Release Date: March 05, 2013
Developer: Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Studios – Montreal
Plataform: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / Microsoft Windows
Lara Croft is iconic for a number of people around the world since she first appeared 17 years ago. Often times we would hear a woman with a strong personality be compared with the famous Lara Croft. And at some point, woman started to actually try to achieve that. Lara is the whole package: intelligent, strong, sexy, rich and powerful; so why women would not want to be like her? And for men she was more than strong, she was also a sex symbol that was cultivated for generations, from the digital world until Angelina Jolie donned the famous persona. (That, by the way, the blood river scene in the game was suppose to be a reference to Angelina Jolie in Beowulf? LOL.)
But this time in the new Tomb Raider, this is not the Lara Croft that we have come to know. Ok, she is still sexy, very good looking and can still do some gravity-defying acrobatics; but now Lara is young, inexperienced, vulnerable, naive and in some moments even too dramatic. All that she wants is to go back home and leave behind all the nightmare that she starts to face, but of course, this is not an option.
A SURVIVOR IS BORN
I would be lying if I don’t admit that my first impressions of the game was totally incoherent with the rest of my game experience. If you were expecting to play a little bit before the whole “ship accident” happens, you are totally wrong – I was wrong too! – The game starts exactly with the same cinematic that we have seen countless times since Tomb Raider was first announced long ago. You don’t have time to connect yourself and gain affection with the other characters of the ship Endurance. The game just starts: BOOOM! And you are trapped in the middle of a creepy cavern. Why would you want to risk your life to save someone that wasn’t even introduced to you – as a player – in the game? That was my first bad impression. And unfortunately, this impression was followed by the next moments in the beginning of the game.
Since the cavern moment was the first part of the game, they try to make it so spectacular that they actually don’t think about how the “new” Lara Croft would be able to face all the obstacles she faces inside the cave. We know that the whole game idea is to focus in how the little girl grows up and turns into a strong woman, but if Lara still needs to grow, how believable is it that, even in the first minutes of the game, Lara would be able to do all that she does? I just think that if they wanted to make her evolve, then allow a little more time for that. All this should be presented and learned with time, when she finally see herself as a Survivor. And not as the old heroin right from the start. (…) Besides that? The rest of the game is incredible and my opinion totally changed right after the first 20 minutes of gameplay.
The whole game runs around the idea of putting Lara Croft into situations that will test her limits. She is a Survivor and to keep alive she needs to defend herself by killing people, learning how to hunt animals, as well as exploring, climbing and hiding in different environments. The game also offers a cool “Survivor Instinct” option in which, when used, it makes the game screen black and white, highlighting only objective direction, items, enemies and animals. It’s almost like the Eagle Vision in Assassin’s Creed, working pretty well.
STORY AND ENVIRONMENTS
In search for the lost Japanese civilization of Yamatai, Lara convince the Endurance Crew to enter the Dragon’s Triangle, an area renowned for causing ships to disappear. And, of course, the Endurance is added to this list by facing a huge storm and crashing in the island. When Lara wakes up in the beach, she is attacked right after, starting the whole cavern first game sequence. After the first minutes of the game you start to understand that the habitants of the island are in search of a woman sacrifice to resurrect the Sun Queen, Himiko. And guess what? Samantha – Lara’s friend – is the one chosen.
The plot may seem to be a little bit weak or cliché, but actually it works pretty well. With some twists of magic and legends, and with some mature and gore content, all the island and each single environment compliments the game in an amazing way.
The environments’ representation are amazing and it varies a lot during the game. There are forests, beaches, tombs, snow areas and everything that you could expect. The lighting matches according to those environments, creating even more an appropriate atmosphere. When it is raining you can see the lightning illuminating the environment, while the rain actually affects the game camera, making us believe that we are part of that world.
