters into her own hands. It was a relief to see that the game wouldn’t be completed until she found her groove as the heroin we know from the olden days.
Perhaps this is the thing that draws so many people into her story. Lara is forced to survive, no matter the cost, and against all odds she wins at the end of the day. There’s inspiration and hope woven within the folds of her origin. Croft presents a strong finish at the end, almost changing my mind on my earlier comments about her character. Almost.
And while so much has changed about TR, the overall appearance of Lara has remained the same. And scattered throughout TR 2013 are objectives that feel like they’re straight from one of the original games. When I came to the bit where you have to maneuver the elevator to each floor so Lara can wrench off particular pieces, it felt like such a Tomb Raider thing to do. But with more beautiful graphics and smoother mechanics. There’s no denying that the controls for this game aren’t always the most desirable. However, there’s also no denying that looking back at the old games’ controls will make you slam your face into a wall.
A few welcome changes to the series are the new weapons and gear. The first weapon available in this game is a bow, something that was unseen in older titles. As you progress through the game, the bow will acquire more features to help you progress with Lara’s quest. Other items, such as the pickaxe, will gradually appear in your inventory. Although a few of the pieces in your inventory serve necessary functions, the developers, for the most part, allowed players to choose their route. Sticking with the bow will yield a greater chance of remaining unseen. But if you’d rather charge into the fray with guns blazing, you can do that too.
So while there is plenty to be said about the 2013 release of Tomb Raider, it really comes down to personal opinion. I did see many raving reviews about this game. Even some of the well-known critics out there were appeased with the new graphics and the gritty story. It does seem that if you’re a long-time fan of the Tomb Raider series, you will be more hesitant to fall in love with the new direction.
While I found many faults with the title, I would be lying to say that it deserves anything below my rating. Crystal Dynamics put a lot of effort into the game and it shows. Honestly, the thing that annoys me the most is that it’s not traditional Tomb Raider. I do understand that you have to move on and make something new, but I do feel that it shifted a few degrees too far. I’m just hoping we’ll see more of the old Lara Croft in the next game.
What did you think of the 2013 Tomb Raider? Agree with my review or am I way off base? Comment below.