Up Up Down Down: Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - NG Screenshot - 1151239

Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics rebooted the Tomb Raider franchise earlier this year to much critical acclaim. The game, simply titled Tomb Raider, would create a brand new world with an entirely new Lara Croft. There’s no denying that the game is good, and it’s very easily one of the best action-adventure titles to arrive in 2013 thus far. Already it’s on its way to becoming one of the best games of the year, and that’s due to the great changes made in the long-running franchise’s formula, as well as some welcome additions that helped the whole thing feel new and special.

This time on Up Up Down Down, we’re taking a look at everything that made Tomb Raider one hell of a ride, as well as some things that maybe weren’t all that amazing.

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Up Up: Lara Croft is actually likable

In the past, Lara Croft has been somewhat of an obnoxiously arrogant character. Hey, a little confidence is a good thing, but Miss Croft’s personality before was hardly humble. That’s why it’s great to see a completely new vision for Lara in Tomb Raider. This is a protagonist with realistic vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Ultimately, she overcomes these hardships and becomes a strong lead character, but she never really loses sight of who she is. There’s something to be admired about a Lara Croft who can kick ass without sounding like an overly cocky tool.

Down Down: What happened to all the tombs?

This game very well could’ve just been called Lara Croft, but where’s the brand appeal in that? The fact of the matter is that there’s not a whole lot of tomb raiding to do, which is kind of a drag. There are optional tombs for you to discover and jump around in, but these are sparse and really short. That’s a bummer, because they’re pretty fun and would be even more so if they were a bit longer and if there were more of them. Seriously, Crystal Dynamics, more tombs next time!

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Up Up: Good story about survival

Lara’s tale of tenacity and survival in Tomb Raider is just really cool. You’ve got a protagonist with her back against the wall as she deals with both bad guys and the elements. Right from the beginning of the game, you simply can’t help but root for Lara. This chick’s getting her ass kicked by the elements, and it becomes very easy to sympathize with her. Everything that’s thrown at Lara during the course of the story is all drawn out in a way that actually makes you care. Seriously, that early sequence where she's shivering in the rain made me feel absolutely horrible for her.

Down Down: The supernatural aspect is kind of dumb

While the story in Tomb Raider is mostly gripping from start to finish, there’s a part where you discover that there’s more to what’s happening on the island of Yamatai than just dudes with guns. This supernatural aspect of the game is, for all intents and purposes, kind of lame and doesn’t exactly mesh well with the whole survival thing. Sure, past entries in the series have been based around crazy ancient spirits, but it just doesn’t fit well here.

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Up Up: Great cover system

Cover shooters tend to stick closely to a familiar formula: Run toward a wall or other structure, press a button, and bam, you’re hiding behind a conveniently-placed obstruction. Tomb Raider does a good job of putting you behind cover quite organically. Simply run toward a crumbling wall, crate, or debris, and Lara will automatically begin to crouch behind it. The whole thing is natural, smooth, and works surprisingly well. Here’s hoping we see this much more natural-feeling type of cover mechanic in future games with shooting gameplay.

Down Down: Multiplayer is a drag

While the inclusion of a multiplayer component in Tomb Raider is really only an extra, it’s hard to see it as anything more than a subpar implementation. There’s nothing even remotely novel or original about this multiplayer offering. It’s a damn shame, too, because other games have done a great job of introducing some interesting gameplay mechanics into their multiplayer components.

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Up Up: Awesome revamped gameplay

This is a Tomb Raider game through and through, but even then, it’s still a completely new experience from its predecessors. The emphasis on acrobatics isn’t as strong this time around, but there’s plenty of wall-climbing to be done. As you play through Tomb Raider, it becomes instantly apparent that this is a reboot of a familiar series. That’s not a bad thing, because this adventure is arguably the franchise’s best offering thus far. Great shooting, rad melee, fun open world elements, and an impressive cover mechanic all combine to create a worthwhile experience.

Down Down: Open world could’ve been so much more

I personally enjoyed the open world design of Tomb Raider and felt that it met my needs as a game player quite well. That is, of course, because I’m not a completionist and don’t crave loads of side missions. For other folks, particularly those who love to engage in oodles of optional activities, the open world in Tomb Raider may not be robust or fruitful enough to suit their needs. There are plenty of trinkets to find, but there’s not a whole lot in the way of exploration. And as mentioned above, there really should’ve been more tombs.

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Left Right Left Right: Most people should play Tomb Raider, because it’s awesome

You should probably play Tomb Raider regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the series. This is a reboot in the truest sense of the word, and what you get is a whole lot of newness to really make this experience feel like something fresh. (You also get a way more awesome Lara.) This endeavor has a lot of potential for growth, and it’s going to be fun seeing how Crystal Dynamics follows this one up. Some minor bumps get in the way, but those can be ignored for the most part, and what you get in the long run is a highly satisfying tale of courage and survival.

Seriously, though, more tombs next time!

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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