When it was announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be a timed exclusive on Microsoft’s platform it caught a few people by surprise considering that the first game was released on all available platforms. I was not to bothered by this fact considering the size and scope of the backlog of games I am still currently working through. What I can say though is it was a smart move on Square-Enix’s part to have released the 20-year anniversary edition for PlayStation 4. It acts as a “Game of the Year Edition” for PlayStation 4 owners and definitely makes up for the year long wait we had to endure before getting it on the PlayStation 4. Along with the original game, you get all the DLC released so far, including the Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch and Cold Darkness Awakened packs.
Since her first adventure being shipwrecked on an island in the first game, where we get to experience first hand how she turned herself into a survivor. In her second adventure, Lara follows in her disgraced archaeologist’s father’s footsteps in the search for the secret city of Kitezh, a mythical city both founded and lost in Russia’s Siberian tundra. Which is said to contain the secrets of immortality. I would probably get picked apart and flamed for making this statement by avid Tomb Raider fans but the story of Rise of Tomb Raider is largely irrelevant and forgettable and serves as window dressing for the massive action set pieces. Now by all means this is not a negative thing, as this has never really hurt any other Tomb Raider game in the past. And it most certainly does not hurt this game.
But I found myself enjoying the back stories found in various monologs by Lara, books, scrolls and voice recorders that went into detail explaining the story of the Prophet, Kitezh and Trinity more than the actual plot of the game. And something that stood out for me during the course of the game is the theme of inner peace and redemption for her father, which Lara seems to be seeking out during the game. Which is funny considering just what a bloodthirsty, ruthless killer she is during the course of the game, yes Tomb Raider is not the only game that suffers from this well-worn cliche as the Uncharted franchise also suffers from the same to a lesser degree. But for some reason, it stands out in the new Tomb Raider games in part due to the writing that clashes with the in game action.
And compounding the problem even further is that Lara doesn’t really have any discernible personality to speak of or any likable supporting cast that surrounds her. Which seems to be a long-standing issue with the franchise as a whole. And yes I am going to draw the parallels between Uncharted and Tomb Raider here, as they fall into the same genre of games. This is the only major issue I had with the game, in an otherwise excellent port and experience on the PlayStation 4. Visually the game runs a solid 30FPS at 1080p, and during my entire play-through, I maybe experienced a single slowdown and graphical glitch. Crystal Dynamics should be commended for releasing such a solid port, especially if you consider the state of some ports we get on release.
The games locations and set pieces are absolutely stunning as they are varied, from the rainy dark London, England. To the Frozen Tundra’s and blazing hot deserts of Syria. All of the games locations can easily rival that of any found in the Uncharted franchise. While the game is semi-open world it still has a pretty linear design. Allowing Crystal Dynamics to control the flow of the game, you can fast travel between different base camps making the need for backtracking to previous locations unnecessary. Making collecting those collectible and picking up achievements far easier for those looking at getting a 100% completion in the game. All of the games locations are filled to the brim with collectibles and wildlife you can hunt. Making exploring every nook and cranny essential.
The entire game works on the adventure mechanics which consists of running, jumping, hunting and climbing, as well as the cover based gunplay we got in the first game. Hunting also plays a much bigger and more essential part in the game now, you will need to hunt and kill various animals only found in certain locations if you want to upgrade the power and effectiveness of your gear. The entire crafting system has been expanded as well, each weapon or item now has its own subset of requirements that need to be met before you can upgrade it. Be it the skin of a ferocious bear or the antlers of a deer, each has its own combination of items needed before you can upgrade it. Lara can also create new tools, including homemade grenades and Molotov’s.
But expect to use your trusty bow most of the time, which also can be upgraded to use poison, fire, and grenades. Lara also has abilities she can upgrade at the various base camps using the skill points she acquired from either killing enemies or completing missions and side quests, which makes life a whole lot easier when getting to fights or when you are just collecting resources or exploring the world. I would also highly recommend doing the challenge tombs scattered across the different areas of the game. While these are more difficult than the first game’s it did not take me long to find and complete all of them, which when completed each tomb gives you a unique and useful skill and in some cases parts of legendary weapons or items.
There are also side missions scattered throughout the different locations, but they aren’t all that extraordinary, to begin with. They will have you shooting down drones, fetching supplies, exploring certain locations and bringing back items. So while the games story is lacking and acts only as window dressing for the games set pieces and Lara has no real character to speak of not to mention the lack of memorable supporting cast members in the game. I can still highly recommend the game as it is an excellent polished port and the DLC will keep you busy for hours. Thoroughly enjoyable, with a surprisingly long campaign which vastly improves on every single aspect that we got in the first game. If you haven’t already, go pick it up and play it now!