Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider by Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics. Our beautiful heroine Lara Croft is back and better than ever, and the game has a different focus from the first game in the reboot, with more of a focus on solving puzzles instead of firefights. The multiplayer component has also been changed drastically from the 2013 game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, the replay value for Rise of the Tomb Raider is very high.
Let’s get started with what stands out from the moment the campaign starts — graphics. The graphics in Rise of the Tomb Raider are beautiful. The colors and hues perfectly reflect the situation, mood, or environment that Lara is in. It sometimes seems like the developers recycled caves from one area to the next and simply added a few more twist or turns, but without elaborating too much on the story, I want to believe that this is actually to stay consistent with the storyline and the plot. The storyline itself has its gripping moments, but largely stays true to the Tomb Raider formula of Lara chasing after an artifact and bad guys who want to get it before her. It’s the gameplay that keeps the player coming back. The excitement of unlocking weapons or skills and then using it to explore previously un-explorable caves, tombs, or areas is very exciting.
A similar kind of skills tree to the previous game forms the backbone of this one. They are split into brawler, hunter, and survivor skills, which can be customized to suit the player’s individual style. If you’re more of a shoot ’em up kind of person, then the brawler skills such as ‘Thick-skinned’ (which allows Lara to take less damage from gunfire and melee attacks) are for you; if you like to hunt and scavenge for resources while moving stealthily, then the hunter or survivor skills such as “Naturalist” (which increases the amount of resources obtained from harvesting crafting resources) are the way to go.
The save points/camp sites provide a very useful tool to fast travel between previously discovered camp sites. An interesting feature I found was that when I went back to an old camp site, enemies or animals will respawn and are able to be hunted again. This is useful for when the player is low on resources or needs that extra animal hide to craft a new weapon or ammunition accessory.
On top of the skills tree, the level design itself is very accommodating to different play styles. If you want to slowly and carefully climb up a mountain side, you can do that; if you’re a risk-taker and not afraid of dying, you can just leap up the mountain a jump at a time and then just re-grab onto the mountain with the climbing axe again. On occasion, Lara’s foot or body would clip into the side of a mountain if she leaped toward a mountain side not intended for climbing, but that was a minor glitch that didn’t detract too much from the game.
One issue of note that I experienced was the inconsistency of walking over looted corpses. Typically, after the player kills an animal or an enemy, the player can then walk up to the corpses or carcass and loot it for materials. After looting, Lara can typically walk over the corpses or carcasses, but there would be angles where she would get caught and just stand still. This isn’t game-breaking, but it can be an inconvenience when running away from a pack of wolves or some bad guys. I find myself instinctively jumping over corpses while running away from attackers.
While hunting with the bow and arrow, I encountered something interesting that I am not sure was by design or not. When hunting small animals similar to a bunny or squirrel, you do not always need to hit them directly for a kill. For instance, if a bunny is running from left to right, if I shoot slightly behind it while the aiming cursor is white, I will still get the kill. The smaller animals move quite a bit and very quickly, so trying to kill them by only hitting directly could be a bit difficult — perhaps that’s why the developers give the players a slight margin of error?
The ambient sounds and score for the game are good — maybe not The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time good, but effective at conveying the mood and ambiance of the game nonetheless.
As mentioned earlier, there is a big change in the multiplayer component of Rise of the Tomb Raider from 2013’s Tomb Raider — to the point where there isn’t exactly any multiplayer at all. The multiplayer PvP arena-style mode that felt like it was added just to keep up with other games has been removed. In exchange, the game now has an Expedition mode where players can compete to have a faster level completion time or higher level score, which are kept on a leaderboard. Also, (I’m not sure due to the pre-release nature of gameplay during the review), I believe as the player community achieves certain scores, then new weapons or skills can be unlocked as well. Rise of the Tomb Raider definitely shows that a game can be single-player only and still be very enjoyable. The Expedition mode boosts the replay value of the game and will continue to challenge players to compete against one another on the leaderboard. Additionally, there is a mode where players can set goals or objectives to be achieved and challenge their friends to compete in these modes.
Are there micro-transactions? You bet, and they exist in the form of card packs. However! All cards packs can be obtained from completing Expedition mode challenges or progressing through the game — there is no card pack that can only be obtained with real money. As the player progresses through the game and completes certain objectives, they will be gifted packages and coins which can be used to buy the card packs. Rise of the Tomb Raider also has a season pass that players can buy that will include DLC content and additional play modes, such as Endurance mode.
Read on for the Verdict…