SOME ELEMENTS OF THE CLASSIC GAMES
So, here we are with this new Lara and the question arises: Does she faces puzzles and explore tombs like before? Does she like it? Well, if she likes I’m not so sure, considering that in a moment of the game she actually says that she hates tombs. But that does not means that she will not explore some of those. In this Tomb Raider the player has the option to find and explore different tombs – in a total of 7 of them – Upon completing it you are rewarded with some item and XP points, as well as a Treasure Map for an area on the island, helping the player to identify certain items.
Most all of the puzzles are presented in those optional tombs. Out of that, the player will probably face 3 or 4 different puzzle situations, which makes me feel as though they could have added more and increased the difficulty a little bit. I can count on one hand the number of times that I actually had difficulty with one puzzle in the game.
The relic viewer mode is also here. The player can find and collect relics around the game and, by doing that, you can visualize it by close, zoom in, rotating and even trying to find some extra clue. Those clues do not affect the gameplay itself, but give extra information to the main plot. By collecting relics you are rewarded with XP.
And finally, Lara Croft is still a very fast and light character, that can jump very far, hang in platforms, climb and shoot.
NEW ELEMENTS FOR A NEW GENERATION
What would be good new features for the game? Surprisingly – for me at least – the upgrades are one of the nicest part of the game. By collecting relics, killing enemies with headshot, finding treasures in tombs or even reaching new environments, the player will be rewarded with XP. Accessing one of the camps, the player can exchange those XP for a number of new abilities to Lara, increasing from Hunting Skills to Fighting Skills.
Another upgrade system is related with the weapons and gears. By collecting Salvage – destroying boxes or getting from enemy bodies – you can use it to upgrade your weapons. Sometimes you need more than Salvage to get the weapon to another level. In this case, the player will need to find more parts of the respective weapon, usually by collecting the treasures that you can find in each optional tomb. In the end, both upgrade system works very well and it’s not annoying or hard to understand. Actually the game makes me want to collect everything, just to be able to upgrade my equipments and skills and this is something new for me.
The hunting is one of the newest element in this game, but also the most stupid. The idea of it is pretty nice, but the execution went very bad. Right in the beginning of the game you are “forced” to hunt a deer, to learn how to do it and how to collect something from their body. But the problem is that after this first time, you can play the whole game without ever having to hunt again. It turns something totally unnecessary and with no purpose, considering that Lara Croft does not have a hunger bar or anything like that.
LEVEL DESIGN AND GAMEPLAY
I had loads of fun by playing Tomb Raider. Maybe because it features various elements that are present in two of my favourite game series: Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed.
Uncharted by following the recipe of integrating many cinematic sequences while you have a total in-game control, loads of enemies appearing all the time, incredible combat situations, explosions, different types of gameplay – like the one in the parachute or in the waterfall – and a charismatic character. And Assassin’s Creed by considering a whole area that you can “free” explore, quick travelling between camps and even with some screen glitches.
The gameplay and controls work in a very smooth way. Everything is very intuitive and clear. It’s fun to use Lara’s Bow, trying to kill the enemies while keeping yourself in a stealth approach. That was actually one of my favourites part of the game: the use of the Bow.
While the gameplay gives us a very good experience, the Level Design tends to try to convince us of a fake freedom. As I said before, some elements remind me of Assassin’s Creed, when you see that you are surrounded by this big map, full of choices and directions to go. But all this freedom is broken by following the right path in the game. The player ends up needing to follow ahead to the next point, moving on with the right direction, not actually giving choices to the player. They tried to sell us a free experience, but in my opinion is just a linear Uncharted Level Design, with clear objectives and directions. Well, not that I am complaining. At least I didn’t get lost.
IN THE WAITING FOR THE NEXT ONES
Finally, Tomb Raider did a good job in returning to this generation, promising something new and fun to play. With a large and beautiful environment, super exciting gameplay moments and cinematics, it seems that they finally got the right choices for the game and we are assuming that next ones will come soon. It will be interesting to imagine what new ideas and features can come. And, if they accomplish at least half of what this Tomb Raider offered to us, I’m pretty sure it will be another success.
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
[button type=”icon” icon=”paper”]Written by Matheus Pitillo.[/button]