Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider – 20 Year Celebration Edition (PS4)
Video gaming’s history is pretty brief compared to other forms of entertainment like plays, novels or movies. That doesn’t mean that the video game world doesn’t have its history, icons and true legends. And here in 2016, we celebrate the legacy of one such legend, Lady Lara Croft.
And what a celebration it is
With Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration Edition, you get the full package, with all the extras included. These include a side quest that feels like its part of the main campaign, an added story mission called Blood Ties, and a Zombie-like mode called Lara’s Nightmare. Both of these take place in Croft Manor. The Croft Manor modes become available a bit after advancing the main campaign of the game.
Rise of the Tomb Raider has already been reviewed by SA Gamer a little bit less than a year ago, and besides for the extra content, and a few personal experiences and opinions, there’s really not much more that I can add. It is an exceptionally well crafted adventure game, and it deserves all the praise that’s been heaped on it. The added content really makes the package so much sweeter… and I could not even try our the VR bits, because of obvious reasons here in SA.
A bit about the game itself
I’m not going to go into the technical details of the game, as that has already been covered. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a lot like its predecessor, which was the reboot of the series. Most of the game takes place in one region, which consists of a bunch of open world areas, that interlinked with each other. You can only access the next areas once you advance the plot. There’s also plenty to do that’s not really related to the story, such as side missions, challenge tombs, as well as hunting and scavenging for materials and resources. What really struck me was the way everything flows into each other. A lot of the side missions and scavenging felt natural and part of the game. Except maybe the challenge tombs, which will have you going a bit out of your way to explore. It gives you some interesting rewards, but it does distract a bit of the urgency of some of the situations Lara finds herself in.
The same can be said about the Base Camps, which serve as a checkpoint system where Lara can upgrade skills or weapons. It’s a a great feature, and works very well, it just seemed a bit odd when Lara sits down at a campfire to collect her thoughts, though she has a very urgent job to do. But, it is a minor gripe, and for the most part the pacing and story telling is completely on point. The puzzles are also a refreshing surprise. It had that classical platforming feel to it, and it did take a bit of thinking to figure it out, which will provide players with a sense of accomplishment.
The combat is also refreshing, though familiar. What I really liked about it is that Lara doesn’t go in guns blazing, and that killing armed henchmen is a bit more subdued than what we’re used to seeing in video games. The game doesn’t keep throwing more and more enemies at you, and that seems to place more emphasis on the exploration and discovery that the game wants you to do.
The extra goodies
The 20th Celebration Edition brings with it a bunch of added extras, and it really adds value to an already excellent package. Clearing Rise of the Tomb Raider’s main campaign will take you about 15 odd hours if you ignore everything else, which is hard to do, so you’re aiming at 20-25 hours if you’re easily distracted, and probably another 10 hours just to get all the extra challenge tombs, relics and side quests that’s scattered across the map, and that doesn’t include the added content that wasn’t in the original release.
One thing that really struck me was how well the one added mission was integrated into the main campaign. I didn’t even realise I was busy playing it until I was about half way through it. The added story mission is called Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch, which revolves around an old Russian myth and folk tale. The mission sees Lara helping out a local in her efforts to find her grandfather who in return went looking for his wife who disappeared in what is referred to as ‘The wicked vale’.
The mission takes a little over an hour, but it is really worth going after it. It has some of the best moments in the game, with some clever puzzles and a very memorable boss battle.
The other two extras on offer takes place in Lara’s mansion called the Croft Manor. The one is a survival mode against a horde of the undead called Lara’s Nightmare. It falls under Expeditions, which means you can activate cards to make it as easy or as hard for yourself as you like. You make your way through the Manor, killing the undead that come at you from all angles, looking for three big floating sculls that you have to destroy in order to summon the final boss. Somewhere in the Monor there is a master key, which is vital for your survival, as it allows you to progress to other parts of the manor, as well as find and use more powerful weapons that’s available throughout the map. The experience is quite nerve wracking though, with ammo being scarce, and you feel quite underpowered at times. It is honestly not my favourite part of the game, but it is still fun, in a weird twisted kind of way, and it adds a lot of value for people looking to better their scores and beat their friends.
The best part of 20 Year Celebration’s added content however, is the story mission, Blood Ties. It also takes place in Croft Manor, but this time Lara has to solve a mystery in order to keep the title deeds of the estate. It is nothing like the rest of Rise of the Tomb Raider. There are no guns, or ziplines or mountain climbing, but that is not a bad thing. It’s essentially a walking simulator, with a bunch of clever puzzles and clues strewn throughout the map. It is very slow-paced, and it provides a lot of backstory on Lara, her parents, and even her butler Winston. There’s also a few nods and easter eggs to the history of the series, which gives the whole mission a nice touch. Blood Ties won’t take you more than 90 minutes or so to complete, depending on your puzzle solving skills, but it is so worth it to give it a bash once you are finished with the main story.
Here’s hoping for another 20 years
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration Edition is an incredibly good package, that adds a lot of value to what is already an exceptional game. It is honestly one of the best games I’ve played this year, full of endearing characters, great moments, both big and small and even some of the best layered villains. The combat is fun and engaging, the exploration is on point and story, especially the Blood Ties expansion, is exceptionally told.
It is the best action adventure game I played this year, which really says a lot, and I cannot praise this game enough!