Tomb Raider is one of the longest lived and enduring gaming franchises around but after getting a little stale it was rebooted in 2013. The reboot that covered Lara’s origin story was near universally acclaimed but the news that the first sequel in the rebooted universe Rise of the Tomb Raider would be be an exclusive to the Xbox One for a year was met with disappointment and surprise.
So what is Rise of the Tomb Raider? The game is set a year after Tomb Raider and Lara has become obsessed with finding out and proving that the supernatural exists. She realises that she’s in the same situation her father was in and following his tracks finds herself in Siberia investigating an ancient city which may hold the key to eternal life. Unfortunately she has evil organisation Trinity one step behind her. It’s not the most original of plots but it is well thought out and fits with the Tomb Raider mythos established over the years and with the last game.
The gameplay is a third person perspective action adventure that feels more adventure than action. There are straight combat scenes but there are long puzzles, platforming and storyline mixed in. There’s a strong crafting element for upgrading Lara’s kit, weapons and clothes which requires collecting materials lying around as well as hunting of rare animals, some of which only spawn under specific circumstances.
About that combat – many more options for stealth have been added and it is possible to hide from enemies in trees, bushes and on roofs and only attack silently from them. True stealth fanatic players will not be able to stealth the whole game though – there are several situations where you have to engage in direct combat. Set on a medium level of difficulty I found the combat on fun rather than challenging with Lara’s extra skills and gear adding cumulatively to make her feel near unstoppable by the end of the game. On higher skill levels it provides much more of a challenge that some will be looking for.
The main storyline plot is around half of the total game available and if you play it through directly you’ll have some issues with not getting enough skills on your talent tree and gear upgrades. The side tombs and quests show up regularly and you get pop up notifications when one is nearby. The Tombs tend to be classic Tomb Raider – jumping puzzles rather than combat focused. The game also allows you to go back to earlier areas easily so it’s possible to jump back and forth between side tombs and the main storyline.
Included in the box: Disc copy of the game
About Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics
Rise of the Tomb Raider was developed by Crystal Dynamics and is published by Square Enix. Square Enix is a Japanese developer, publisher and distributor of video games, best known for the Final Fantasy franchise. It is a large and longstanding publisher of many series, including Deus Ex, Thief and Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics is an American game developer based in San Francisco.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The game is aimed at a player who wants a little bit of everything – some combat, some stealth, some puzzles and some exploration and hunting. If you play the game through without the side missions you’ll get through faster but miss out on some of the best things it has to offer as well as the top of the weapon and talent trees – the side content provide bonus skills that make the game a lot more fun to play. The ideal play style takes some of the storyline and then some side missions and alternates them.
Tomb Raider can be played in relatively short bursts but only supports saving at campfires which seem to be spaced around 20 minutes to half an hour apart. If you log out when not at a camp fire you’ll end up back at the last one you interacted with although the collectables and items you discovered will still be available to you. Puzzles reset on logout but do not always do so when dying. If you just play through on the main story line there is around 10 to 12 hours per play through with about the same again if you play every side Tomb and mission.
The tutorial is basic but gets you started and the menu system does offer you full key binding information whenever you need it. Throughout the game there are hints and tips when new weapons and dynamics are introduced and these are all available via the menu system if you want to brush up. A certain level of concentration is needed and the ability to listen to the sound effects is a big plus as they are often an early warning system and make locating enemies and animals easier. The game is not safe for children nor safe to play around them.
Rise of the Tomb Raider requires good reflexes throughout both in combat and for carefully timed jumping, climbing and clambering. There is some repetitive key pressing and twiddling of the control sticks and a couple of points with QTEs that require specific flashed up button presses. These are not too common and if you get them wrong usually only put you back by a small amount when you die letting you get through by repetition and persistence if nothing else. The difficulty level is also changeable in game at any point.
The game is accessible to those with hearing impairments and can be played on mute. You will miss out of one form of early warning but there are always other indicators even if they are less obvious.
Rise does have one Achilles heel – the camera. The perspective is third person from a position that is usually just above and behind Lara but it is manually controlled and seems to lag just slightly when Lara changes direction or moves fast. It’s not a case of the console itself lagging but a deliberate choice and style. While it does make the game more realistic I found myself loosing track of Lara’s opponents in fights and unable to see them again because I was too close to a wall or a drop. Lily had a worse time when playing as it caused her severe motion sickness.
The standard game controls are sensible and shown in the settings but if they don’t work for you this weeks Xbox OS update means that you can remap the controller layout. The easiest difficulty level also includes aim assist.
There is very clear system of breadcrumbing that takes you through the main storyline of the game and its difficult to get yourself lost. Lara will also chime in with occasional hints on the puzzle Tombs if it seems that you haven’t managed to figure it out.
Environment & People
As far as we know, no environmental principles were employed during the creation and distribution process by anyone involved in the project.
There are a number of inherent environmental issues in the game these include hunting for materials by shooting rabbits, deer, squirrels, and rats and harvesting trees to make arrows, and herbs for healing.
Ethically Rise of the Tomb Raider raises several expected questions including violence with some dichotomy in Lara’s attitude toward violence and people who commit violent acts. Some she actively loathes while others she sides with. Violence is shown as an end to a means and whether violence is good or bad is defined by its ultimate goal – she often says “I killed them to survive” as her personal justification.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is currently available £39.99. It is the standard price for a new release of a AAA video game title. There are a number of DLCs available some of which are paid but none of which are required.
Players: Single Player
Language: Default English (interface, subtitles and full audio) with In game text and voice localised to French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Japanese, Traditional and simplified CHinese and Korean. In game text only: Dutch.
PEGI 18, ESRB mature rating
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360 (Windows version expected early 2016. PS4 version expected late 2016.)
An Xbox One. Xbox Gold membership and internet connection are not required – there is no multiplayer.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was released with two problems – it’s a title made exclusive when the series was not previously exclusive and it was launched on same day as another huge title – Fallout 4. Crystal Dynamics have also made some interesting choices with the camera angle that will put off some although it could be argue that it makes it more realistic. Rise seems to have paid for these factors with relatively low sales but they’re shame because behind them is a great game. Rise of the Tomb Raider manages to give a little something for everyone with fun combat, stealth missions, puzzles and lots of running and jumping.
If you play through the main storyline you’ll have a fun romp but if you put the time in to cover the side Tombs and quests a fun game turns into a great one. If you’ve any love for the Tomb Raider franchise or just wish that the Xbox One had its own Uncharted this is the game for you. Recommended.
Product: Rise of the Tomb Raider | Developer: Crystal Dynamics | Publisher: Square Enix | Platform: Xbox One | Genre: Action-Adventure | Language: English | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | Release Date: 13 November 2015 |Content Rating: PEGI 18, ESRB (mature)
The review is based on the Xbox One version of the game kindly provided by Microsoft. This post contains affiliate links. First published on 17 November 2015.