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Rise Of The Tomb Raider Review

by Dean James

Lara Croft has been through many journeys since her debut on the PS1, with the series getting a fantastic reboot back in 2013 with Tomb Raider. Seeing her as truly humanized for the first time, players were able to connect on a much deeper level than before. No longer the inexperienced explorer, Lara’s grandest adventure yet is here with Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Following a string of disappointments, the Tomb Raider reboot brought new life to a nearly forgotten franchise, largely due to the grounded story that provided a more realistic look at Lara Croft. Story was on the forefront there and that is once again the case in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

The story picks up sometime not too long after the events of the first game and serves as a worthy continuation of that, while also weaving in Lara’s past and the relationship with her father. The story on its surface may seem rather simple, with Lara and the rival Trinity group searching for the divine source of immortality, but there are many more twists and turns along the way in this excellently crafted story.

Lara is obviously the lead character that remains front and center throughout, but Rise of the Tomb Raider also features a solid supporting cast as well. She has interactions with a lot of different characters in the game, with Jacob and Ana being standouts. The villains’ motivations are also very reasonable, while still managing to play a brutal antagonist role very well.

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Between Lara and the supporting cast, the voice acting found in Rise of the Tomb Raider is phenomenal. Camilla Luddington continues to be the perfect Lara Croft by mixing confidence with vulnerability, while still being able to come across as a total badass.

This performance is even further enhanced by the new motion capture technology that truly brings Lara Croft to life, which is a real joy to experience throughout this game. Not only are the facial movements just about as realistic as they get, but the visuals in the game are downright amazing. This is not only the case with the character animations, but also the various environments and landscapes found in Rise of the Tomb Raider.  Rise of the Tomb Raider can be breathtaking at times.

The story of this adventure works to the game’s advantage, with a very natural progression between many of the gorgeous locations in the game. Throughout which, players will travel between different destinations, from a Siberian blizzard to forest and ruin settings. These areas are distinct from one another, which makes Rise of the Tomb Raider feel even more expansive than it is.

Each one of these areas in the game features more collectibles and side missions than ever before, which make exploration even more important in this game. Optional tombs are a big part of this, as each major area in the game has a number of them to uncover. These are hidden very well in some areas, often needing a special item or some real thinking to get inside. The main story itself was kind of lacking in the actual tomb raiding department, but luckily the appearance of them here in the optional missions makes up for that.  Rise of the Tomb Raider has many more tombs to explore and puzzles to solve than the previous game even if they are optional to the main path.

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Crystal Dynamics didn’t just add more tombs and call it day.  New systems have been integrated into the game on the progression front as well.  On top of XP earned from familiar readable collectibles, there is a language system built in where you level up your fluency in languages like Russian and Greek.  Doing so allows you to read monoliths and unlock new secrets in the game. This isn’t really utilized as much as it probably could have been, but it still adds a level of credibility to Lara’s latest adventure.  For those that have to collect and see everything, Rise of the Tomb Raider has plenty to uncover.  This includes a lot of backtracking like its predecessor, where you’ll need to head back to previously explored areas, often times to open up new areas with newly acquired equipment and weapons.

The weapon system found in Rise of Tomb Raider reuses what worked very well in its predecessor, but also see some major additions that make it even more useful. The game’s narrative is structured to where base weapons are acquired at certain points, such as obtaining the pistol or shotgun, with alternate variations of these weapons available through finding parts within strong boxes, or completing a challenge missions for special items that you won’t find anywhere else.  These weapons are very well balanced, as there are both positive and negative reasons for using the them.  They all cater to different play styles.  Some may have increased damage, while others are better with accuracy and ammo capacity. It’s up to you to find the right one that best suits your preference.

While there are some enemies that will almost require the use of certain weapons to defeat, Rise of the Tomb Raider largely lets you decide how you want to play. If you want to play most of the game utilizing the bow, you are more than welcome to do so. Many confrontations in Rise of the Tomb defer to the player to decide whether they’d like to take a stealth, brazen, or mixed approach. The last hour or so of the game is just about the only part where heavy artillery is almost necessary to stay alive, but otherwise this is handled incredibly well.

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The well-designed upgrade system is also still in place for Rise of the Tomb Raider, but is even more involved here with plenty of not only unique, but useful new abilities that can really help in combat. There are even more abilities that can be unlocked via the game’s optional tombs, which add even more layers to the game’s robust combat system.

Gameplay feels even more dynamic and lively than ever before

This time around, rather than just finding supplies of arrows and items like molotov cocktails, you can craft these items and more on the go by finding crafting materials.  This is almost similar to what was seen in The Last of Us, but it is used at an even higher level here.  This system makes the gameplay feel more dynamic than ever, letting the player decide and craft what they needs for any single encounter. Whether that’s poison arrows to take out a nasty pack of animals or explosive devices for well-armored enemy, Rise of the Tomb Raider feels even more dynamic and lively than ever before in the Tomb Raider series.

Many of the newer additions are not even involved in the combat side, but rather on the exploration and climbing, which of course plays a key part in any Tomb Raider game. The wire spool in particular adds something entirely new to the climbing sections that shake up this part of the gameplay.  These new and old climbing and traversal aspects come together well and are still best in class.  Lara will still be scaling plenty of rock faces, making death defying leaps on this journey made possible only by her trusty climbing axes, which again double as brutal melee battle equipment as well.

Combat, exploration, progression, and impeccable presentation come together incredibly well in Rise of the Tomb Raider.  While its entirely familiar territory for anyone that played the 2013 reboot, the big moments that redefined the series are quickly becoming its calling card.

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Ambitious as it may have been the 2013 reboot tried to take all of these things found in the excellent single player experience and condense them into a competitive multiplayer component, its safe to say that it was somewhat of a disappointment.  Rather than including a multiplayer element in Rise of the Tomb Raider, single player is the main focus, which seemed to work every well here. In its place, the game has included an Expedition mode, which is essentially a challenge mode where you can replay chapters, do score attacks, and compete asynchronously. There are also burnable Expedition Cards that you can use, which can be earned in the game or bought as microtransactions. Microtransactions are never good, but these don’t feel too intruding, as they are far from required here.

The Verdict

Rise of the Tomb Raider had a lot to live up to after a well received reboot, but there is no mountain that Lara Croft cannot climb. The gameplay is more balanced and dynamic than ever, making this mixture of combat, exploration and progression a compelling experience. Behind the depth of Lara’s character and the emotionally charged story, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the series at its very best.

"loved"
loved

Rise of the Tomb Raider

  • Available On: Xbox One
  • Published By: Square Enix, Microsoft Studios
  • Developed By: Crystal Dynamics
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • US Release Date: November 10th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Behind the depth of Lara's character and a compelling and emotionally charged story, the series is at its best in Rise of the Tomb Raider."
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The Good

  • Superb voice acting
  • More balanced gameplay
  • Improved Crafting mechanics
  • Gorgeous visuals and facial animations

The Bad

  • Needing to reaquire some weapons and items
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