Reviews

‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ Review

Rise of the Tomb Raider 9

Platform Xbox One, Xbox 360 Genre Action Adventure

Developer Crystal Dynamics Publisher Square Enix

The recent Tomb Raider reboot covered the origin of Lara Croft, while Rise of the Tomb Raider focuses on the origin of the iconic ‘Tomb Raider’. Following the events that occurred on the island of Yamatai, Lara has returned home with a fresh mindset on ancient history. This new outlook allows her to revisit findings her late father had explored, which involved the idea of immortality. Though these theories were originally deemed crazy and ultimately drove her father to his end, Lara’s new experiences with the supernatural lead her to believe that her father was right. With that Lara Croft heads to Siberia in search of this ancient mystery, in hopes of clearing and redeeming her father’s name to those who considered him a disgrace.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s focus on Lara’s past further explains how she became the person she is today. Camilla Luddington once again produces an amazing performance as Lara Croft, with her delivery of Lara’s inner most emotional thoughts providing some of the best character moments throughout the campaign. Aside from exploring Lara Croft as a character, the overall narrative never deviates from your typical adventure story, with predictable twists, lackluster moments and uninteresting side characters. There are even times when the story being told seems a little too similar to the previous entry in the series, hitting similar story notes along the way. Rise of the Tomb Raider struggles to produce an interesting and original story, instead playing to the beat of other adventure tales, rather than creating its own unique rhythm.

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One of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s biggest flaws is within its delivery of cinematic moments. In the original reboot cinematic moments were delivered well, having a great sense of tension and uncertainly. In Rise of the Tomb Raider almost every cinematic moment falls flat. From the very first mission Lara is outrunning an avalanche nipping at her heels, setting the scene for a typical motif throughout the adventure. Lara Croft will spend almost every mission outrunning some sort of cinematic disaster, with the frequency of these encounters removing any sense of dread or danger that the previous entry in the series delivered in spades.

One of the most telling cinematic blunders was during a burning warehouse scenario. The fire seemed to ultimately provide added scenery, rather than an opposing threat. I spent this time looking for collectibles without a care in the world for Lara’s safety; which ultimately says a lot about the failure to provide tension during these moments.

Rise of the Tomb Raider does succeed at creating some grand tombs to raid and conquer. Raiding these ancient tombs were easily my favourite moments in Rise of the Tomb Raider, offering an excellent change of pace from the frenetic campaign missions. Each tomb has its own puzzle that requires some intelligent thinking and correct usage of your acquired skills to solve. The only issue with these ancient tombs is that they can be easily solved using Lara’s Survival Instinct skill, which basically points out the few points of interest within each puzzle’s design. When utilising Survival Instinct I found tombs were easily solved, which meant I ended up ignoring this ability during later tombs. Figuring out how to solve the tomb puzzles on your own is greatly satisfying.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Each tomb also has its own story to tell, with collectibles scattered throughout each ancient dwelling telling its history. I loved these added details as it made each location feel more memorable and alive. I found myself remembering each tomb for the story I experienced, rather than the puzzle I had to solve. This beautiful combination of puzzle solving and story elements is fantastic and when I found myself solving the final tomb, I began to feel disappointed that there were none left to experience; a true testament to these amazing ancient locations.

Aside from the collectibles located within tombs, Rise of the Tomb Raider also provides some of the best collectibles in gaming. This is due to the fact that a majority of the collectibles help clarify many of the characters introduced in the campaign. Listening to audio logs from the extended cast of characters helps to explain their motivations, feelings towards the events and their ultimate goals; alongside additional side stories that help deliver more information on your current surroundings. I loved the fact that these collectibles are not just for added objectives, they actually build upon and help deliver clarity to the campaign; something the campaign fails to accomplish on its own. I found myself drawn to listen to every collectible I found, to further experience these added narrative gems.

Not only that, but finding each collectible also offers a great deal of XP, further making your search for every item throughout the world feel rewarding. Your search for collectibles can also continue post game (which is helpful because there is an insane amount to collect), but there is no New Game Plus option upon campaign competition.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider also introduces Hub Worlds, which feel very similar to the open areas in the last Tomb Raider game, only on a larger scale. There are only three extended areas in Rise of the Tomb Raider, with two of these offering extra missions should you choose to complete them. These side missions are offered by characters within the Hub World and can offer some valuable skills and items upon completion. The missions themselves don’t offer much variety and can be completed quickly, with a majority simply featuring the typical fetch quest, or kill a certain number of a certain enemy type mission structure. Each area in Rise of the Tomb Raider also offers bonus challenges to complete, which can range from catching chickens, to finding items in the world. These challenges are nothing special, but they certainly add to the already overwhelming large amount of collectibles found in the game world.

