Yeah, it’s been 4 years since it was released and about 3 since I bought it, I know. So what? I have about 800 games in my Steam library and I’ve barely played 200 of them. Anyway, lets see, with a slight delay, if the “new” reboot of Tomb Raider can live up to its mediocre legacy.
…Well, if you compare it to the old ones, it’s certainly better, a lot less tedious for sure, so… Yeah. Keep in mind, I’m not outright saying Tomb Raider is good though.
We’re back to an earlier era, back when Lara’s boobs were still round and developing, not triangle and doubling as a compass on occasion. No sir, back then Lara was but a simple, naive girl, save for an unreasonably acrobatic body, ridiculous stamina and the ability to walk off any kind of injury and/or lethal “penetration” with a good night’s sleep.
Lara has convinced her professor to fund an expedition, to a place she believes holds the ancient civilization of Yamatai and its legendary ruler, the Sun Queen. With her is Roth, the tough supplamentary fatherly figure for when her real fatherly figure is jacking off in the Underworld (oops, spoilers), the black chick, who is a black chick but also a working mother, the superstitious kind-hearted red-shirt who obviously didn’t skip any workouts, the Japanese damsel in distress for whom you have to wonder who the f@ck decided she was an appropriate addition to the team, the one-dimensional douchebug who is the professor and… Eeeeh… Look, I’m sure there were a few more, but really, you barely see anyone besides lara climbing ~or dropping from~mountains, so they’re about as important to the plot as France was in both World Wars.
Really, besides Lara and the Japanese chick, noone else really stays in your mind. Mathias, the villain, is pretty much an interchangable human bandit (sorry, Salari) goon and in the end just dies like a b!tch. Whereas the older Tomb Raider-s were about the adventure and the ancient mysteries of the world, here the mysteries are just a setting for Lara’s character development arc, from frightened self-regenerating Rambo to brave self-regenerating Rambo.
Yeah, as you might have guessed, the game’s idea of character development is making sure Lara is lethally wounded enough times for the player to wonder how the f@ck she’s still alive. I’m not talking about player-controlled combat, where it’s unavoidable. During the main story Lara is impaled a total of three times, THROUGH AND THROUGH, in the guts, shoulder and stomach, from which she is healed with a good night’s sleep. Said good night’s sleep can also repair broken bones, burnt flesh and the impact of dead fatherly figures, apparently since Lara ends the game with just a bit of dirt on her otherwise perfectly brushed hair.
Enough whining about Lara’s God-Mode though. Main problem: The spirit of the Sun Queen still lingers on the island, causing storms that prevent anyone from leaving but constantly bringing in ships of the surrounding area. She wants to use the token damsel in distress to resurrect to a new body and then… Something. A group of human bandits called Salari serve her and along with them are the terrifying oni, who are hyped the entire game and in the end are revealed to be dudes with katanas. One could question how dudes with katanas are considered ~emphasis on “considered”~ more of a threat than dudes with machine guns and molotovs, but I digress.
The ending of Tomb Raider is UNBELIEVABLY anti-climatic. Lara stops the ritual of Himiko’s soul being transferred to the token damsel in distress and wipes an entire army of oni with relative ease (hell, at one point she even taunts them), also wipes the Salari while she’s at it and finally gets 15/15 of all the GPS locations of the mountain village. Sorry, I cannot let this go. This Lara is more overpowered than all of her grown-up versions together. Not that the samurai guys that disgrace the name of “oni” were much of a threat, but come the f@ck on, she might as well rename the place Croft island. It’s not like anyone will complain about the name, noone’s left after she’s slaughtered an entire cult and an ancient army single-handedly with her “frail and scared relatable humanity”.
Himiko doesn’t have much of a personality either. Hell, she had clearly downloaded more than 50% of her being on the host server of the damsel in distress, how come there was NO possession scene? Seriously, the main villain NEVER TALKS. We don’t know if she’s sassy, manipulative or a bit of a sl@t, she might as well be a rodeo clown and we still wouldn’t know. And for that matter, how come she doesn’t haunt Lara and the other survivors? She is clearly affect the Salari and the nothesearenotoni, so why not splice up the story a bit with the mesmerizing whispers of the evil queen?
NO, WAIT. I almost forgot the elephant in the room. Lara is THE WORST ACHEOLOGIST IN HISTORY. I remember people laughing at how she would break pots in the tombs she explored in the previous games. You poor, naive fools. Pots? You were whining about f@cking pots? Here, the world’s best archeologist THOROUGHLY DESTROYS the entire Yamatai colony. Every single chapter ends with some sort of gigantic explosion, laying waste to all the priceless artifacts and ruins while also doing their mom. Tthe worst part is that MANY of them are created by Lara herself. “Tomb Raider”? More like “Tomb Demolition Manager”.
As the ship crashes, and Lara somehow ends up in a mountain, she must escape the trap set to her by the vile Salari. So you find yourself hanging upside down, moving frantically back and forth so that the rope you’re on can catch fire and so you can impale yourself with a rusty piece or iron that should normally kill a person with tetanus alone, stabbed guts non-counting. Lara eventually makes her way out after setting the entire place on fire and collapsing, making camp in a nearby waterfall. After she wakes up she realises she’s too weak (or at least she says so, she looked fine to me), and she needs to find food fast. “Aha!” you might say, “survival elements!”. Yeaaaah, I can imagine them presenting the game like that on E3 or something, but I’m afraid that’s bullsh!t. After “penetrating” Bambi’s mom, the game never forces us to look for food again. In fact, there is no such thing as hunger meter, the animals are just there as extras to collect more salvage.
