I clocked in 16 hours of gameplay to complete a full run of the story mode for Tomb Raider and after that time I knew I had to share a Tomb Raider Review! At game’s end I had a status of 83% complete. Its almost a perfect adventure game. The perks vastly outweigh the minor flaws, the visuals are breathtaking, and the gameplay is smooth and entertaining. I will likely play again, in the same way you can keep playing the Arkham series Batman games after you finish the story with them as well. I must say, the leadup to the finish was glorious and well done.
General gameplay is pretty normal, with an exception that I list later in the perks about camera angles. Generally speaking though, its 3rd person action/adventure. You start off with a bow and work your way up to quite an arsenal of weapons which consists of a combination of bows and guns. Also you can find pieces of other weapons that when complete will fully upgrade a weapon. For example, your first bow is super basic, but after you find enough pieces of a new bow you build it, retaining any upgrades from your previous version of the bow, which is a nice bonus and then you have a compound bow, instead of a stick with a string wrapped around it.
The reward program for the game is a nice level of steady upgrades. If you don’t mind hunting the odd animal, and I’m not talking about Far Cry 3 levels of hunting, just the odd animal here and there that you’ll easily see on a regular basis, then you can get a lot of upgrades easily. I suggest taking upgrades that help you get quicker upgrades, as I do in all games. It just makes sense. Its like compound interest, its something free for doing the right thing early. Some upgrades include things like extra XP, or “spare parts” when looting enemies and animals. Take those upgrades early on to reap the biggest benefits from them.
This game is not an open sandbox, like Skyrim, for example. Its linear in the sense that you have to get from point A to point B, however, you’re free to do what you want in that space, and there is enough to do. I find with fully open games I get bored after trying to discover everything. Tomb Raider is a great mix and I haven’t found myself bored with the atmosphere at all. And of course, there’s hidden tombs to be discovered and when you find them you have to figure out a way to get to the main tomb for a sweet reward of loads of spare parts for upgrading your weapons, and XP. There’s an alternative view mode in the game that is Lara’s natural instincts on what she can interact with. It doesn’t tell you exactly what to do, and that’s what makes it a Tomb Raider game. You still have to use your problem solving brain. Its this added level of gameplay that makes the game even more enjoyable.
Among some of the major perks for this game includes the off angle sequences. Small parts where you go between live gameplay and cut scene footage seamlessly. So you’re walking along, then something happens (like a bridge collapsing) and now you’re not playing, just watching, but since the game graphics are pretty awesome its not like you’re watching a video but instead a choreographed section of gameplay. This is great because you’re not waiting for a video to load so the experience is quick. And just as fast as it happens you’re right back to controlling the game, however, now instead of just the standard 3rd person view the camera is off to the side while you scale a building, or above you while you climb a rock face, or are neck deep in water with a torch that’s burning in your hand. It adds a level of production to the gameplay that will make you think about why this isn’t in more games. Its not like that kind of thing is more graphically intense or anything, so come on lazy game makers, get with the program!
Part of the save mechanics are campsites where you know there will be no enemies and you can relax. Its also where you upgrade your abilities and weapons, through a sort of pause menu by pressing ‘X’ at the fire. There’s even a fast travel option to go back to previous sections of the game. This is so you can go find all the little things you might have missed the first time, and also, as you play you gain more abilities. Like fire arrows. My kingdom for fire arrows earlier in the game. So you can go back and explore, although I haven’t done this yet, the story is just too damn good to not want to continue. These places also act as a means for you to not have a heart attack. Sometimes the action is so fierce, the situations Laura is in are so intense, your heart is just pounding through your shirt like a cartoon. I found that when I got to a campsite I would take a pause just to regear mentally for God knows what will happen next. Its also a friendly reminder to put the controller down and get back to the real world.
