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Rise Of The Tomb Raider: Blood Ties Review

by Mike Guarino
Rise of the Tomb Raider Croft Manor Review

Crystal Dynamics has been doing a great job of supporting Rise of the Tomb Raider with additional content, and doing it without tacking on a needless multiplayer deathmatch mode. Instead, they have crafted a more arcade-like experience through Expeditions, offering variations on the game’s core gameplay while also delivering some story DLC. They’ve been doing this for nearly a year now, but they have definitely been saving the best for last with the Blood Ties season pass update.

The Blood Ties season pass update offers the best of both worlds when it comes to DLC, as it packs both a new story with the Blood Ties mission and a new Expeditions mode with Lara’s Nightmare. These two pieces of content are notable as they each offer wildly different types of gameplay, despite taking place in the same location. The Blood Ties mission is entirely story-focused as Lara explores Croft Manor and its secrets while learning more about her family, whereas Lara’s Nightmare is entirely combat-focused as she has to fend off the living dead.

The Blood Ties mission is definitely the most nostalgic story that Crystal Dynamics has delivered yet, as it deals a lot with Lara’s memories of growing up in Croft Manor. When her father died he seemingly left no will, which results in her Uncle informing her that her claim to the Manor has been contested. However, Lara is convinced that her father wouldn’t have allowed this to happen, which leads her to search every nook and cranny of the Manor for something that will prove that she is the rightful heir to it.

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The Manor is designed beautifully, with the attention to detail and jaw-dropping architecture consistently impressing. There are many rooms and floors that are waiting to be explored, though it is laid out in a way that requires you to find certain items in order to experience all of it. Many doors are locked at the beginning, which leads you on a hunt to find the master key to open up the Manor even further. There are other items that are similarly required to overcome certain obstacles, and finding them all is very rewarding. Most interesting of all, this particular DLC is completely combat-free.

However, the DLC foregoing combat is actually one of the things that makes this content stand out as much as it does. This story takes Lara on an even more personal journey than the main game does, as she discovers journals of her mother, father and others close to the family. This fleshes out both Lara’s family and Lara herself significantly, as plot points that were only lightly touched upon in the main game actually reach their emotional climax here. It’s a very moving narrative, and one that would have been diminished had it been interrupted with shoehorned combat. The only downside is that this mission is pretty short, with it only taking about an hour to complete.

Those who are looking for a combat fix need not worry, though, as Crystal Dynamics hooks everyone up with the Lara’s Nightmare Expeditions mode. This new mode features a similar premise to the Blood Ties mission, only this time Lara’s Uncle ends up being a demonic entity that sends zombies to kill Lara in the Manor. If it had just been a straight-up zombie-killing mode it would be forgettable, but it thankfully retains some of the puzzle and exploration elements found in the Blood Ties mission.

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How it works is there are three floating skulls that are scattered throughout the manor, and Lara must find and destroy them to then summon the final giant floating skull to initiate the final battle. However, some of these skulls will be hidden within rooms that are locked, requiring Lara to hunt down the master key that will appear in different locations with each session. Weapons themselves are also scattered around the Manor’s many rooms, which are essential to track down as you start out with nothing more than a pistol.

What’s most surprising about this mode is how much it sells the Manor as a combat ground despite completely lacking combat in the Blood Ties mission. Zombies can appear just about anywhere and can kill you very quickly, and the game’s narrow hallways and dead end rooms can lead to several tense situations where you’re just trying to go back the way you came in one piece. The aforementioned master key’s randomized location adds some tension to the gameplay, as getting to each of the potential areas it can be in will almost always result in you having to fend off a hoard of zombies in the process. The randomized weapon locations are also a nice touch, as this forces you to make the best of whatever weapon you happen to stumble upon and results in each session being pretty unique.

Rounding out the rest of the Blood Ties season pass update is the addition of co-op to Endurance mode, as well as an Ultimate Survivor difficulty. There’s also a new Tomb Raider 3-inspired outfit and weapon, along with 5 new classic Lara skins. These are all nice to have, but ultimately are just sideshows compared to the Croft Manor content.

The Verdict

Rise of the Tomb Raider has had no shortage of enjoyable DLC up to this point, but the Blood Ties season pass update is the bow on top that sends it all out with a bang. Featuring solid new modes with various types of gameplay, it’s a fitting end to what has been a great ride from Crystal Dynamics.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider: Blood Ties

  • Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Square Enix
  • Developed By: Crystal Dynamics
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • US Release Date: October 11th, 2016
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Rise of the Tomb Raider has had no shortage of enjoyable DLC up to this point, but the Blood Ties season pass update is the bow on top that sends it all out with a bang. Featuring solid new modes with various types of gameplay, it's a fitting end to what has been a great ride from Crystal Dynamics."
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