Tomb Raider is of course a popular franchise that’s lasted for two decades, an adventure series featuring a female British archaeologist, Lara Croft. Inspired in part by the Indiana Jones series, it’s nonetheless become it’s own thing, spawning many sequels and two feature films (with a third on the way, although one that’s intended to be a reboot). I’ll admit, I’ve not really played many of the older games, so this will focus mainly on the reboot.
In 2013, a new Tomb Raider game was released, that would feature a more vulnerable, gritty take on the character, and also serve as a sort of origin story for her.
For Lara’s motion capture and voice, “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Camille Luddington was brought in.
Basically Lara and her friends-including best friend Sam and mentor Conrad Roth-are on an expedition to find the lost island of Yamatai (near Japan), where it’s said there was a kingdom ruled by a weather-controlling “sun Queen”. They do eventually find Yamatai-but unfortunately it’s due to a violent storm causing them to get shipwrecked on it-and they’re far from the first ones to be shipwrecked here….
What’s worse, the survivors of the various shipwrecks have formed a cult called the Solarii brotherhood, dedicated to worshiping the Sun Queen and bringing her back to life. To do this, they kidnap Sam so the Sun Queen can possess her body, and it’s up to Lara to rescue her and the other survivors.
While the game’s archaeological adventure focus-including discovering artifacts, and plenty of climbing and shooting-might draw comparisons to Uncharted (although technically Tomb Raider got there first), Tomb Raider also employs a crafting and skills system (as do many games these days), where she can scavenge for raw materials around the island. Although not 100% “open world”, Lara can ‘fast travel’ using camps, and revisit other locations on the island. Various scrolls and tapes she can uncover also reveal more of the island’s backstory. Combat-although it does include some of the freedom-restricting QTEs (Or Quicktime events)-also a problem with the Uncharted series-is mostly free and one can use a variety of techniques to take on the villains, including stealth kills or something with a bit more destruction (various weapons are unlocked as you go further in the game, including
While a fun game of course, it’s not for kids or even the teen audience that Uncharted aims for. Or for the squeamish. This game deals with a lot of tense subject material and violence, and Yamatai is littered with corpses in various states. The image below is one of the safer examples, but believe me, it gets a lot worse and messed up than this. It’s like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but ten times the gore and nastiness. Plus Lara has a lot of ‘game over’ animations that are on the nasty side too.
The Island is an interesting setting. There’s wildlife-some benign like chickens, others not so much like wolves. The setting is also very interesting-in addition to the many wrecks of ships and planes, people have been shipwrecked-and living on the island for Millenia. There’s the old Japan style architecture:
To more modern (although still in a lot of misuse):
And of course various tombs (some of which are optional)-this is called Tomb Raider after all!
The villains of the game-some of which have conversations Lara can listen into before going into combat-including the various members of the Solaari brotherhood,
but also the more mysterious Stormguard/Oni as well. One of them in particular, the Stormguard Stalker, is pretty much the game’s final boss (as cult leader Mattias is pretty much just a quick-time event fight and very easy)
Lara’s crew are a pretty good cast of characters that she often has to rescue throughout the game (although some don’t make it). One in particular, gentle, spiritual giant Jonah (The Hawaiian guy in the red shirt here), actually tags along in the second game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. On the other hand, there’s the treacherous, out-for-himself Dr. Whitman.
The game’s graphics are also quite good-the characters are very realistic and well-animated, although not quite as good as it’s sequel, “Rise”.
The game itself is apparently supposed to inspire the currently filming Tomb Raider movie. Looks like, from a visual standpoint, they’ve got Lara’s look in the game down.
Next, I’ll take a look at it’s sequel, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”.