Lara Croft is back with a brand new adventure after Crystal Dynamics rebooted the series a couple of years ago. In Rise of the Tomb Raider Lara has a lot more confidence in what she is doing and is more sure of herself. In this game she is trying to finish the work her father started but others have the same exact goal. Lara’s main competition is Trinity, an evil corporation that will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. While Lara and Trinity are both searching for the same item they both want it for very different purposes. As you progress in the story you’ll experience some nice twists and turns and discover the motives of the key players. I won’t go into any further details than that but it is a story that I enjoyed going through and experiencing.
As soon as you begin your journey in Rise of the Tomb Raider you will notice the game is stunning. It is absolutely beautiful with some incredible vistas to look at it. There were many times when I would just stand still for a few moments to admire the environment. As I was going through all of the environments I was routinely saying “Xbox, take a screenshot!” or “Xbox, record that!”. You start off in the mountains with some breathtaking views and then as soon as you start walking you’ll hear how well done the audio is as well. The snow crunches underneath your feet and sounds exactly like it does when you walk in snow in real life. The wind howls loudly and the directional audio works really well. The voice acting for each character is also really well done as are all of the miscellaneous nature sounds, such as scavenging wood for crafting purposes.
The gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider also works really well. You have standard third person shooter controls as well as being able to zoom in while aiming at something by clicking in the right stick. As you unlock weapons you can hot swap them at any time using the d-pad. There are achievements tied to different weapons so I would hit right on the d-pad to bring up my bolt-action rifle to get some headshots right before I hit up on the d-pad to use my bow and arrow to try and get across a chasm. The bow and arrow have a variety of uses throughout Lara’s adventure. There is the obvious offensive use where you can shoot people. You will also use a rope arrow to shoot at a log across an open space and attach it to a nearby log to create something you can either zip line across or simply crawl across. As you get further into the game you will also come across something where you can grapple an object in mid air and use your momentum to swing you to where you need to be. You will also come across a number of items in the environment that you can pick up that will allow you to craft weapons. As you go through the story you will eventually gain the ability to craft poison, fire and explosive arrows. The explosive arrows were my favorite, especially if I had a group of enemies coming toward me. It always made me chuckle to shoot one of those arrow into the middle of a group of enemies and then watch it explode and send everyone flying. There is also melee combat as well that can feature some brutal execution style killings if someone is really close to you and you can’t get your weapon up in time.
Other gameplay aspects in Rise of the Tomb Raider also work well. At times there are bottles laying around the environment and you can quickly use crafting to turn them into molotov cocktails. I enjoyed taking a can and just throwing in the opposite direction that I was in to distract the enemy and then when they weren’t paying attention picking them off one by one. By clicking in the right stick you will also activate Lara’s survival instinct. What this does is change the color palette a bit so everything is a bit more gray, with interactive items being yellow so it really stands out and is easy to notice. You can do this with enemies which I used to my advantage on numerous occasions. If an enemy is highlighted in yellow then you are good to go with taking him out and no one should notice. If he is highlighted in red though then that means someone is looking at him and will notice any action you take against the guy. Obviously if you use a weapon that is really loud you’ll draw more attention to yourself so I personally opted for the stealth route whenever possible and would just do headshots with an arrow.
One of the things that the Tomb Raider franchise is known for is puzzles and there are plenty of them here. You’ll need to solve puzzles that deal with rising and lowering water levels, working with weights, making calculated jumps, blowing holes in walls and more. In addition to the puzzles you will come across in the main story there are also optional tombs for you to discover. The optional tombs are really easy to miss as they tend to be off the beaten path a bit but you will always be notified when there is one near your area. Once you have discovered an optional tomb it will also stay on your map so you can return there at a different time if you choose to do so. The optional tombs range a great deal from an old ship that is stuck in a cave and has been for a really long time to a mine, an infirmary and more. Some of the optional tombs are easier than others and all require you to solve some type of puzzle whether it is figuring something out with your brain or being able to time something correctly so you can advance. The rewards for completing these optional tombs are valuable so you will probably want to do them. Your rewards include a variety of skills and learning different ways to survive.
