Journalists

October 29, 2016

The Comics Console: Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration

rottr_3d_boxshot_osleeveRise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
ESRB: Mature

Tomb Raider has seen many iterations.  Starting with the outstanding video games, to comics, movies and novelizations Lara Croft has traversed most entertainment media in her 20 years.  However, while Lara Croft the character has grown to iconic status in media the games, in which she had originated, had been in decline.  Tomb Raider (2013) changed that.  

With Lara’s reintroduction to the world in 2013 Crystal Dynamics took the iconic character back to her roots and gave a new generation of players a chance to experience her beginnings.  To experience with her the struggles and situations that forged the Tomb Raider that we knew.  Three years later, Rise of the Tomb Raider continues that story.  Lara is now a somewhat hardened explorer,  growing closer to the Lara Croft of the past in her single minded persistent mission to uncover the secrets of the past and continue her father’s work.  

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Lara has come a long way since Yamatai.

After the conclusion of Tomb Raider, Lara is struggling with some new realizations in her life.  Her supernatural encounters on Yamatai have opened her eyes and causes her to revisit her father’s life’s work.  Work that destroyed her father’s reputation, her parents marriage and ultimately took her father’s life. With a fierce determination to prove the validity of her father’s work she sets out on a quest to find the lost city of Kitezh and what he believed to be the divine source of immortality.  From the desert tombs of Syria to the snow capped mountains of Syberia, Lara races against the secret society known as Trinity to find The Source and along the way meets new allies, unearths new treasures and secrets and discovers the true story behind the disappearance of Kitezh, Trinity’s ambitions and it’s connection to her fathers death.

It has taken a bit of time to complete Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration as Crystal Dynamics has done a tremendous job loading it with content for players.  

For those who have played the 2013 reboot, Rise’s Croft Manor mode continues that story and acts as an epilogue for Tomb Raider.  It’s an exploration piece with storytelling elements that give a back story on Lara, her father and mother and the Croft Legacy.  As you walk the halls of the Manor looking for the means to reinforce your claim on it the sense of isolation and dread can tend to creep in.  Even knowing that the house is supposed to be empty didn’t help when traversing dark corridors or expecting something to jump out at me as I explored the bowels of the mansion.

For the early adopters of Playstation VR, Croft Manor offers an even more immersive experience and is completely playable with the VR headset.  This adds a whole new dynamic to the Croft Manor mode.  Anyone who’s played the original Tomb Raider games will remember exploring the mansion as a bit of a tutorial or as a set piece for a major battle in Tomb Raider Underworld but VR is the first time that you’ve seen the manor through Lara’s eyes. The music and lighting in this mode does an incredible job of building tension and atmosphere and I was compelled to flash my light in every corner and constantly look over my shoulder.  I would suggest also playing this mode with headphones.  A caveat though is that movement in this mode can cause a few issues with people who suffer from motion sickness.  While I didn’t suffer any issues personally I’ve heard from other sources that using the controller to walk freely versus the default teleporting movement has been known to induce sickness.  

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Lara’s nightmares come to life!

Speaking of Croft Manor’s sense of isolation and dread leading to a rather creepy atmosphere, Lara’s Nightmare turns that esthetic up to 11 as players are locked into the mansion in a survival-horror style endurance mode filled with nightmarish creatures seeking to end Lara’s life as she desperately searches for a way to escape.  This mode steeps the Manor in near complete darkness where only Lara’s flashlight and the literal whites of the creatures eyes cast the only light and the constant screams and rumblings of the creatures assaults the player and keeps your heart beating out of your chest.

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Bears provide valuable resources…but you’re gonna have to earn them.

Cold Darkness sees Lara enter an old Russian Military installation in an effort to stop an experimental virus from escaping the facility and infecting the valley below and eventually the world. The primary enemies in this mode are similar to the ones in Lara’s Nightmare except that they react violently to sounds and can be fairly easily avoided like the zombies in the original Resident Evil.  This mode goes a bit deeper as in order to complete puzzles in much the same vein of 2015’s Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes where you’re given a set of situational instructions by another character and your life depends on how well you can follow these instructions all while the infected are breathing down your neck.

Lastly and probably the most extensive alternative game mode in Rise of The Tomb Raider is Endurance Mode.  Lara is stuck in the frozen Siberianwilderness looking for relics and treasuresall the while battling  random, animals and the environment on a procedurally generated map.  With every playthrough offering a unique experience, playing Endurance Mode solo will easily give you hours upon hours of tomb raiding pleasure.  Players of the PS4 versions get the added benefit of the ability to play with a friend right out of the box.  I’ll say that cooperative play makes Endurance Mode infinitely more fun to play while not taking away from the challenge.  Bring someone you trust and you can survive far longer than you could solo.  I’ve been able to go with friends for as long as 17 days (in game).

The scale of the optional tombs has certainly increased!

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is an amazing achievement and worth the near year long wait for Playstation players.  I can’t say that Rise is a huge graphical leap from Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, however Crystal Dynamics has placed a strong focus on what worked with that game and listened to fans about what didn’t work.  Most notably, fan criticism of the hunting and looting system becoming irrelevant to the game has seen the most attention.  Hunting has taken on a whole life of its own becoming more important to side missions, crafting and of course having a whole mode dedicated to it in Endurance Mode.  Also addressed is the small scale of the actual tombs in the 2013 game.  While tombs are still optional and not exactly a part of story progression the rewards are much more significant and the puzzles a little smarter requiring more of the player to finish.  That last part is open to interpretation as I’ve spoken to players who’ve expressed opinions that they’re either much harder or too easy. Whether you enjoy the puzzles or not, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s main story is a worthy addition and really helps to gel the old and new Lara’s together for new and old fans

 

Eric Snell
esnell@comicattack.net

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