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Review

Rise Of The Tomb Raider Review

Assassin's Croft.

Given that many found the 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot to be a breath of fresh air for the franchise, there were a lot of disappointed voices when we learnt that Microsoft had obtained a timed exclusivity deal for the game. That fact alone puts the game and this review in a slightly different light, depending on whether you’re an Xbox owner, eager to hear of Lara’s latest adventure, or someone biding their time for release on other platforms. Either way, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a refinement of what worked last time around, alongside new features that borrow from other franchises.

Once again penned by the ever talented Rhianna Pratchett, Lara’s newest adventure takes her to a remote location in Siberia where she believes a lost relic may be found. Having survived an encounter in Syria with Trinity – a shadowy organisation covering up the events of the previous game – she is separated from her friend Jonah and must continue onward to find the Divine Source and its ability to make people immortal.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s plot is gripping from beginning to end, but the performances of the voice cast and the quality of the facial animations in cutscenes add to this greatly. Expressions seem human, thankfully without descending into the so-called uncanny valley, as you can see the desperation in a character’s face. As for the voice cast, they’re all great; Camilla Luddington in particular does an impeccable job of being Lara, and is a rising star as a voice performance artist.

The main game itself has fantastically dramatic musical scores, but it looks great too, showing off just what the Xbox One can do. Particle affects in the snow, fire, and rain are icing on the cake for a game that has grand views, epic scenery and all at 1080p. Running at 30FPS might put a few people off, and there are times where aiming isn’t as responsive as one would like, especially when trying to deal with fast moving targets.

It’s really the gameplay that counts, and Rise of the Tomb Raider’s gameplay can be best described as being largely more of the same. There’s lots of climbing up things, shooting goons, and hurriedly escaping desperate situations. Lara does at least feel more like an archaeologist this time around, using the many relics found in the field to improve her knowledge of ancient and modern languages in order to unearth more secrets.

One thing to note is that the map of Rise of the Tomb Raider is mostly interlinked, so you can return to the large and open areas full of treasure to uncover and challenge tombs to explore. An exception to this is the Prophet’s Tomb area that was shown off in preview builds, which serves as a tutorial section and, while narratively important to the introduction, is disconnected from the main game. This isn’t to say there are no ruins in the main plot. There are, it’s just not quite the globetrotting adventure I was hoping for.

ROTTR-RIL4

Tomb Raider has historically had historical ruins to explore and puzzles to solve, and while that does return in Rise of the Tomb Raider, their placement is still somewhat sporadic. You can undertake the optional challenge tombs and side quests, similar to the 2013 reboot, but these now also appear as part of the main thrust of the story, and the puzzles really ramp up towards the end of the game. They’re perhaps the best part of the gameplay, challenging you to manipulate the environment to solve them, and they make for a great change of pace which is very welcome after battling through quite a few firefights.

You can always shoot your way out of tricky encounters, but taking advantage of the stealth mechanics and crafting single use tools seems to be the direction that Crystal Dynamics wants you to go. With the new stealth orientated perks that you can unlock, the stealth kills that Lara can enact are enough to make Ubisoft and Warner Bros. blush. Having said that, there were plenty of times where I felt I was re-enacting scenes from First Blood with Ms. Croft – albeit with all the gory brutality of more modern cinema – and it was gloriously satisfying.

Really, the most effective way of getting through large hordes of enemies is to craft items to throw into a group of foes. These makeshift items are highly destructive, allowing you to then pick off any stragglers with well-placed arrow shots. A few interesting set pieces here and there break the flow, so that it rarely feels like you’re just going through the same motions time and again.

Lara’s not exactly lacking in firepower to start off with, with her arsenal of bows, handguns, machine guns, and shotguns that are upgradeable using items found lying around and the loot from kills. This is largely unchanged from the previous title and works just as well here, with experience gained through play contributing to gaining perks that can help create new equipment.

rottr3

Instead of competitive multiplayer, Rise of the Tomb Raider has a challenge mode entitled Expeditions, which take sections of the campaign and allows you to play through them for points, competing against the high scores set by others. While the majority of modes like Chapter Replay Elite are self explanatory, you also have Remnant Resistance mode, which gives you a selection of objectives to complete ranging from recovering salvage, saving hostages, and killing bears. This mode is a good diversion once you’ve completed the main campaign, if you haven’t had your fill of the game, but the appeal is somewhat limited.

