Rise of the Tomb Raider
I remember the first time I saw a Tomb Raider game, the year escapes me but it had to be around 1998, making me five years old. My mother had received the very first one’s collector’s edition on PC from my father because it featured Egypt and that was a theme that had her going bananas. I still have it today since she struggled too much and gave it to me, the box says “Tomb Raider: Unfinished Business”, and I have that game to thank for honing my gaming skills, even if I never did finish it either ironically. I knew back then when I crawled its badly pixelated hallways, caverns and corridors that it was something special that would stick with me for years to come.
Now it is 2016, almost 18 years later and still the series delivers entries that astonish and surprise all gamers, and with every announcement of a sequel I still get absolutely giddy. The latest entry in this amazing series is called Rise of the Tomb Raider, which is a sequel to the brilliant 2013 reboot simply called Tomb Raider by Square Enix, which was released on PC, PlayStation and Xbox.
After her time on the island of Yamatai, Lara now has a new found faith in her father’s work. Their family name was tarnished due to society believing him crazy up till his untimely death, and now after having seen the unbelievable, she will resume his lifelong search for the impossible, she must find the answer to immortality itself. This time we have the likes of Ghangus Khan, the lost city of Kitezh, and a seemingly immortal prophet from Constantinople, taking her on a journey to the hazardous mountains and soviet installations found in Siberia. Tombs filled with ancient, forgotten and mostly dead things isn’t all that’s waiting to be found, as Miss Croft will also uncover more about the ancient secret organization that has been keeping a lid on things from the shadows while also searching for the Divine source of Immortality, Trinity. Can Lara uncover that which was deliberately hidden from the world by herself? The better question is perhaps, should she?
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a powerful entry in the series, building on all the strengths of the previous title. The gameplay revolves around Lara exploring, climbing, and now also swimming through ruins of a forgotten people while solving complex puzzles set in order to protect the secrets of the lost City. She also occasionally encounters some enemies she can engage in a fire fight with or she can use her amazing stealth abilities to pick them off one at a time.
Lara is still a young adventurer however and as such has a lot to learn, to that end the game features some puzzles, mechanics and areas which she the player can only explore once they have gained access to certain tools (such as the grapple-hook gizmo) or purchased the relevant upgrade in the skills menu. Hidden challenges also riddle the semi-open map for the players to find, only visible to those with eyes wide open. Some non-player characters also now provide Lara with secondary objectives to complete within which ever environmental hub she finds herself. Yes, the ancient, forgotten people speak English.
The game world is beautiful, even more than the previous entry, with trees swaying in the wind in dense forest hubs with thriving wildlife, snowy peaks and mountains where the tracks of the player, the enemy and the wildlife and visibly left in the snow, caves and ruins where the glow-sticks you carry reflects dim light off moss grown walls partially hiding engravings telling the story of how the local tribe of people came to settle here.
At the end of this magnificent title I felt satisfied, the game didn’t drag on forever, nor was it as short as the entry before, it answered all the right questions while leaving enough for the player to question. The narrative was compelling, emotionally loaded and ended hinting at Lara’s next grand adventure. After going through all the hardships and struggles with the character you can’t help but feel like both you and Lara grew through the experience. It took the best of what made Tomb Raider great and made it better. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a must play to all who calls themselves gamers.