The story is great, and captivating. And part of that is that Lara looks like a real person in this game. Sure, she should be dead 15 times over by the half way mark of the game, but it is a game after all, so you have to expect your suspension of disbelief to get stretched out a bit. Like falling off a cliff, banging around on rocks then healing with 1 band aid good enough to scale mountains and hang from cliffs again. Yano, if you were to make it too realistic well then it would be you sitting by a fire waiting for a wolf to eat you. Kicking stones and chewing grass while you hate yourself for breaking your ribs. WHAT A GAME CONCEPT. As I was saying, Lara feels more real in this game, and I know that was part of the point of the game. Its a great reboot to the franchise and I’m hoping they’ll be making many more games in the same vein.
The ending to the story is rewarding, and also in gameplay the end is a fun run with entertaining visuals that suck you into everything that’s happening on an almost biblical scale.
Although its hard to find a perfect game, there are some drawbacks, one of which is aiming with an X-Box controller (or any controller I can imagine). The aiming is more like a first person game than third and there’s no helping in aiming, like a slight lock in movement when you’re close to a target with your cross hairs. Its all free flowing, and loose. It adds to the danger element of the game, so in that sense its OK, but it also adds to the frustration level when you’ve got a few waves of enemies attacking and you need to hit them before they throw a Molotov cocktail in your face, or rush you with a machete. Many a times I have shot just over someone’s shoulder, or wide because they dodge and you just can’t keep up with that analog stick on the controller. Think of a first person game, its aiming mechanics, its much like that and its not easy most of the time. But lets face it, this is Tomb Raider, not Binary Domain, or Spec Ops: The Line, so you want a more rich gaming experience than just run and gun. And you get it with the mini puzzles and creative gameplay.
Noting that the aiming can be difficult, there are points in the game where the story doesn’t matter, problem solving isn’t a factor and you just have to deal with wave after wave of bad guys. Again, its not something that happens enough to ruin the game, and in fact most enemy interactions are limited in scope to maybe 3-6 bad guys at a time. But sometimes, whoa, you gotta deal with anywhere from 15 – 20 guys hellbent on tearing your face off and all of a sudden your saying to yourself, “What the hell, this isn’t a Tomb Raider game! Fuck you assholes, end this shit!” Actual quote. But, again, its balanced, and in a way that makes me forgive the game for it. After all, it all can’t be the same, or that would be boring.
Towards my last 25% of the story run I did get better at aiming. I was more relaxed and more focused, knowing the style of the enemies. This didn’t stop me from dying a ton, which probably added to my 16 hours to complete the story. That being said, looking for alternatives I did start using my melee attack more frequently and eventually you get a sweet upgrade that lets you dodge a guy, then perform a power hit (on armoured enemies) or a deathblow on others. So my advice to you is if you’re stuck in close quarters and are having trouble with guns, after you’ve earned the abilities, use your hand combat attacks with your climbing hook. It can be surprisingly effective and is a more entertaining fight.
Sometimes, and its rather rare, Lara’s jump mechanics are a little wonky. Sometimes she can jump as far as Wolverine on speed and other times its like watching a cat fail video. The inconsistencies are annoying, but its a minor annoyance as it hasn’t led to me dying, just losing a few seconds. You’ll see it, but very rarely. Still worth a mention.
The story is very compelling, because every time you think you’re making some amazing progress Lara gets up shit creek without a paddle faster than you even know what’s happening. Without going into spoilers, you’ll enjoy the twists and turns in the story and where you end up on the map. The visuals are excellent, almost some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game. You are marooned on a lost island east of Japan, with a mysterious history and a cult following by the locals (all of which are bad guys so far). Your quest is to find your friends and return them to safety in an attempt to get the hell out of there. Story progression is excellent, as are the visuals. Game controls could use some tweaking, or I’m just a little spoiled. Overall, you won’t be disappointed by this game, especially if you grab it during a Steam sale for $5 or less.
Here’s a gameplay trailer, although not me playing. Its just over 20 minutes. If you want the excitement of learning the game for yourself (which I suggest), don’t watch this game. Trust me, its a great game. But if you want to check it out first, then here it is for your pleasure.
Tomb Raider (2013) is the total package when it comes to gun toting, wild, unpredictable action genre game play. It is one of my favourite games of this type and the best Tomb Raider game I have ever played.