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October 10, 2016

The Comics Console NYCC 2016 Edition: Crystal Dynamics Talks Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration

Crystal Dynamics Chris Johnston talks with ComicAttack.net about the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration 

In 1996 the original Tomb Raider burst onto the scene and into the living rooms of many Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn owners.  Lara Croft, the athletic English archaeologist, adventurer became a household name and even in some opinions supplanted Crash Bandicoot, Sony Entertainment’s mascot at the time.  While the Sega Saturn went the way of the dodo Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise had a stable and sure home on the Playstation.  

In the 20 years since her debut Lara Croft has undergone some extraordinary and sometimes controversial changes both in look and tone.  Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix has explored her history, the history of her family, had her chase echoes of her father’s research and take on evil corporations bent on turning the secrets of the past into profit or devastation for the future.  While fans have not always been pleased with Lara’s adventures not even the rise of Naughty Dog’s archeologist (sort of) adventurer-thief,  Nathan Drake could shake her from the hearts of the millions of Tomb Raider fans and with 2013’s reboot Tomb Raider the fans drew a collective breath and shouted LARA CROFT IS BACK!

2016 marks the celebration of 20 years of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and with it a new tale.  We sit down with Crystal Dynamics Brand Manager Chris Johnston at Square-Enix’s Pre-New York Comic Con event and get the scoop on Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration.

ComicAttack:

I know that in Tomb Raiders history it’s had some ups and downs. I’ve personally been playing on Playstation since the original Tomb Raider.  The reboot in 2013 did incredibly well so my first question is this.  I know that Microsoft Xbox players got an early exclusive with Rise of the Tomb Raider but we Playstation players will be getting the 20th Anniversary Edition to start.  What will we Playstation players be getting that Microsoft players didn’t get?

Chris:

square-enix-tomb-raider-interview-2Well this is the most comprehensive version of the game available so everything will be available on day one on one disc.  Xbox and PC players will still be able to upgrade to the 20 year celebration pack online but the 20 year celebration edition for PS4 includes all the content ever released for Rise of the Tomb Raider such as co-op Endurance mode support, the new Blood Ties mode, which is a new story in Lara’s manor as well as a new zombie combat experience.  It’s got new outfits and everything including the kitchen sink that you could imagine so it’s really exciting for us.

CA:

The biggest thing that i’d seen recently is the new Blood Ties and Zombie Mode.  Could you tell me more about that?

Chris:

In the Blood Ties storyline, Laras uncle has claimed the rights to Croft Manor.  Lara is obviously upset by this because this represents her childhood home, her legacy, her fortune, her everything so she’ll need to go through the manor and confront secrets from her past head on in order to find proof that she’s the rightful heir to Croft Manor.

CA:

How do the zombies fit into that or is that separate?

Chris:

It’s a separate experience and we wanted to make sure that players had both pieces of the pie so in Blood Ties, it’s very much exploration and adventure based whereas when you play the zombie mode is more action more combat.  It’s kind of Laras been through a lot of traumatic events throughout her adventure as well as everything her uncle is imposing on her so it’s kind of her nightmare manifested.

CA:

What’s the inspiration for Endurance Mode?  Tomb Raider 2013 had a competitive multiplayer mode when it released.  Tell us the difference between that and this new cooperative experience.

Chris:square-enix-tomb-raider-interview-4

This is really exciting for us because we already put everything through that survival lens with Tomb Raider with the crafting and resource gathering so the team had been looking to expand upon that content and came up with the Endurance Mode.  It’s a procedurally generated world so that every time you turn it on it’s a completely different experience.  So we built that into Rise of The Tomb Raider’s initial release and we thought how could we make it better?  Add co-op support!  I love myself some co-op and this is the very first time that you’ll be able to go tomb raiding with friends so it’s really exciting because you’ll have to work together to survive.

CA:

So how much is going into that?  Is it just survival where you’re gathering and crafting with friends or will there be tombs and puzzles to help each other though?

Chris:

Yeah! There are new crypts and also Lara will have to find food to survive, she’ll have to hunt, to find heat. Everything acts in the world in a very believable way.  You’ll have to survive in the very hostile Siberian wilderness so, for example, if Lara jumps into the water she’s gonna get cold faster, if she gets stays cold for too long then she’ll die. You’ll have to manage her and your resources with a friend so it’s really exciting.

CA:

You’ve said that the environments are procedurally generated and while I’ve only seen footage of the snow covered forest area would I turn on the game one day and find a super-hot summer environment waiting for me?

Chris:

So essentially there are weather patterns so if you were to start the game off and walk in a single direction, every single time [the weather] would be different.

CA:

Let’s talk more about the single player game.  So in Tomb Raider, Lara seems very green about the whole “tomb raiding thing”.  She’s not really the explorer that we know and love yet but you get to see her grow as a person while dealing with desperate situations.  Now that she’s had time to process that and and become a new person tell us how that experience has molded her into THE Tomb Raider?

Chris:

In Tomb Raider 2013 we see Lara thrown into a very desperate situation and she overcomes tremendous odds in order to survive right? So now she’s going on her very first planned tomb raiding expedition. This is her plan and she knows what she’s after.  She’s glimpsed a deeper secret world in the first game and now she’s actively seeking out more of that world which leads her to places like Siberia and the Syrian desert in search of the secret to immortality.

CA:

Do more of the characters from the first game come back? I noticed that Jonah makes an appearance in the opening sequence of the game but I’m referring to people like her butler from the older games.

Chris:

It’s funny that you mention that and we definitely have Jonah back in Rise of The Tomb Raider but the Blood Ties storyline allows us to delve into the different areas of the franchise lore.  So while we still focus on the modern timeline and the current story we actually do mention Winston in the modern timeline now that we bring the manor in there.  There are a lot of exciting things that we are able to do now that we’re introducing this classic location from the older games into this modern timeline.

CA:

Let’s talk about the VR experience.  What changes between the original TV experience versus strapping on the goggles and having that first person perspective of the adventure?

Chris:

You’ll notice that immediately the first person in VR is a bit similar to the 3rd person in terms of the environment, what things you pick up what things you find and generally how you’ll interact with it.  People that get a chance to play in VR and myself personally feel that it’s just another way to play through an already immersive world.  In VR though, when you’re inside the manor it feels like you are INSIDE the manor because of the sense of scale, the way that everything looks.  It’s just a separate way to experience it.

CA:  square-enix-tomb-raider-interview-3

So does that mean that VR support will only be for specific modes?

Chris:

Yes, VR support is only for the Blood Ties mode.  You can also use the headset to project into Theater Mode but in terms of the first person perspective it’s only going to be for Blood Ties.

 

tr20_logo_clean_jpg_jpgcopyCA:

And Blood Ties is it’s own mode.  It doesn’t take place in the main story?

Chris:

It takes place in the storyline, at the very end of Tomb Raider 2013 and as you play you’ll see how it melds into Rise of The Tomb Raider as well.

CA:

Ok, last question.  Being a reboot and getting to see a different Lara from the one that I grew up with how much of the original Lara’s personality are you incorporating into the new Lara?

Chris:

Well, I think that as you deal with the modern timeline our key pillars haven’t really changed.  It’s still about puzzle solving, exploration and combat but now we’re just doing it through a modern lens.  We’re making it relatable to today regarding the character and we’re still using a lot of fact based fiction.  So if you look at the core tenants of what the franchise used to be we’re still using that in the modern timeline except the way that we express them is just different.

Thank you so much for your time.  We’re going to try out some of these new modes and strap on that VR headset!
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration releases October 11, 2016 on PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC.

Eric Snell
esnell@comicattack.net

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