I remember when the first Tomb Raider came out. My cousin had rented it for his Playstation, and I remember watching him jumping around and shooting wolves in a (for the time) cool 3D environment. Then I remember trying to play it and being frustrated by the control scheme and never really getting into the series. I never owned a Tomb Raider game up until now, and had really only played a little bit of the first game.
But then Crystal Dynamics showed off the new Tomb Raider, a reboot of the franchise focusing on a younger Lara Croft. It’s her first adventure, and from the first trailer I was interested. It was gritty, it was pretty, and it seemed to have a lot of character to it. In a way it reminded me of the Uncharted Franchise, probably because Lara was exploring a tropical island and things seemed to go wrong for her as they do for Nathan Drake. But it was different, where Uncharted has a bit of humor to it, it seemed Tomb Raider was going for a different feeling.
So after not playing a Tomb Raider game for nearly fifteen years, I spent an hour with the new Lara Croft.
I’ll start out by saying that the story presented so far in Tomb Raider has me interested in playing more. It has ancient civilizations, myths, a shipwreck, and everything else a good adventure needs. I haven’t been giving a huge chance to get to know the supporting characters, but this is a game very focused on Lara herself. And the opening experiences are quite engaging, if not a bit brutal. But they make you feel for Lara, makes you realize she’s in a tough situation that she’s not entirely prepared for and is new to her. Sure, she’s had some training, but this isn’t another training exercise and she both knows it, and shows it. It’s this drive to survive that is supremely compelling at the outset, and I’m interested to see how far they take it.
Building off story, I’ll say the voice acting has been good, but I haven’t heard quite enough of it know if it stays that way. There was one character introduced towards the end of my playtime that I didn’t quite like his voice work, but I need to see more of that character to see if it was a design choice, or just poor casting.
One of my complaints with the original Tomb Raider was the controls. Lara controlled more like a tank than a person and I remember fighting with the camera a lot then too. But we’ve made some huge strides since then (bless you dual analog sticks) and the controls are tight and easy to understand in the reboot. I had a small hiccup in the start where I’d want to hold the jump button to sprint and then jump automatically at the ledge because of my recent playing of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed. After that it was smooth sailing control wise.
The graphics are really well done and visually interesting. The lighting and weather effects really bring the environment alive. My wife really liked how early on Lara was covered in dirt and blood, but after traversing through some water, much of it had washed off. Then over time as I moved through tight spaces and such it started coming back. Little details like that really bring the world to life. Like many games, there is some of the effect where the camera “lens” gets dirty to try immerse you in the game world better. Sometimes I hate this effect, sometimes it’s alright, and in Tomb Raider I’ve been ok with it. It’s a little heavy sometimes, but it was used once in the hour I played to heighten the tension of the situation to great effect. That was great and I’d be ok with more of that. The other times it just adds a little flair, like when water from a waterfall hits the “lens” and makes bokah spots. I like that effect much more than having water droplets dripping down the screen.
Overall, I’m immensely impressed by this new Tomb Raider and can’t wait to play more.