Now, I am going to give credit where it’s due. Tomb Raider is one of the first games where the bow isn’t considered better than a good ol’ fashioned gun. I know, because I tried to put my Crysis suit on and go head-to-head with the Salari, who went to remind me why bows have been abandoned for a few centuries now in favor of big mean machine guns. Lets be honest, the combat IS satisfying after you get the rhythm down, especially after you upgrade your machine gun. Not that it can’t get annoying though. Since I was playing on a PC version there was no aim-assist, so the game was practically slapping me when I decided to play it with an xbox controller on the hardest difficulty (for which there was no achievement btw, wtf did I bust my @ss for?!).
It might be because of my chosen difficulty, but the Salari could take waaaayyyy too much damage before dying. Before you get the survival upgrades that give you bullets for every time you fart in the game, bullets are scarce at best, meaning you’ll have to carefully calculate how many bullets you use in each scenario. When the enemy unexpectedly takes three bullets to the heart like a champ though, all calculations are off, and you suddenly have to fend against two f@ckers flanking you, while a third pins you down with arrows and a fourth throws molotovs behind your cover. It is easy to get overrun by numbers in Tomb Raider, hence why combat is good fashioned 50% of the game.
The other 50% IS of course platforming, which, to my surprise, didn’t make me want to punch any developers in the face and almost raised the question “Why do I hate platforming in other games?” at some point, before I remembered, “Oh yeah, they don’t have the divine hands of Crystal Dynamic auto-correcting my course everytime I make a stupid jump.” Especially in the big cinematic moments when Lara is making impossible jumps you’ll certainly feel that way, as if the game is patting you in the back with a friendly, loving hand, before pushing you into a Salari-infested deathtrap with the other.
Thing is, I’m all for this sort of platforming. Full of explosions, usually caused by Lara herself so she has noone else to blame when she inevitably misses the quick-time event, with collapsing platforms, dramatic music, and the occasional GPS marker hanging from the edge of the mountain. Tomb Raider almost seemed to follow recent Ubisoft games in that regard, with the maps being full of collectibles, encouraging you to replay them after you’ve gotten a few survival upgrades and the appropriate gear to climb a rock while also filing your taxes. And among the other hundred collectibles, there are also hidden downladed tombs, for what Tomb Raider can’t have tombs?
Any Tomb Raider with self-respect apparently. When you hear the word “tomb” in the real world, you usually imagine a little rock, standing alongside about 100 more rocks in an easily accessible location in a relatively small space. In the magical crack-inhaled reality of video games however, “tomb” usually means catacombs reaching hundreds of miles below ground. Surprisingly, Tomb Raider reboot of the remaster seems to take more inspiration from real life tombs than it does from video game ones, so for the most part the “tombs” are one straight line with a small unimaginitive puzzle blocking the way. And emphasis on unimaginitive, for most of these puzzles could be solved by second graders, as they are basically repeating the things you had to do in the previous main story chapter.
It is also obvious that these tombs were extra additions by the developers rather than an intergrated part of the main game. The tombs are specifically designed so that Lara can’t move forward unless she solves said puzzle, something the main story is surprisingly devoid of with its much more logical open-ended approach. In the main story, you’ll need to use a rope arrow because between you and your target are a few hundred feet of free-falling doom. In the tombs, the only thing between you and your target is a small rocky fence that the developers decided you just couldn’t jump over for some irritating reason.
Boy, the game is picturesque. Every 2 minutes my hand would move on its own to the F12 button, like yours to your trousers after Megan Fox passes by. The action of the game is incredibly cinematic as you can probably tell from the screenshots, with glorious explosions erasing hundreds of years of history in a big beautiful mushroom cloud, as Lara jumps away from the danger and into more danger.
The game is also surprisingly light, with my laptop easily running it at full graphics minus the shadows. Granted, I did face a few frame drops at some locations, surprisingly not the ones teeming with enemies or things that go boom, but rather the small spaces, like caverns and chasms.
As for the other half of the experience, the sound was generally passable, with Lara’s taunting voice being slightly annoying and her rugged breathing a constant addition to the first half of the game. The music was at relaitvely unnoticable levels, which is always a good sign.
The only problem with the UI that I had were the timings of the quick-time events. That was primarily my fault, for playing with a controller on the pc (it is way faster to click the left mouse button 5 times than it is to press “A”, so PC versions of console games tend to require a much higher number of presses to consider the event successful). That, accompanied with the lack of aim-assist for the controllers, made the game way harder than it had to be, but I digress. It’s water under the bridge, and it wasn’t like those problems were deal-breakers.
In the end, is Lara’s reboot of the remaster worth playing? The answer is yes, but there are quite a few problems with it. My advice is to play it on the lowest difficulty instead of the hardest, as you don’t get any achievements anyway, and to also skip the later tomb optional missions, as they add nothing to the experience and only waste your time. Oh, and upgrade the machine gun first.
GameHorizon gives its approval.
Tomb Raider - 2013
- amazingly screenshotable
- hard combat
- good backtracking
- Lara's character
- low system requirements
- the machine guns
- everyone else's character
- the oni were a disappointment
- just passable plot
- small environments
- Lara's self-healing spits on realism
- really anticlimatic ending
- forgettable villains
- physics only work when devs want them to
- few and forgettable unlockables
- not much to do besides main story