Rise of the Tomb Raider Overview

After the success of the “Tomb Raider” reboot in 2013, a sequel was quickly commissioned. This time, instead of being isolated to the island of Yamatai, this adventure would be larger in scope, and deal a great deal more with Lara’s backstory.

 

In this game, following her father’s research into the secret of immortality, Lara searches for the mysterious city of Kitzeh, said to have been found by the prophet of Constantinople, a Christ-like figure who might posess that secret, “The divine source”. After finding vital clues in Syria, she quickly discovers she’s not the only one looking out for it-so’s the mysterious organization Trinity, led by the deranged Constantine and his sister, Anna-who used to be Lord Croft’s lover-and possibly was manipulating him (and Lara) all along.

 

 

 

Lara’s still coping with the horrors of Yamatai too, as revealed by several tapes that can be unlocked along the way. Her adventures take her to an old Soviet base in Siberia. This-and the following valley-are the most ‘open world’ segments of the game, where Lara can go hunting, and do several side quests, as well as buy items from a Trinity guy who isn’t quite a true believer and help the resistance movement led by the mysterious Jacob. It seems much more open and far less linear than Yamatai, if a bit more visually drab in some areas.

 

Like with the first game, finding certain audiotapes and relics can help reveal more of Lara’s backstory, as well as the history of the various locations, the prophet, Jacob and his people, Trinity, and the Soviet installation.

Like it’s predecessor, there is of course a heavy emphasis on upgrading skills, weapons etc. at base camps, as well as unlockable outfits which can give you different advantages. Combat seems a great deal more refined as well, with less of an emphasis on Quick-time event combos and a heavier emphasis on stealth (especially in one part of the game where lara has to deal with some mercenaries by largely dragging them underwater.)

 

Those who were a bit put off by the somewhat excessive gore in the last game will find things a bit milder here. Sure, there’s some bloody violence with Lara fighting the mercenaries, but the corpses here are generally of the more mummyish and skeleton variety, instead of the really nasty stuff on Yamatai.

 

The game also has DLC based in the largely abandoned Croft manor, whom Lara is trying to keep out of the hands of her greedy uncle. Here, we learn a lot about Lara’s mother, and her courtship with Lord Croft. It’s quite a charming story. It’s also a excellent level, with lots of nifty details, and it also more fully fleshes out the main story; mainly Lord Croft’s quest for immortality. (There’s really no enemies here, it’s mainly a series of puzzles) There’s also another DLC set in the same area but with zombies (I admittedly haven’t played this yet).

Enemies in the game are mainly mercenaries, and are a bit more heavily armed than their Yamatai counterparts. If you listen a bit and don’t attack them right away (or do so stealthily, which is also an option, much like the later “Uncharted” games), you can hear a bit of small talk that’s kind of amusing sometimes….but also like Yamatai, towards the end of the game there’s some enemies with considerably more supernatural origins and strength-the Deathless Ones, although unlike the Samuraiish Stormguard of Yamatai, these guys have a more Roman/Middle ages look to them.

 

 

Overall, “Rise of” is a very worthy, and fun sequel to the original “reboot” game.

 

 

Tomb Raider Reboot (2013) game overview

 

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”.

Game retrospective-The Uncharted series-the Basics (Some spoilers).

The Uncharted series has been one of gaming’s many milestones for the past decade. The exclusive to Sony Playstation (and developed by “Last of Us” developers Naughty Dog) series follows the adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Like the “Indiana Jones” series, the focus is on Nathan’s adventures seeking lost treasure, but also-on occasion- discovering the supernatural forces and secrets behind that treasure. There are also ancient puzzles to unlock, and several booby traps to either avoid, or run from. However, unlike Jones, there’s a few differences-Nathan’s not exactly a tenured Doctor of Archaeology, so his adventures are a slight more ‘grey’ on the moral scale (He’s more of a sort of ‘robin hood’ type from a moral standpoint). The games-although dealing with ancient treasures-are not set in the 1930s, like Indiana Jones, but in the modern day. Drake also has a lot of witty one-liners, some of which are groaners.

Nathan Drake in Uncharted 1.

Drake in Uncharted 4.

Nate’s frequent partner on his exploits is Victor “Sully” Sullivan, an ex-navy pilot. Victor was Nate’s main mentor and friend, and also a father figure of sorts, since Nate’s mother had died and his father left him and his brother in an orphanage. Nate’s had to bail Sully out of a few bad deals here and there, and also Sully’s middle age makes him sometimes a bit too old for his friend’s adventuring, especially when things get a bit too dangerous (For instance, he sits a large part of the second game out, and is sometimes bothered by Nate’s recklessness in Uncharted 3 and 4).

Sully

Elena

Elena Fisher is a reporter and very capable adventurer herself, who initially intends to cover Nate’s adventures her her program, but eventually gets caught up in his adventures herself. She ultimately becomes his romantic interest and in the last two games, wife, although there’s some bumps in that relationship due to Nate’s somewhat reckless nature and trying to keep her out of danger.

Chloe

There’s also a second romantic interest in Uncharted 2, the somewhat more uninhibited, mercenary and ruthless Chloe Frazier. By the end of that game though, she accepts Nate has more feelings for Elena. Chloe also appears in 3 to help out a bit.

