Rise of The Tomb Raider is a sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot and focuses on the story where Lara Croft is obsessed with her father’s research and intends to complete what he started. Battle hardened after the events of the first game, she heads to Syria to find the tomb of a prophet where her father believed lied the ‘source of immortality’.
Things kick off in Siberia where Lara is trying to climb a mountain along with her friend Jonah. This is one of the best video game openings I have seen as it not only gets player acclimatized to the controls but also enthralls them with eye candy graphics and some exciting set pieces.
Tombs weren’t all that prominent in the first game but they are quite a few of them here which are story based and optional. Tombs are areas which have a puzzle that you need to solve to get the reward at the end. They usually reward you with special abilities instead of things like coins.
Syria looks breathtaking at times and as you try to find the tomb you come across some ancient carvings that you can decipher which in turn gives you XP and increases your language skill. Finding documents, murals and deciphering ancient carvings will which are in different languages like Greek, Russian and Mongolian will increase your respective language skill. This doesn’t really impact the game in a big way though.
Lara is not alone in this adventure though. An organisation called Trinity is also trying to find the ‘source of immortality. You encounter them pretty early in the game. Your exploits in Syria eventually takes you to Siberia where more of the game’s mechanics come into play.
Plants and animals can be scavenged for items with which you can craft and upgrade your equipment. It’s quite similar to the first game. You unlock a bunch of equipment as you progress through the main story. Lara’s combat, scavenging and exploration skills can be upgraded using skill points which are earned after receiving a set amount of Xp. You can access the skills and crafting menu at base camps located in each area.
There are multiple hubs in the game and each hub features a checklist of things you have to do to get 100%. This includes optional tombs and other collectible stuff. The optional tombs are well designed, although I found the difficulty to be pretty easy. Each of them stand out with excellent art design and you really feel like you are in a special place.
The game looks absolutely incredible in some places but a lot of aliasing is evident in places like the Soviet Installation in Siberia. Whether you are traversing tricky terrain, exploring dark caves, or simply platforming, it is just a joy to do all that in the game. Some of the NPC character models look really bad but Lara’s model in particular looks stunning.
It took me around 15 hours to complete the game on the Tomb Raider difficulty. There are three more difficulty levels and I recommend playing on a level higher than Tomb Raider because I didn’t find the combat to be that challenging on that difficulty. Speaking of combat, it’s really fun to take out enemies using the numerous weapons in the game especially the compound bow which does incredible damage.
More weapons can be unlocked by finding parts from big chests. When you unlock a finisher for a particular weapon and get some upgrades, it’s simply a joy to toy around with your enemies. Heavily armoured enemies will start appearing as you progress through the game. Nothing is more tough to kill in this game than a goddamed bear. After pumping 5 shotgun shells, numerous silent arrows and a bunch of poison cloud arrows later, the bear was finally dead.
Special ammo like incidenary shells, grenade arrows, poison cloud arrows, naplam arrows and the likes can be crafted on the fly during gameplay which is convenient. Of course, it requires resources so don’t go overboard with it. You can also quick heal by holding the LB button. The gameplay in ROTTR is much improved compared to the first game. I did encounter some frame rate issues in some areas but it didn’t ruin the experience in any way.
There was a feeling of deja vu many times while playing the game. ROTTR feels like a massive extension of the first game than a vastly improved sequel. That’s not a bad thing, though. There are tons of unique areas, the tombs are well designed, and the game in general is a lot of fun to play. Crystal Dynamics stuck to the formula that worked and that’s not a bad thing at all.
There is a feeling of satisfaction after completing the game. I had to just stare at the credits screen for a while to process what had happened and take it all in. The story is self contained and kept me interested till the end. Although, I’m not a fan of certain enemies these types of games keep throwing at me. A fully upgraded pump-action shotgun can be a lifesaver and a ticket out of tough situations.
ROTTR does not feature any multiplayer mode but has something called the Expedition Mode which can be accessed from the main menu. Basically it allows you to replay missions, set a score for each mission, adjust the difficulty and specific features by using cards. There are many cards that you can get just by completing certain objectives in the main story.
Trying to grab all the collectibles, do the optional tombs, challenges, and NPC missions will take a quite a bit of time. Once you do all that there’s not many reasons to revisit the game, but ROTTR features quality content and is well worth the money.
It’s been a while since I’ve played a satisfying single player game with a great story this year, but better late than never. Hope there are more Tomb Raider games on the horizon utilizing the same formula as this game and its predecessor. The franchise is here to stay.