I’ll be honest, I was a little edgy with the announcement that Tomb Raider would be getting a reboot. Whilst it’s not a series that I’ve followed exceptionally closely, it’s one that I do have a lot of affection for. I have some very happy memories of playing the second and third instalments of the series, and although the general consensus seems to be that the more recent incarnations aren’t great I did find something to enjoy in them.
However, any concerns I had about the reboot of the series were quite clearly misplaced, as just about everything we’ve seen of the game looks fantastic. The promise of a young Lara who is on her first adventure is very exciting, and although a more realistic approach didn’t seem all that appealing at first the footage we’ve seen suddenly makes it look very interesting.
The thing with Tomb Raider is that recent games have made you feel less and less threatened. Even when they threats have increased, some how there just wasn’t a feeling of danger. Next year’s game really seems to fix this, with the inexperienced Lara looking exceptionally exposed and vulnerable on a mysterious island.
Perhaps it’s the fact that she’s not composed in the face of life threatening peril that does it, it makes her far easier to connect to; if I was being chased through a cave full of human sacrifices I’d certainly be terrified. Beyond that it’s the way that she clearly isn’t prepared for any of this, she responds to any situation with anything that comes to hand.
Of course it helps that the game looks absolutely stunning so far, with a well realised world that makes good use of the generational trend of greys and browns in its colour palette. Some how it feels right that the world for this game should be dark and dingy. Even when you’re out of the cave systems that have been prominent in footage and previews of the game the world seems fairly dark, as well as having an impressive scale. Crystal Dynamics have been keen to point out the size of the island the game takes place on, with the world seeming much larger than it has in earlier Tomb Raider titles.
The other big change we’ve seen so far is the “survival instinct”, a feature that highlights the solution to a puzzle if you get stuck. Whilst some may feel that removes some of the challenge from the game that’s traditionally had a very heavy focus on its puzzles, it does seem like it’s optional and only works if you’re not moving. However, it does indicate a shift in the series towards survival gameplay over puzzle solving.
There are few games I want more than Tomb Raider next year, and I can only hope that the new realistic approach pays off. All the signs so far are very positive but in the end we can only wait until the game’s expected release in the third quarter.