Let’s face it, deep inside we all want Tomb Raider to be the best Indiana Jones game. We want a game with adventure, puzzles, action and bucket loads of atmosphere. What if I tell you that Rise of the Tomb Raider is not only one of the best games in the series, it’s one of the best action adventure games that’s ever been created?
Events kick off right after the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara, having discovered Yamatai island, is now obsessed with the supernatural and makes it her mission to uncover all myths around the world. The next objective in sight – discover the truth behind an ancient city named Kitezh. According to her late father there lies an artefact that holds the secret to immortality within those walls. Problem is that she’s not the only one after the artefact. Trinity, an organisation with funds and an army, is also interested in the supernatural, but for all the wrong reasons. Lara will come face-to-face with the evil bastard at the helm early on that ultimately sets her on an adventure like never before.
Lara’s adventure takes place in Siberia where she’s introduced to the elements from the get-go. As before you’ll once again start off with no weapons after an incident where you’re separated from Jonah, your adventuring buddy from the Tomb Raider reboot game (though he’s got a serious head of hair now) in their efforts to discover Kitezh. Your first task is to build a fire to warm up in the blistering cold temperatures as you hear Lara shivering in the blizzard. Once you’ve collected the wood you require you’ll be re-introduced to the Base Camp once more.
All your base are belong to the camp
You’ll spend much of your time at Base Camp as it’ll allow you to perform better in battle and improve your overall adventuring skills in three categories, as before: Brawler (improved hand-to-hand combat and healing abilities), Hunter (hunting and scavenging abilities) and Survivor (crafting and exploration abilities). These skills range from improved looting to taking less damage from gunfire and many more. You’ll also once again be able to Fast Travel between Base Camps and there’s a new Inventory category where you can upgrade equipment and craft special ammunition for your bow, which you’ll find conveniently at your first Base Camp. It’s however the weapons that have seen a complete overhaul.
[pullquote_left]From the very first explorable area you’re so overwhelmed that you don’t quite know where to get started[/pullquote_left]You’ll start off with the bow and later you’ll have a handgun, assault rifle and shotgun added to your list of available weapons, though a sniper is still sadly missing. Pressing up, down, left or right on the D-pad switches between weapons, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for strongboxes as you adventure. Within these boxes you’ll find weapon parts. Collect all four parts and a new weapon will appear at Base Camp for you to switch to and upgrade. Upgrading each weapon will see it improving the damage, accuracy, reload speed, ammo capacity and rate of fire of each weapon, but this time it’s not as simple as collecting basic gear. You’ll have to collect salvage, oil, hides, hardwood, feathers, cloth, technical parts, chromite ore, exotic hides and more to upgrade your weapons and inventory equipment. This requires exploration and that’s where Rise of the Tomb Raider comes into its own.
Collect all the things!
From the very first explorable area you’re so overwhelmed that you don’t quite know where to get started. You’ll find hidden cave entrances (some blocked off to be returned to at a later stage), crypt treasures, hidden relics, documents and survival caches. It’s up to you to find archivist maps and explorer satchels for the hidden items to pop up on your map, but finding these maps and satchels requires time and exploration on your behalf. Discover a monolith and it’ll lead you to hidden coin caches and survival caches, but there’s a trick to that too. Only when Lara discovers and reads enough murals will her Russian and Greek, and other languages later on, improve enough to read the monolith. Collect enough coins to buy new weapons and items at the Supply Shack – a new addition to this series. And this is just the tip of this Siberian iceberg playground.
When you’re not searching for items, to improve your XP and upgrades, you’re on the lookout for challenges. These could range from shooting down drones to removing Russian flags. These challenges are just that – challenging. There’s absolutely nothing to assist you in finding the scattered challenges other than leaving no stone unturned. There are also side missions that’ll have you assisting locals, though the number of side missions aren’t all that high. Though you might think Lara is the star of the show there’s a star that shines much brighter and takes this series back to its roots, and comes with treasures – the Tombs.
Something that was missing from Tomb Raider games (post Tomb Raider: Chronicles) were puzzles that had you scratching your noggin to solve it. The earlier tombs are straight-forward, but get to the last five tombs and you’re going to spend some good time attempting to solve a tomb puzzle. Crack the puzzle and you’re rewarded with a new ability such as using your climbing axe to traverse at a much faster rate or nearby hidden items being highlighted when going into survival mode (by clicking the right analogue stick). It’s a much better setup than the Tomb Raider reboot and has you feeling all clever once completing it, like great games should.
[pullquote_right]The lush environments, telling you a story of its past, takes your imagination to a place it’s never been before[/pullquote_right]Throughout your adventures you’re always on the lookout for bears, wolves and other exotic animals looking for their next meal. Using poison or explosive arrows (when you’re just not in the mood for another super powerful bear) will bring a quick end to any attack. What’s more is that you can now create arrows and special arrow tips on the fly by pressing and holding either RT or RB should you have the required items in your inventory. You can also pick up any bottle or can lying around and convert it into a molotov, smoke bomb or explosive. I found that the human counterparts can be a bit easy to beat on normal mode, though stealth attacking from a bush and from below water is still a very satisfying result. Yes, Lara can swim, though her swimming abilities are still very limited. Something else that did bother me throughout my play time was the lack of sliding down ladders. It might sound like a petty annoyance, but you descend ladders quite often and I found myself completely avoiding a ladder and rather taking my chances with death when making my way to the ground as it’s just so cumbersome and slow.
GASP! A complete game!
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a graphical showpiece. Each and every strand of Lara’s beautiful and realistic hair is gorgeous (and it looks way better than what we saw in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition). The lush environments, telling you a story of its past, takes your imagination to a place it’s never been before. There’s not a stone pebble that feels out of place. Enter a cave and watch the ice crystals come to life as they glitter against the rock. Rabbits, butterflies, birds, chickens, rats and all forms of creatures bring the world to life. The soundtrack complements this. Walk into a tomb and you’ll feel like Indy finding that hidden treasure in The Lost Ark. It plays so well on your ‘feel good’ senses that you just want more and more. The good news is that this adventure will last you roughly 24 hours. At the time of writing my game progress is at 93% complete and that’s 32 hours in, so expect it to last you close to 40 hours to complete it 100%. In my 32 hours of play I did not encounter one glitch or bug. Yes, it’ll take you back to a time launch games were complete games. If there’s a day one patch I’ll be surprised to be quite honest.
So what do you do once you’re done with the campaign? You compete for the highest score on your friends leaderboard, that’s what. There are four modes available in Expeditions: Score Attack, Chapter Replay, Chapter Replay Elite and Remnant Resistance. Of the lot I had to most fun playing Score Attack and Remnant Resistance and it’s here were you’ll get to use Play Cards to enhance your experience. You are given several sets of cards for specific objectives throughout the main campaign but you can also purchase extra cards by using an in-game credits currency. Buy the Bronze Pack of cards and you’ll get common cards. Buy the gold and you’ll unlock rare cards, or you can take your chances with an Advantage, Challenge or Wild pack of random card sets. Think of these cards as mods. For example – get access to unlimited fire arrows, but get minus 25% credits for your efforts. Or use the ‘health reduced’ card, which makes it way more challenging, and receive 50% more credits. It’s definitely fun, but I can’t see it lasting too long after you’ve completed the campaign. Another campaign playthrough on a harder difficulty will result in more enjoyment.
Sequels often fail because of hype and pressure that the original game set as a benchmark. Rise of the Tomb Raider shatters expectations. It’s everything the Tomb Raider reboot was and more. There’s nothing as amazing as a single player experience when done right and Lara Croft did indeed rise to the challenge. The ball is in your court Nathan.