Game Night, Review, Tomb Raider, Video Games

Tomb Raider (2013): Beginnings of an Adventurer

When you talk about the PS1, there are a lot of game characters that come to mind. Personally, I always bring up Final Fantasy 7’s Cloud Strife or Spyro the Dragon’s… Spyro the Dragon. Others would point out Crash Bandicoot. And I’m sure there are some out there, God knows where, that would bring up Lara Croft of original Tomb Raider fame.

Unfortunately, as time passed, these characters faded into obscurity. When it came time for the PS2, all of them stepped out of the spotlight. Characters like Nathan Drake, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank (a lot of pairs that generation, aren’t there?), and Sly Cooper. Their names lived on, but it seemed that their time was done.

Oh, how wrong we were! In the last few years, the PS1’s heroes have all come back in a big way! Crash and Spyro both came back, Cloud finally made his glorious return, even Medievel came back! Much like a phoenix, these legends have all seen new life on the PS4! All except Lara Croft.

Because she got her comeback way before any of those losers!

Tomb Raider (2013) isn’t a simple HD remake of the original PS1 game. Rather, it takes the more dangerous path of the reboot. It’s more of a modern reimagining of the formula set in place by the original series. But that begs the question: how did it do? Was it an upgrade over the original? A downgrade? Did it prove to be a game worthy of the title Tomb Raider?

I dunno, ask the two sequels.

Story: Curse of the Sun Queen

Or the alternate title of the game: ‘Lara Croft and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’.

Our journey begins with a young and inexperienced Lara Croft sailing to a legendary island with a bunch of her friends and adventuring crew. But when the boat is torn asunder by a mysterious storm, she finds herself dangling upside down from the roof of a cave, completely alone. Now, Lara must learn to survive as she struggles across the island to rescue her friends and unravel the ancient mystery of the island’s curse.

Honestly? The story in this game is just okay. The antagonist is uninteresting and forgettable, the side-characters are flat and boring, and the pacing ranges from very slow to very fast at random times. All that leads to a so-so ending that isn’t especially memorable. It certainly doesn’t help that the dialogue is entirely for plot progression. There is very little organic chemistry among the cast members. A little banter would be nice, eh?

The only truly good character in this game is Lara herself. Her arc is completed really well in this game! She goes from a starry-eyed girl to a terrified survivor to a hardened adventurer! It’s incredibly solid, interesting, and memorable, culminating in one of the most satisfying moments in any action game I’ve ever played!

Also, there’s a character named Jonah who shows up in all three games. He made taking the game seriously a lot more difficult, because I’d go “Heh heh, that’s me!” like a six-year-old whenever someone addressed him.

Yes, I am immature, what made you think that?

Presentation: Nearly There

Ah, Xbox 360/PS3 games. You were never very good at being photo-realistic. Always with the clay-like almost-people. Unless you’re a game called ‘The Last of Us’.

I remember thinking this game looked so impressive back in the day. Granted, that was coming from the perspective of a kid who only had a classic Xbox, a Wii, and a DS. But now I’m a grown-ass man, it’s 2020, and the standard has been raised.

Still, this game hasn’t aged ungracefully! It still looks half-decent (at least on PC with the highest settings). The character models have aged, but they still look convincing and decent. The environments have aged much more gracefully, save for a few muddy textures. It doesn’t hold a candle to the current generation, but it still looks fine for a last-gen game.

All these years later and it still feels weird calling a 360 game last-gen.

The music in this game is pretty stellar! I’m a sucker for an orchestra (I played in one for five years, if you count middle-school/high school orchestra, which I do), so that immediately earns it some points! This game has a soundtrack reminiscent of Uncharted (which is the only comparison I’m going to draw in this review). It’s perfect for such a high-octane adventure!

Visually speaking, this game isn’t bad. But it also isn’t especially memorable. It doesn’t really have anything to help it stand out. It’s just another photo-realistic game made in the era where those started to actually look the part. The most stand-out thing is the mostly gray color pallet.

Seriously, why is this game so gray so often?

Gameplay: Don’t Die

Seriously, who the fuck animated those kill animations?! Are they okay?! They did not need to be some god damn gruesome! You’ve already earned your M rating, calm down!

Tomb Raider is a mostly linear action-adventure game with some elements of open exploration. You travel across the island, armed with your various tools to aide in your survival. You battle enemies, gather scrap to upgrade your items, run from exploding areas in big action setpieces, and occasionally raid a tomb.

Let’s start with those, shall we? The optional tombs in this game are pretty cool! These bonus challenges are typically restricted to one or two rooms, wherein you need to solve a puzzle. The puzzles themselves are decently challenging and fun and the reward you get, typically a weapon upgrade part, is good enough to warrant the effort. These are so much fun that I actually got super excited whenever I’d discover one!

Combat in this game is… decent. It’s your typical third-person, cover-based shooter fair. You’ve got four weapons, a pistol, a machine guy (with an attachable grenade launcher later in the game), a shotgun, and a bow, along with a climbing pick used for melee. Each weapon can be upgraded over the course of the game with enough scrap. Plus, you’ll get bonus abilities as you progress, which will be useful in fighting the wide variety of enemies. The formula is repetitive, but there are more than enough variables to keep combat fresh and fun.

Traversal is also pretty fun! Each area is like a small puzzle, requiring you to use each ability at your disposal to get from place to place! It certainly helps that all the levels are a ton of fun; each one is visually unique and presents a totally different challenge, making the island feel massive, varied, and dangerous! You don’t get much to explore, all the levels are fairly small and linear with a few branching paths. But they’re a lot of fun to go through!

It’s not all great though. The crafting system feels really bare-bones. All you need to do is grind for scrap then buy the upgrade. It doesn’t encourage exploration; only grinding. Trust me game, if I wanted to do that, I’d play Dragon Quest!

Still need to finish that one, too…

Conclusion

I slept on these games for a while. I had it, as well as the other two, in my Steam library for months. Maybe longer. Honestly, it was only because of sheer quarinitne-induced boredom that I finally decided to finish it.

Then I became addicted and burned through the whole trilogy in a week.

Take my advice: do I what I did. Take the plunge. Tomb Raider (2013) is a fantastic game, easily one of the best action-adventure games I’ve ever played! It’s a perfect modern reboot, one that lives up to the franchise’s name while still being a great game on its own!

Plus, if you’ve played this one, you can go straight into Rise of the Tomb Raider. Which is (mostly) even better!

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