Rise of the Tomb Raider Review
I went into Tomb Raider with pretty low expectations. At X15 in Toronto, I was treated to a 20 minute demo of the first tomb in the game, and I came out of it incredibly disappointed. Rise of the Tomb Raider looked like every other action adventure puzzle game I had ever played. To me, it seemed like a poor attempt to replicate the Uncharted franchise before Uncharted 4 had a chance to come out (yes I realize Tomb Raider on 360 was similar as well). When I finished Rise of the Tomb Raider, I barely knew where the time had gone. Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best games I have yet played on Xbox One, and while it will draw many comparisons to Uncharted, this really is a franchise that can stand on its own.
Driven by the Story, Carried by the Game Play
The initial story in Rise of the Tomb Raider, at least what is provided to you off the top, is not that exciting. Essentially, there is something really valuable and life changing, you want to keep it out of the hands of the evil faction Trinity, and they want to get it before you. It`s the typical `save the world`story line we`ve come to expect in action adventure games. However, as the game progressed – carried early on by territorial exploration and combat – I continued to have be shocked again and again by certain story twists. Characters aren`t who you think they are, and these moments of revelation pop up at the perfect times to keep gamers interested in the game. It all works well together. When the story shines, it breaks from the sometimes repetitive game play; when the story falters, players are introduced to something new, whether it be rope arrows, explosives, or craftable weapons.
Lots to Do
Everything in Rise of the Tomb Raider has a purpose. I was not trying to complete an area 100% for the achievements, but for the rewards you received for doing so. Each and every collectible in the game rewards you with experience, experience provides you with skills points, and skill points allow you to be a more efficient and powerful explorer.
In any given area there are Crypts to explore, coin caches to find, relics to discover, murals and ancient writings to translate, consumables to find, and more. You can hunt, craft, and move about by any means necessary. Want to create your own explosives? If you’ve collected the necessary items you can.
The game utilizes something similar to Eagle Vision in the Assassins Creed franchise, which will allow players to pinpoint points of interest around the map. Certain tombs yield permanent rewards, such as automatically highlighting consumables on the map when you get near them. This makes completing these optional tombs rewarding. What you get at the end is ALWAYS worth the work.
Never Keeps you too Long
I’m not sure what it is about the game, but it never keeps you in one place for too long. With the numerous base camps you can set up around the map to aid in fast travelling, I never felt like I should hang around an area longer than I felt was necessary. If I began getting bored, I moved on with the story, leaving myself the option of coming back later to finish up an area. But I NEVER felt like I was kept somewhere longer than I needed to be. Except for collectibles and optional challenges, the game’s main story keeps you moving on a somewhat linear path. Yes, you can explore and get from A to B in many different ways, but the story will never send you backtracking.
Perhaps this is because Tomb Raider really isn’t an open world game. Very linear tombs and caves connect a number of explorable ‘open’ areas. But it’s nothing like, say, Skyrim where you continuously trek across the world completing quests and tasks. Rise of the Tomb Raider uses it’s open areas wisely – generally stocking them with optional side quests and collectibles – while keeping the story on a linear path. What ever comes next will almost certainly be something new and exciting.
Satisfying Game Play
I’ve always said that the Uncharted franchise has some of the most satisfying exploration and combat in a video game. I think Rise of the Tomb Raider is significantly better. Transitioning from combat to exploration is seamless, and the game allows you to tackle each area in any way you desire. After the first few hours you will have an automatic rifle, a pistol, and your trusty bow. What ever you choose to use – for myself, almost exclusively the bow for stealth game play – is up to you. Go in guns blazing or attempt to be quiet.
If you like to start combat with a bang, almost every area is stocked with tin cans and bottles, perfect for making throw-able weapons. Unlike a game like Assassins Creed, Rise of the Tomb Raider never makes you stick to something in particular. You never HAVE to do something stealthy. What you do is always up to you. In certain situations, one thing may work better or might be more efficient than another, but you are never limited.
There is an indirect multiplayer mode added to Rise of the Tomb Raider. One mode, Score Attack, allows players to replay certain missions aiming for high scores. Your score will be comparable to the Xbox Live community, as well as your friends online. However, all the extra modes in Rise of the Tomb Raider – which we will be looking at later in a separate article – are really just extras to me. If I wasn’t playing this for review, I probably wouldn’t have even given them a try. The single player experience is more than enough for me. It is enjoyable, exciting, and executed to almost perfection. Outside of a few platforming glitches that caused me to fall to a sudden death, there wasn’t a whole lot to dislike about Rise of the Tomb Raider. It sounds great, it looks incredible – best looking game of 2015 perhaps? – and plays even better.
If you are looking to get an Uncharted fix on Xbox One, or perhaps you need more after Lara’s last adventure on Xbox 360, than grab your copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider as soon as possible. You will not be disappointed.