With a history dating back nearly 20 years and having spawned on both console and the big screen, Tomb Raider is an iconic franchise and Lara Croft, arguably the most famous heroine to grace a video game. With fans that span a couple of generations, there is always an air of expectation when Lara returns and in 2013 she made an astounding return. The Tomb Raider reboot saw Lara show emotion we had never seen before and made her more human and vulnerable than we had ever seen before. To go with that tough yet vulnerable woman came a compelling story that took Lara on an incredible journey. Making a sequel to a critically acclaimed game is always fraught with danger, even more so when it becomes a console exclusive. Rise of the Tomb Raider has had a massive amount of expectation placed upon it and the question that everyone wants to know it does it live up to that expectation?
The answer to that question is no. Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t live up to the expectation, it exceeds it with a visually delightful, rollercoaster of storytelling that proves that you can’t keep a good franchise down.
Picking up a year after Lara has been discredited, we find a heroine who refuses to go down quietly. Her steely eyed resolve is as strong as ever and the work of her late Father is as important as ever. Through the ancient ruins and remote regions of Siberia, Lara will risk everything in her quest to give validity to her Fathers work and find the secret to Immortality. That dear readers is where I will leave the story, how the adventure pans out is for you to find out, and honestly I could do without a bunch of hate mail from people abusing me for ruining the story!
As we’ve come to expect from a Tomb Raider game it has a story to tell yet it does so in a world that is ripe with exploration opportunities. A real strength of Rise of the Tomb Raider is the way that the open world is fused together harmoniously with the story. Yes Lara has a quest to go on but the game lets you choose how and when you want to progress on that story. Hidden Tombs are begging to be raided and loot is scattered all around. I found myself taking a 50/50 approach to the game, half my time I’d spend exploring, raiding and hunting, the other half I’d spend completing the story missions. At no point did I feel like the pace of the game was lost, it’s a rare trait to find but one that I was very thankful for.
The progression system from 2013 is much the same. Hunting and Exploration will allow you to pick up inventory that can then be crafted into items to improve Lara’s skills. The system works really well and allows players to focus on skills that suit their style of gameplay. I like to remain a bit of an all-rounder so I spent my time meticulously advancing my skills evenly but others will find themselves leaning to one particular skill set. There are some skill enhancements though, such as Lara’s ability to craft ammo on the fly or heal herself in the heat of battle, all excellent skills that add to an impressive skill tree and create an added air of fluidity to an already fluid game.
When it comes to the controls, Rise of the Tomb Raider is very tight. The same control scheme from 2013 is left largely intact which is a good thing. I’m a firm believer in the “if i’t ain’t broke don’t fix it” saying so I’m glad we get a control scheme we are all used to. Switching weapon is easy and using a special weapon like a poison arrow is as easy as pressing a bumper button along with your normal aim and shoot triggers. There is however one notable difference, more freedom of choice. Engaging in direct combat is not the only answer to problem solve. Slipping around a perimeter or using diversions to slip past an enemy or perform a stealth takedown are all viable options to the all games blazing approach and in a lot of instances is actually a much better way to approach an enemy stronghold.
If anyone says that the Xbox One struggles to produce stunning visuals then slap them in the face with this disc and then put it on. If Xbox still needed a game to prove to the world that the Xbox One can produce games of stunning beauty then Rise of the Tomb Raider is that very game. From climbing a mountain to roaming a dark cave, the graphics are simply breathtaking. Even with review code I really didn’t notice any frame rate issues and the general visual presentation was GORGEOUS. I’m sure there is still some drool marks on the carpet in front of where I was playing.
To go with the gorgeous visuals is some solid voice acting. Lara’s slightly posh British accent returns and all the subtle nuances one would expect when a range of emotions are going on are very well portrayed. The sound effects are equally complimentary with explosions, gun fire and animals all sounding bang on.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a thing or rare beauty. A flawed heroine accompanies an an immersive story that achieves something many games struggle with, finding a balance between storytelling and freedom. Open-world storytelling is just about the hardest thing to do in gaming because it is so easy to get the pace all wrong. Rise of the Tomb Raider pulls it off with ease. When it comes to exclusive titles on Xbox One there is none better than Rise of the Tomb Raider. It was a huge play to steal a franchise away from its spiritual home on PlayStation but Microsoft have achieved a massive coup with Rise of the Tomb Raider, this is one title not to be missed.
- Excellent Storytelling
- Visually Stunning
- Well Paced
- Open World with Plenty of Exploration