Another thing that you will notice in Rise of the Tomb Raider is the plethora of side content that there is to do. There are side missions to accept from people you encounter on your journey as well as different challenges to do. In one village there is a challenge to catch all of the chickens and put them back in the pen while later on in the game there is a challenge to ignite a bunch of wood stacks to signal your allies. There are also a lot of collectibles to track down. There are documents to read, recordings to listen to and strong boxes to break into. There are also relics to find, murals to read and survival caches to track down. As you find different maps and documents you will see collectibles showing up on your map so you know where to go to get them. I always appreciate it when a developer does this so I don’t have to waste time running all over the world trying to find something.
One of the central themes in Rise of the Tomb Raider is surviving and adapting. As you move through the game there will be items for you to scavenge so that you can craft upgrades to your weapons, as well as craft some ammunition. All of these activities will earn you XP which in turn will allow you to master a skill. There are three different categories of skills with “brawler,” “hunter” and “survivor.” Brawler is the more offense oriented skillset where you can learn how to quickly kill an enemy after successfully dodging an attack or being able to assassinate someone from above. The “hunter” class is all about sharpening your skills whether you are hunting animals or your enemy. There is a “dead eye” skill you can master that puts a headshot indicator over your opponent’s head, a “shotgun expert” skill where you can execute a close range shotgun finisher and more. The “survivor” class deals more with exploration and being resourceful. Skills here consist of items such as “lightfoot” where you can land safely without damage from substantial heights or “bright eyes” that allows you to sense traps when they are nearby. You’ll have to pick and choose which skills you want to master first and which will complement your playstyle. All of this is done at camp fires that you will find throughout the game. The camp fire acts as your essential hub on your journey. This is where your game gets saved, you can manage your inventory, upgrade your weapons and fast travel to other camp fires that you have previously been to. You are going to need to do some back tracking in this game as there will be items that you come across that you won’t be able to do anything with until Lara’s skills are raised. A good example of this is the monoliths that you will discover. If that particular monolith that you are at requires Lara to have her Greek translation skills at level three and you are only at level two, you will have to come back later. The fast travel system works well in these instances and the camp fires are appropriately spaced out so you really aren’t ever too far away from one. I really appreciated this as I continued to play the game after I went through the story to get collectibles I missed the first time.
There is no multiplayer in Rise of the Tomb Raider but there are things to do outside of the normal campaign. These are called expeditions and they offer a variety of things for you to do. There are four different modes with “score attack,” “chapter replay,” “chapter replay elite” and “remnant resistance”. Score attack is fairly self explanatory. Finish a level as quickly as you can for a nice bonus and chaining scores together will build a combo meter. There will be different challenges to complete and you will be able to see what kind of score some of your friends were able to get so that you can try and beat their high score. Chapter replay is simply replaying chapters of the story and you complete challenges to earn credits. The “chapter replay elite” is similar to chapter replay only this time you have all of your upgraded skills and equipment to help you out. “Remnant Resistance” is perhaps the most interesting out of all of these. This is where you can create your own missions. You’ll be in charge of loadouts, cards, choosing objectives and more. Once you are done with that you can have others play what you created to see how they do. If you aren’t the creative type you can play missions created by your friends as well as the Tomb Raider community in general. This can be a lot of fun and as more people get the game there will no doubt be some amazing missions created.
One of the things that you get from doing all of this is credits. These credits can be spent in the marketplace to unlock cards. These cards are modifiers that you can use in the expeditions mode. They range from new outfits, new weapons, a new skill or giving your enemies (or even Lara) a big head. You have different packs that you will be awarded as you complete the story as well as being able to buy more packs with the credits you earn. All of the credits that you get for buying these packs are earned by playing the game. There is no real world money being used here as far as the cards are concerned. You can, of course, use real money to buy the season pass, for example.
Rise of the Tomb Raider really is a fantastic game. If you enjoyed the reboot a couple of years ago then you should really enjoy this one as well as it is more of the same. The lack of a true multiplayer feature will be disappointing to some but the expeditions have a shot to be a lot more interesting. Rise of the Tomb Raider is absolutely beautiful from the magnificent vistas to the exceptionally well done audio. I highly advise you wear a pair of headphones while playing if you can so that you catch everything the game has to offer. I enjoyed the scavenging and the survival aspects to the game where you had to find material to craft items and equipment as well as using your tools to traverse the environment. Be sure to watch the credits in their entirety as well as there is a nice cutscene that happens once the credits are finished. Rise of the Tomb Raider looks good and plays good and anyone that is an action adventure fan should definitely pick up this game.