I played bits and pieces of the early Tomb Raider games, but was never a fan of them. I didn’t seek them out. But I kept hearing how good this new one was, at least before everyone moved on to Bioshock: Infinite, and when I saw a good deal, I jumped in and bought it. I’m glad that I did.
Tomb Raider acts as a sort of reboot for the franchise. How did Lara Croft get to be the guns akimbo, dinosaur killing, treasure finding badass? Well, you’ll know after this. Lara is part of an archaeological team looking for an ancient empire named Yamatai. She figures out that they’ve been heading in the wrong direction, and as a result, they end up shipwrecked. She blames herself. People die, and she blames herself more. She becomes determined to find a way off the island, complicated by the fact that any craft that approaches by land or sea gets knocked around and destroyed by strange storms. She finds evidence that it’s been happening for hundreds of years, and that the island’s inhabitants are the survivors of those wrecks.
The look of the game hearkens back to Indiana Jones, but what the game really plays like to me is Batman: Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, if instead of beating everyone with fists, Bats went all Oliver Queen on people. Secret, hidden things to find and collect abound. Instead of Detective Mode there’s ‘Survival Insticts’ which helps hidden items, climbable areas, and living creatures. There are puzzles, In which you have to find a way past an obstacle or blocked path. They are just difficult enough to be fun, but not to frustrate you into oblivion. I only got stuck once, and once I checked the walkthrough for the puzzle that got me, I decided I must be too tired and went to bed.
The main story arc took me about 15 hours or so to finish – but I only found 71% of the stuff available to find, and almost no complete sets. You can go back after the game is over and find the rest if you like, and as you are playing, you can fast travel via campsites. I didn’t do that though, as I wanted to see the story. One other note – there is a point where Lara is about to be sexually assaulted, which generated a ton of discussion when the game was being first talked about. It’s not worse than the typical ‘female hero is tied up and rescued just in the nick of time’ trope, though in this case Lara basically rescues herself and shoots the guy in the face. If this is something that will bother you, the game is probably best avoided.
So what’s the verdict? I had a blast. I played until 3 in the morning a couple of times, wanting to see one more thing, reveal one more important plot point. That doesn’t happen to me much any more. There’s a few rough patches, the infamous one is how quickly she gets over killing her first person, but that’s to be expected in a video game. If you want to see what the game looks like on a decent but not world-beating PC, check the gallery below. If you wish to purchase the game, here’s an Amazon link (it installs via Steam). It’s also available on PS3 and Xbox360, just change the option under Platform.