Lara Croft has a large selection of weapons at her disposal in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but none rival the lethal efficiency of her trusty bow and arrow. Combat is very similar to the last entry in the series, with all XP and crafting materials gained able to be used to unlock additional skills and weapon improvements. Bow and arrow combat is still as strong as it was previously, however I cannot help but feel that the third person shooting aspects have taken a step back.

Utilising the range of firearms on offer left me unimpressed, due to the cumbersome and inefficient nature of these weapons. It’s unfortunate that during the latter stages of the campaign firearms are basically your only options to survive, as the bow and arrow options cannot deal with the number of enemies efficiently. I’ve had a lot of experience with third person shooters over the years, and it’s unfortunate that the combat options (bow and arrow aside) feel so unpolished compared to the masters in the genre.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider looks stunning. There is no denying that visually Rise of the Tomb Raider is easily one of the best looking adventures available on Xbox One, with the visual variety further expanding in an impressive nature during the closing chapters of the campaign. Lara Croft is also exceptionally presented, especially when she is delivering dialogue during cut scenes. She is beautifully crafted with even more emotional detail added to her facial presentation. When Camilla Luddington is delivering emotional scenes as Lara Croft, they are shown clear as day on her character making these scenes even more heartfelt.

Rise of the Tomb Raider removes the online multiplayer options of the original to include some new asynchronous gameplay modes. While players can replay chapters with their choice of skills, or run through missions in Score Attack for high score leaderboard chasing, Remnant Resistance is the mode that offers the most unique offering of post-game content. In this mode players can either create missions or play missions others have created, within a parameter of options. While the tasks themselves are fairly standard, and creating a mission can be completed easily, the real hook comes down to the newly introduced Expedition Cards that alter gameplay in unique, challenging and amusing ways.

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Expedition Card packs are awarded throughout the campaign, alongside credits to purchase new card packs; real world purchases are also available. These cards can alter gameplay in an abundance of ways. For example, one card may light all of your enemies on fire, another give unlimited arrows, while another may activate big head mode. Missions can be as hard or as ridiculous as you like due to your card selections and, although it may seem overly ridiculous, these missions can offer a great deal of additional challenge and over the top fun.

When I was tasked as big head Lara Croft to hunt down a bear, utilising only my bow and arrow – with my arrow heads now chickens – I realised this ridiculous scenario was an excellent alternative to the main campaign. Though these modes may not offer an extended life to Rise of the Tomb Raider, the uniquely fun alternative certainly offers a more creative offering than the generic multiplayer component of yesteryear.

the-verdict

Rise of the Tomb Raider succeeds in many areas, one of which is producing some memorably exhilarating tombs that come alive due to the perfectly interwoven history lessons. Unfortunately Rise of the Tomb Raider does fall short in a number of other areas, including a generic narrative, which even the excellent performance of Camila Luddington as Lara Croft cannot fix.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a worthy entry in the newly rebooted Tomb Raider franchise, and the decision to remove the competitive multiplayer options is appreciated. The newly added Remnant Resistance mode is unique, challenging and fun alternative. It has a great deal of potential, and hopefully we are given more options to create even more challenging and over the top missions in the future.

Though Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t live up to the last entry in the series, it certainly lays the ground work for this series to continue for many games to come. Hopefully going forward Lara Croft is able to carve her own slice of the adventure game genre, without relying so heavily on predictable moments and generic cinematic scenes.

The Good

  • Tombs – Brilliant combination of storytelling and puzzle solving.
  • Collectibles offer strong stories.
  • Camila Luddington is Lara Croft.
  • Remnant Resistance offers a fun and challenging alternative to the campaign.

The Bad

  • Lackluster story.
  • Overuse of bland cinematic moments.
  • Cumbersome shooting.

The Score: 7.8


Jamie Briggs manages Analog Addiction and you can like them on Facebook, follow his daily life on Twitter @JamieAA, and his videos on YouTube.

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5 replies »

    • I did enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider, but the problems I expand on in the review definitely held back my love of the game. I still consider the Tomb Raider reboot to be one of the best games I have experienced recently, but this one felt more paint by the numbers than anything else.

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