Recently I played the 2013 Tomb Raider game. The first of the “survivor trilogy” that rebooted Lara Croft as an important media character in my perspective. If you’re familiar with the reboot trilogy you know what they are: semi-open world games with big set pieces and loads of gunfights. I’ll get to the gunfights in a moment but during my playthrough a question popped in my mind: Where are the Tombs?
Optional content instead of core content
Ironically this is the last game of the trilogy that I finished. I played Rise and Shadow of the Tomb Raider before this one. And I’m noticing that they improved greatly on the tombing aspect.
In this game, I found the optional challenge tombs while progressing through the main story. They were marked on my map. But they are optional content and I didn’t explore them until later in the game. In the second and third games there are tombs with some interesting (jumping) puzzles that you progress through during the main storyline. Something I found noticeably absent in this game.
It is clear that the sequels are an iteration on this game. Even the optional challenge tombs are more elaborate with at the very least an increased amount of platforming and puzzles to get to the treasure.1
This is a good sign, it shows that the developer Crystal Dynamics listened to the players and guided the series a bit more in the Tomb Raider direction. How much they looked at the Uncharted series when creating this game can be debated, but the second and third game make it at least more clear why the game is called Tomb Raider. I haven’t played any other Tomb Raider games before and cannot say for certain I will do so in the future. But naming a game Tomb Raider brings expectations. And the amount of gunfights weren’t exactly what I expected.
One aspect of these games that I don’t like as much is shooting so many soldiers. It makes sense in the story of the second and third game where you are competing with a private army. In this game it feels very contradictory to the narrative. You’re supposed to be on a hidden island where sailors have been stranded over the course of many years. The amount of human enemies on the island is staggering to me. Especially with the Stormguard hunting the survivors to extinction. At least, that is what the game lore tells me. The enemy encounters are quite the opposite.2
It all blends together
So many films, shows and games look like each other these days. From the outside it looks like writers and studios try to capitalize on the things that are popular at the moment which may or may not result in a product that is similar to another. While this may have been practice for many decades, with the amount of accessible content is has become very noticable in the last years. Especially when Disney properties like Marvel and Star Wars release new content on a near monthly basis.
In regards to this game, I’ve made a comment on the Uncharted series earlier. These games are somewhere on my to play list for the future. But with the knowledge that I have of these Tomb Raider games I can safely say I expect a different experience. At least from Rise and Shadow. Not so sure about this one.
Eponymous Tomb Raider
If you would ask me in five years what I think or remember about this game I’ll probably say it’s an enjoyable spectacle game with a decent story. And that of the Survivor Trilogy Rise of the Tomb Raider is still my favorite.3
First reason being that I liked the snowy mountains more than the humid jungles. Second is the more grounded story told in Rise. I must admit that Shadow has some bad-ass cinematic and character moments; I prefer the groundedness. Shadow also has to balance the personal with the supernatural aspect of the story, which doesn’t convince me all the time. And thirdly: I like the tombs is Rise. From the opening tomb in Syria to the flooded archives and the Orrery.
A hearty recommendation
With all the reboots and remakes in the content space it sometimes is hard to differentiate one thing from another. Especially since aspects blend over into other media. At the end of the day you have to choose how you spend your time. While I have my favorite game, this Tomb Raider Trilogy is worth yours if you like what they have to offer.
You don’t have to play or watch everything. Just pick something you enjoy or dive deep into something out of your comfort zone. The choice is yours.