Lara Croft is – or was a lot of things. Strong, confident, ambitious and forward thinking. Her games? Riddled with puzzles, environmental quizzes and a whole lot of trial and error. That is the combination that brought us oh-so-many Tomb Raider games throughout the years. So much so, that the aforementioned combination is not as intact. It kind of lost it's essence throughout the years. This time – the new Lara Croft scrapped all of that, literally starting from scratch.
I lost hope in the franchise a while back, this reboot not only brought us a new Lara but brought Tomb Raider back into my interests. The new Lara Croft is not strong, ambitious or confident. She's inexperienced, vulnerable and wishful. She's definitely a dedicated archeologist but not a fighting one. This helps you relate to her a lot more. Like in Far Cry 3, you watch her grow. From her first stroke of pain to her instinctive ability to stab someone right in the head.
Lara Croft and her crew are filming an archeological reality show, searching for the lost civilization called the Yamatai. A tribe that, unbeknownst to Lara, thrive on human sacrifice and a deadly cult religion. While on the ship, Lara suggests that they head towards the Dragon Triangle. Sort of like the Bermuda Triangle, an area where all who venture there, never return. A void in the midst of the sea, trapping in whoever dares to venture. The crew disagrees with the suggestion but eventually cave in and head east towards the triangle. Naturally, the ship is taken over by a raging storm causing them all to be shipwrecked. This is where the adventure starts.
This is where Lara's transformation happens. From a spoiled rich kid with a passion for archeology to a full-blown warrior. An open world game where exploration and discovery are highly rewarded. A big and dark island ripe with unexplored territory. There are hidden secret tombs that will take you back to the older days of solving puzzles for rewards and unlocks. Making them a must. You literally start from scratch – well, you start with Lara hanging upside down, armed with absolutely nothing.
Throught the missions and your exploration, you'll make camps. Camps act as checkpoints in a way, you can upgrade your skills, weapons and abilities. The camps are also fast travel locations, allowing you to go to any previously visited area. As Lara's confidence builds, so will your arsenal. Looting crates and dead enemy's bodies will yield you some salvage. Once you have enough, these camps will allow you to upgrade certain weapons. So keep looting.
The combat is fluid. Later on in the game, Lara gains access to a lot of weapons including firearms and grenade launchers. Personally, I stuck with the bow the whole time. It's quiet and accurate and I think fits extremely well with the game and it's mood. You start off with a makeshift, rudimentary bow and as you progress you'll get a recurve bow and more.
A cool thing that I liked was the scramble action. It's a dodge/evade move but like we said before, she's inexperienced. She won't pull off a dolphin dive or a roll, she'll scramble around the floor to dodge an attack. Later on, you can unlock a skill where she picks dirt of the ground and throws it into the enemy's eye for a stun.
You'll also be hunting for your own food in this game. Hunting and skinning animals for survival is becoming a common feature in most open world games. Stealth is a big thing too. Lara will automatically duck behind cover when she can. Charging in guns blazing isn't the smartest approach, she has little armor and the enemies are stocked with machine guns that can kill you pretty quick. This is why I stuck with the bow mostly.
Lara moves surprisingly quick and jumps really high. She's fast and nimble and takes a whole lot of fall damage. This is the only aspect I had a problem with – not with the mechanics, I thought they were great. Just the fact that she was slow to learn how fight and shoot but somehow is as quick and nimble as a cat. This isn't really an issue, I mean she is Lara Croft after all, but it just didn't bode well with the pace she was adapting her other skills at.
Best thing about the game? The mood. The island is a dark and gloomy place riddled with trouble. Beautiful vistas masked with dark tainted atmosphere remind you that this island is no vacation spot. It's an island where no one leaves. The Yamatai aren't the only presence on this Island. A group of thugs or mercenaries roam the island, looking to take advantage of the island's mythical and historical nature.
The mood fits perfectly with the island and with Lara herself. She's scared and throughout the whole game and escapes the deadliest situations by a thread. She has no idea what she's doing. All of that will help you immerse you further into the story. Unlike other games, this novice protagonist doesn't all of a sudden become a full on warrior right off the start, she's just as incapable as you are.
The story is great, although if you hear the plot without actually playing it – it'll sound cliché. The direction and execution of the story is compelling. You actually want to help Lara and her friends, that is how immersed you'll get. You're mad when she's mad, you'll feel relief when she does and you'll even squint your eyes when one of those gory death scenes come up.
Tomb Raider also has a multiplayer feature. You'll play as either two teams, the scavengers or the survivors. The mechanics in the multiplayer are pretty much as fluid as they are in the game. It features a progression system with levels, unlocks, classes and characters. What I really liked is that in every map, traps can be set up to catch enemies. Leaving them there for you to come back and give them a slow and painful death – an arrow to the crotch. It features zip lines and smooth vertical terrain to climb.
The new Tomb Raider is a horror survival game with optional puzzle filled tombs for you to raid. The classic fans can look forward to the almost the same familiar puzzle like tombs with a little more. An open world environment with fast travel, looting, exploration, discovery, tombs, animals, salvage and more. This is a definite must-buy, whether you're a fan or not. If you're looking for a great adventure game with awesome gameplay and a pretty decent multiplayer, go and buy Tomb Raider.