ROG Playbook: What Went Wrong with the Tomb Raider Reboot
By Jessica Brister On 11 May, 2014 At 11:08 PM | Categorized As Editorials, PC Games, PlayStation, Reviews, Xbox 360/Xbox One | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThere was a point in time that I used to be a hard-core, old-school Tomb Raider fan.  I have all of the early games and have actually had the pleasure to play them on both PC and console.  When I heard about the new Tomb Raider origins/reboot game that came out in 2013, I put it on the list to play.  My chance finally came when I whittled down the backlog of games this spring and got a chance to play Tomb Raider.

If you are not familiar with the game, Tomb Raider is a 2013 action-adventure, 3rd-person video game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix.  It is a reboot of the original franchise, concentrating on how Lara Croft became the world-famous adventurer.  It was also released on next-gen consoles as the “definitive edition” with slightly improved graphics.  It is also the first in the Tomb Raider series to ever have multiplayer, though for the purposes of this review, I will only be reviewing the single player aspects.

If the game wasn’t a Tomb Raider game, I would probably rate it as “okay,” considering that the game is fun to play at parts but copies to heavily from the Uncharted series.  However, this is supposed to be a Tomb Raider game, and here is what went terribly wrong:

Where are the puzzles? 

The first thing I noticed right away was that the game barely has any puzzles.  There’s a few sprinkled throughout the mostly 3rd-person shooter game, but they weren’t that hard.  I never felt stumped on them, and they only took a few moments to figure them out.  What was even worse was the fact that there are no jumping puzzles at all.  Some people may rejoice that the jumping and climbing bit of the franchise has been made easier by almost “auto” directing for you when you go to jump.  The problem is that jumping puzzles were have the fun of the original Tomb Raider games.  Trying to figure out what angle to jump and how many steps into the jump you needed to take was part of the charm of the game.

 Too much shooting

The Tomb Raider franchise had been all about balance.  The original only had a little bit of shooting (animals and the very occasional bad guy).  As more games came out, shooting became more and more prevalent, but the focus was also want adventuring and puzzles.  This new game is all about the third-person shooter experience with duck and cover elements.  The problem?  Old school Tomb Raider games were jump and flip.  I have had people point out to me that the game needed updated.  I can agree with that to some degree.  However, I do have a problem with the developers fundamentally changing the whole feel of the game play.

There was too much focus on the third-person shooting aspect of the game and not enough on puzzles.

There was too much focus on the third-person shooting aspect of the game and not enough on puzzles.

 Where are the tombs?

This game has basically become “survival raider” because there really weren’t any traditional tombs, at least the type that one would expect in a Tomb Raider game.  The player is stuck on one island for the whole time, so there is no variety.  There are some ancient houses and temples built  there, as well as some areas the game calls “tombs.”  I call them “rooms.”  They are barely big enough to do any actual exploring.  There is nothing really adventurous about the game.  It’s sole focus is on survival.

 The tone is off

Tomb Raider games used to be fun and hip.  Playing the older games, you felt like Lara was in control of the situation, even if the situation was a little out of control.  Even given the fact that this is supposed to be an origins story, the tone just felt off.  It was too dark and depressing.  It wasn’t actually that fun to play.  The franchise used to be about adventuring and exploring and having fun.  This new game felt as if the developers wanted everything to be a little “too real,” though the franchise has never been like that before.  Some people have pointed out to me that they enjoy the realism, that it was nice to see a more realistic side of Lara.  However, I would like to also point out that right off the bat at the beginning, she had a metal stake go through her body.  Now please tell me how she was up and walking around for the rest of the game?

The tone is a little dark for a Tomb Raider game.

The tone is a little dark for a Tomb Raider game.

 Is this really Lara Croft?

I wasn’t exactly sure who the woman was in this game, but it wasn’t the original Lara Croft, that’s for sure.  This woman went from apprehensive to super aggressive in a matter of a few hours.  The problem is that the original Lara never got that crazy aggressive.  Sure, she knew how to kick some serious butt.  However, there was always control.  When I played this new Tomb Raider, it didn’t really feel like the same character anymore.  Sure, she looks like Lara (sort of), but it’s not the same Lara I grew up playing.

So, is this a bad game?  No.  Most people will probably like it to some degree.  I know a lot of people who gave it high praise (critics included).  I also got some enjoyment out of it.  However, it just didn’t feel like a Tomb Raider game, orign story or not.

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