You can tweak the challenges to your whim, and this is where cards come in. Progress in the campaign and various modes unlocks booster packs of cards, with more gear, mission objectives for Remnant Resistance, and other goodies within. One flagrant design choice in Rise of the Tomb Raider is how its microtransactions work. Players are able to buy booster packs of multipliers and “cheats” for use using either in-game or real money. It’s not as bad as Dead Space 3, for example, but the amount of in-game currency required to unlock boosters is relatively high, and acts as a potential barrier for people to get the most out of these extra game modes.

What’s Good:

  • Phenomenal performances and striking visuals.
  • Fantastically told, action-packed story.
  • Solid and responsive gameplay.
  • Great puzzle design.

What’s Bad:

  • Largely just more of the same.
  • Stealth simply feels like other stealth games.
  • Challenge mode has limited appeal.
  • Puzzles sporadic in their placement.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is an action-packed tour-de-force that, while derivative at times, is a fantastic romp from beginning to end. This sequel learns some of the lessons of its predecessor by making the game more like a recognisable Tomb Raider game, while at the same time implementing some new features and impressive visual design. While not quite the globetrotting adventure some were hoping for, Rise of the Tomb Raider is well worth playing.

Score: 8/10

21 Comments
  1. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    Sounds great, I’m excited to get playing!

    I really enjoyed the last one, so this being more of the same but new and with more tombs, is what I want.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 08:45.
  2. dizwod
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    I look forward to playing this in about a years time :(

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 08:53.
  3. Lieutenant Fatman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2013

    Microtransactions? Urgh. I’m out.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 09:14.
    • Stefan L
      Community Team
      Since: May 2009

      They’re optional, of course, but also only come to affect the extra game modes and challenges from after you’re done with the main story.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 09:24.
      • Lieutenant Fatman
        Member
        Since: Jul 2013

        That’s something I suppose although still off putting. Maybe a bargain bin pickup in a few years then if I’m gaming on a tight budget.

        Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 11:16.
  4. Carrot381
    Member
    Since: Dec 2013

    I quite enjoyed the last one but not to the point that I’d be desperate for day one buying of this so the exclusive doesn’t bother me.
    It’s on my ‘buy second hand at some point’ list.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 09:49.
  5. MOVE
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    So sad (but not surprised) to see so many good reviews. Rihanna Pratchet delivers boring neo-feministic stories and Camilla Luddington sounds like a porn actress, and I find it baffling that anybody could describe her as a rising star.

    Further more – The First Blood delivered by an archaelogist doesn’t make ANY sense at all.¨

    I can only hope it fails sales wise but I doubt that will happen. TR: Anniversary Ed. and TR: Underworld – RIP.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 10:10.
    • Forrest_01
      Member
      Since: Jun 2009

      Well, someone clearly got out of the wrong side of bed today, didn’t they?

      I would have to question the source material used for the comparison between Camilla Luddington & a porn actress – Spent a lot of time researching for that comparison? ;)

      On a more serious note though, I have to be honest & say I don’t actually understand your parting sentence – I mean, I never really understand someone wanting something or someone else to fail, but that’s just me. It was more the last part that I really don’t get though, with the whole ‘RIP’ thing? Care to elaborate?

      Maybe I’m just confused by the games you have mentioned being pretty old by now, but I just don’t get what that part is supposed to mean.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 10:45.
      • MOVE
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        It just bugs me to see the development of this series that use to be about mystery and adventure and without any sort of heroe (and more so heroein) that is everything and does everything because we can all relate to that apparently.

        As for the RIP remark I was referring to the arguably two best games in the franchise that embodied mystery and adventure while hinting at a darker Lara. The few deaths of her opponents though, they mattered and were results of inavoidable showdowns. She didn’t Rambo her way through tons of daft mercenaries while using Batvision to spot cracks in walls.

        I hope that answered your questions.

        Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 11:06.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      Camilla Luddington has had recurring roles in Grey’s Anatomy, True Blood, and Californication, and is very much the definition of a rising star.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 11:35.
    • JR.
      Member
      Since: Apr 2013

      I liked Luddington in Greys Anatomy and she did a good job in the TR reboot but after playing Temple of Osiris recently, Keely Hawes interpretation of the character is in a completely different league. She just IS Lara Croft. Her performance in contrast to Luddinton’s is one of a strong and decisive explorer. I realise the reboot is an origin story, set before Lara had any experience but I miss the intelligent, worldly Lara from the original games pre-reboot.

      Luddington’s performance on the other hand, while true to her version of the character, is way too sexualised. To the point where it’s embarrassing. I replayed the reboot again recently and I got the impression that Luddington doesn’t really understand the history of the character she’s playing. I’d like to think she played all the previous games in the franchise before accepting the role but the fact that she orgasms every time she does a forward roll tells me otherwise.

      So I do understand where MOVE is coming from. What I enjoyed most about the Tomb Raider games is all but gone sadly. The silver lining is that, what is left is still a good game. It’s just not Tomb Raider.

      They haven’t completely destroyed the franchise like they did with Resident Evil.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 13:36.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        Not disagreeing with anything said here, but when you mention “the fact that she orgasms every time she does a forward roll tells me otherwise.”, you of course realise that this would have been recorded as a single soundbyte to be used in the game in x, y or z situations & it is in fact the developers that have decided that she therefore needs to make that noise each & every time she rolls?

        As far as I see it, apart from the scripted dialogue, Camilla has recorded soundbytes & nothing more. She can’t really be held responsible for how the devs choose to use said soundbytes that they would have asked her to provide.

        Just saying. :)

        Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 14:44.
      • JR.
        Member
        Since: Apr 2013

        Yeah, I meant that to be a bit tongue in cheek. The devs were obviously in control of the random groans here and there but her performance and dialogue throughout was more than a little OTT in places. It didn’t ruin the game but it did take away from it.

        I don’t know, maybe they asked her to play the part that way? Maybe they poked her repeatedly with sharp sticks during her voice recording :)

        Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 16:37.
  6. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    Sounds great, now for the difficult task of avoiding spoilers before it releases on PS4.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 11:42.
    • Dave Irwin
      Member
      Since: Jun 2015

      I wish you the best of luck with that.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 12:06.
      • TSBonyman
        Member
        Since: Dec 2009

        Yeah, try as i might it’s inevitable really. Maybe i should just get all the spoilers out of the way immediately so i’ll have ample time for them to fade from memory again before next year! :)

        Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 12:50.
    • double-o-dave
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      Yeah good luck with that one. On the positive side, I can’t see there being too much of a story to spoil.

      Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 12:53.
    • The Lone Steven
      Never heard of him.
      Since: May 2010

      Basically, Lara Croft turns into Darth Croft and goes on the biggest spree of tickling everyone in the franchise before stopping in London to punch the british PM in the face, steal Big Ben and go out of her way to ensure that every copy of the game is sold. Then she wakes up, realises that was all a dream and just wonder how she got from whereever the game is set to there then proceeds to make a cup of tea and the credits roll.

      Comment posted on 10/11/2015 at 11:48.
  7. JR.
    Member
    Since: Apr 2013

    I’ve been holding a grudge against this game since the atrocious handling of the exclusivity announcement. As a fan of the series I’m still looking forward to playing the game. Reading the reviews, it’s probably about what I expected given everything we have seen leading up to release. More of the same with microtransactions. Still, I am looking forward to giving it a go. Although it will be a rented copy, not bought. I can’t support a company who would sell out their biggest fan base for a quick buck. Whatever happens financially, I’m sure Lara will survive.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 13:44.
  8. Starman
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    Nice review. Pleased their is more of a stealth option this time.

    Comment posted on 09/11/2015 at 16:49.

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Rise of the Tomb Raider
  • Developer:Crystal Dynamics
  • Publisher:Microsoft, Square Enix
  • Platforms:Xbox One, PC, PS4
  • Release Date:13/11/15 (XBO), 2016 (PC, PS4)
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