Although the game’s stories largely follow an linear structure (no multiple endings), and the lack of an ‘open world’ environment might seem dated to today’s gamers; (as well as there being ‘quicktime events’-in which one must push buttons in a certain order and amount of time to have the scene progress) there is a great deal of variety in the gameplay: one has to carefully take cover, choose which weapons to use or take from the bad guys, use melee etc. Stealth also can be used in the later games (although not as sophisticated as in say, Last of Us or Metal Gear).

Jumping and climbing is also important-not only for rocks:

But also in the high speed chases where Drake often needs to jump from one vehicle to another really quickly.

Drake is also given a grappling rope in the fourth game, which comes in handy during situations like this:

The puzzles are of course, very important. Although some are complex, Drake/the player is often able to complete them using clues collected during his adventures, and jotted down in his journal.

The journal is also fun to look at just for some scribbling and memento’s Drake has put in there.

The series spans four ‘main’ games. Three on the PS3, and one on the PS4-Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Uncharted 4: A Thieve’s End. There’s also one PSP spin off title, Golden Abyss, and a few novels and comics. All three of the first few games were also remastered and released on PS4 shortly before 4’s debut.

Comics cover

The games have often been praised for their life-life graphics and attention to detail. They utilize the motion capture and voice talents of Nolan North (as Drake) Richard McConagale (As Sully) Emily Rose (As Elena) and Claudia Black (As Chloe) in addition to others.

Game retrospective-The Last Of Us

Here’s a post looking at the 2013 playstation 3 game The Last Of Us (A PS4 remaster of the game was also released in 2014). Keep in note, for those who have not played the game, there are some spoilers.

The game was developed by Naughty Dog-known for their Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter-and most importantly-the Uncharted series, and starred Troy Baker (Known for many video game voice overs, and quickly rising in that field) and Ashley Johnson (An actress most notably known for her TV roles, including the youngest Seaver sister on The Growing Pains sitcom as well as other roles). It also featured the most mature subject matter, with a violent and troubling tale, although not without moments of warmth and levity.

The plot of the game involves a massive fungus infection that’s turned most of society into mindless zombies of varying levels of infection, causing a total breakdown of society, although there is still areas of martial law with quarantined zones.  In one of these zones, a man named Joel (Baker) lives as a smuggler. Joel was kind of a well-working, middle class dad until the initial outbreak, where his teen daughter, Sarah was shot and killed by accident, and has been kind of living on the dregs of what’s left of the world in the two decades since.

On one of his runs, Joel is tasked by a rebel group known as the Fireflies with protecting Ellie (Johnson), another teen girl, although with her being brought up in this messed up post-apocalyptic USA, she’s a bit more rough and rebellious. Joel-still suffering from the tragedy of losing his daughter at first, is initially reluctant to help her. Turns out she might be the key to solving the infection-although bitten by the zombies, she appears to be immune, and therefore might hold the key to solving the infection. Joel is to transport her from Boston to Salt Lake City-mostly on foot-and they must brave not only the zombies, but groups of looters, cannibals, and other dangers, and they come across a few allies as well (although, unfortunately, due to the nature of the zombie infections, some of these friends become enemies, or unfortunately make sacrifices so they don’t become one). Eventually, through all their adversary, Joel and Ellie form a bond, with her pretty much replacing the gap in his heart left by the death of his daughter. This especially becomes clear when they encounter a group of wild giraffes in Salt Lake City, with Ellie looking at wonder at a look at what the world once was.

This becomes crucial towards the end of the game, as it turns out in order to get the cure, Ellie would have to be sacrificed in surgery.

Joel, of course, isn’t willing to let her die and lose his “daughter” all over again. He breaks her out of the hospital-including killing former allies The Fireflies-and they resume their travels. Since Ellie was unconsciousness, Joel lies to her and tells her there wasn’t any cure they could use after all, although Ellie has her doubts. Joel has saved her-but at the cost of the world perhaps, and their trust is on slightly shaky ground.

Last of Us largely utilizes a stealth gaming structure, with the player encouraged to sneak around and not make noise, and possibly not to engage in combat unless absolutely necessary, or engage them in a sneak attack instead of firing everything (Although some enemies are not as vulnerable to melee attacks)-although it’s different from the often covert stealth of the Metal Gear franchise. Weapons and supplies are largely crafted from leftovers and scrap (for instance, bandages, alcohol. As for characters, you mostly play as Joel, although Ellie is also playable in one chapter of the game (When Joel is badly wounded)

There’s also a fair amount of exploring to do. Although not exactly “open world” the levels are pretty large, and like Uncharted , often require some puzzles, such as hooking up generators to old, de-powered doors or unlocking safes. (although not quite as complex as Uncharted’s puzzles).

The game’s gotten a lot of accolades for it’s simple, but highly emotional story and excellent gameplay, although it’s mankind vs. zombies/society on the edge of collapse theme has of course brought many comparisons to the works of George Romero and the Walking Dead.

The game of course is rated M, mostly for violence, strong themes, and lots of strong langauge.