Tomb Raider has undoubtedly been one of the greatest games 2013 has presented thus far. It mixes excellent exploration, together with some addictive combat and beautiful environments to boot. Our Editor-in-Chief Jamie Briggs, gave Tomb Raider a 9.0 stating, “Exploring the island is not only heaps of fun, but addictive, when you can reap weaponry upgrades as the reward.” But what did the rest of the Analog Addiction staff think of the game?
In this 3 part series of ‘Analog Analysis’ we hear thoughts from George Sinclair, Vlad Pintea, Rob Gisbey and the games original reviewer, Jamie Briggs as they analyse every aspect of the game.
In part 1 we discuss the origin story of Lara Croft, the games use of exploration, if set pieces hurt the game experience and our favourite part of the Tomb Raider overall.
What did you think of the origins of Lara, did they do her justice?
Vlad Pintea: I think the game successfully portrays what everyone wanted to see: a more believable Lara Croft. In past iterations, Lara was seen as more of a sexualised tomb raider, instead of a heroine in search of more mysteries to uncover. In this reboot though, her true emotions and will to survive are brought into the light, turning her life 180 degrees. And for fans like me, who experienced past entries in the Tomb Raider saga, and know just how fascinated “future” Lara is about tombs, it was a real pleasure hearing her say – “I hate tombs!”
George Sinclair: Lara’s origins were well fleshed out I think. I hope they keep this kind of realistic and less ridiculous vision of Lara for future installments.
Rob Gisbey: Overall I’d say this was an excellent origin story for Lara. It retained enough ‘classic Tomb Raider’ elements to please older fans whilst simultaneously pulling the franchise into a more modern era. The new and improved emphasis on story really cemented Lara as a real character and did a great job of transitioning her from a scared young woman into the empowered Tomb Raider we all know and love.
Jamie Briggs: I think the entire origin story made sense, it showed us her love or history and archaeology while showing how she dealt with her first kill. That was probably the most important moment for the characters progression, sure she didn’t seem affected by the event that much, but it was clarified when she told her friend Sam just how easy it was for her to take a life. It was a simple way of justifying why she is okay with killing and overall, the story set-up her progression of skills and abilities as she proceed through the game.
What aspect of Tomb Raider was most enjoyable?
Vlad Pintea: I always enjoy seeing Lara interact with the environment. Lighting up a torch, climbing a wall, shimming along an edge, or discovering a new tomb; the exploration is what the Tomb Raider games are all about, and this iteration is the best in its class.
George Sinclair: I particularly enjoyed this kind of beaten up vibe that we got from the game. I enjoyed the sense of determination to move forward that I got no matter what was thrown at me be it religious zealots or the elements.
Rob Gisbey: Although Tomb Raider‘s combat, story and visuals were all brilliant, I think the aspects of the game I enjoyed most were the combination of exploration and the game’s RPG elements.
Reaching a new hub area and going on a fresh collectable hunt or searching out the region’s secret tombs was both exhilarating and gratifying. The fact that maps to the various territories could be located made searching for hidden items a joy, rather than a chore and the game’s island challenges were certainly a nice touch.
Upgrading both your weapons and various skill trees was also a highlight for me. Hunting for salvage and weapon parts to improve your equipment as well as various fauna and flora to earn experience and learn new skills was incredibly rewarding and addictive. It was a definitely master stroke by Crystal Dynamics to make these stellar inclusions to the game’s mechanics.
Jamie Briggs: Personally the combination of exploration and the weapon upgrading system, were my favourite features of Tomb Raider. Entering a new area meant it was time to continue exploring, searching out salvage crates, hidden artifacts, finding hidden tombs and continuously being impressed at the sheer side of Lara’s world. I was always encouraged to explore, finding these hidden items gave me a greater appreciation for the games story and the idea of upgrading my weapons was an aspect I continuously appreciated.
It takes a fine game to make me search out for collectibles, when games do however it shows they put in the right amount of effort into these hidden items and encouraged players in the correct way. Tomb Raider made sure to nail both these game mechanics with spades, making exploration fun, yet rewarding at the same time.
Did the exploring aspects of ‘Tomb Raider’ work successfully?
Vlad Pintea: Yes they did. One of the things which I like about this reboot is that the game doesn’t force players to explore the island. Sure, they can always go off the beaten path, discovering a new tomb, or journal, which gives them a better insight into the mysterious island’s history, and its inhabitants, but the main objective is always clear. As such, all types of players can enjoy this entry; from the ones who may be presenting a case of OCD, to the others who simply want to find out how Lara survives her first adventure. Presenting the gamer with more options for exploring as they advance into the narrative, like the rope arrow, shotgun, etc. gives the game an overall boost to its length. The fact that players are also offered the chance to explore 100 percent of the game after the credits roll is fantastic, because this way, they won’t feel that rushing sensation to conclude the game once again. They can take it step by step, at their own pace.
George Sinclair: I think Tomb Raiders exploration was enjoyable because of how good it looked. When you knuckled it down, it was running around a map looking for things on the floor. The actual process of raiding tombs would have been more interesting if they were more than one room.
Rob Gisbey: Absolutely! I think the game struck an excellent balance between its linear, set-piece laden sections and its vast open hubs. I thoroughly enjoyed amassing all the collectables which gave me some interesting insight into Lara’s passion for history, the game’s side characters and the island’s sinister past. The tombs on the other hand, while enjoyable were definitely underwhelming and a bit too simplistic for my tastes. Hopefully this issue will be addressed in future entries to the series.
Jamie Briggs: They succeed brilliantly. As I said earlier exploring was one of my favourite features in Tomb Raider, encouraging players to explore by incentivising them with upgraded weapons was an excellent idea. Exploring also never felt monotonous due to the variation in locations and the innovative puzzles hidden tombs possessed. Comparing the series to Uncharted in this regard, exploring only ever felt necessary if I was Trophy hunting. Yet Tomb Raider made me feel rewarded every single time I found something, where Uncharted lacked that instant gratification.
Did Tomb Raider suffer from too many set pieces?
Vlad Pintea: Yes and no. Yes because after a while it gets a little bit predictive, and no because these segments really do bring the most out of Lara’s will to survive.
George Sinclair: With Tomb Raider’s expansive and plentiful set pieces, I think Crystal Dynamics pulled it off. It felt refreshing to truly explore the areas we were given seeing as the series in recent years has been somewhat linear in most cases.
Rob Gisbey: I don’t think so. Granted the game had more overblown action scenes than Michael Bay’s wet dreams but they’re a lot more palatable in game form… (actions scenes I mean, not Michael Bay’s wet dreams). Plus I think they were evened out by the slower paced exploration areas and the character driven narrative.
Besides, people want that huge cinematic experience from this kind of title. I thought some of the set pieces were truly amazing and utterly epic. The burning base! The cable car! The ship wreck! I want to go into more detail so badly but I don’t want to spoil things too much…
Jamie Briggs: I wouldn’t necessarily say the game suffered from this aspect, it did help provide the finished product with a great cinematic atmosphere which I think helped the game. Personally I feel the oversaturation of Quick Time Events during the first half of the game was a certain flaw, I stated that some of these cinematic moments couldn’t be pulled off otherwise in the review, but I am no game designer. Certainly there must have been a better way for these moments to exist, without so many QTE’s plaguing the experience. QTE’s are not on my most hated list most of the time, but when you flawlessly tackle combat situations and then find yourself dying because of said QTE’s, it feels cheap.
We hope you have enjoyed Part 1 of ‘Analog Analysis’, stay tuned over the next few days for part 2 when we tackle the games flaws, its comparisons to Uncharted and our thoughts on the games multiplayer.