Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

There have been many games I've been excited for this year, but unfortunately a few have fallen short of my expectations (I'm looking at you Metal Gear Solid 5). Tomb Raider earned a reboot in 2013, which I felt was a refreshing and welcome addition to the series. After enjoying this so much, I couldn't wait for the sequel.

Summer 2014 brought the announcement that Tomb Raider was getting a sequel and I couldn’t wait. I was disheartened at first as I found out it was an Xbox One exclusive for a year and I didn’t want to wait. However, earlier this year I bought an Xbox One so that I could enjoy some of the games I was interested in, such as Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3 and Sunset Overdrive.

I have been a fan of the Tomb Raider series since I played the first one on the Sega Saturn. The Tomb Raider series offered something that not many games did for the time. It offered a strong female lead, combined with a a great story, a huge, exciting adventure and new gameplay. Upon it's 1996 release, it was clear that Tomb Raider was set to be one of the most successful franchises of all time. The series did dip for a few years after mixed receptions on titles such as Angel of Darkness, but I am happy to say that now the series is back and better than ever, thanks to this new take on the famous adventurer. 

In her prime at the start of the series, Lara Croft's face was everywhere, promoting products, comics, being magazine's cover girl (Loaded was one example), as well as spawning two movie adaptations starring Angelina Jolie as Ms. Croft.  When the 2013 reboot was released, a lot of people compared it to the Uncharted series. Even though I would agree on the similarities (I love Uncharted!), it was nice to see Lara Croft back to her peak again, whilst adding a refreshing spin on the Uncharted-style gameplay. The reboot offered a strong Lara again, allowing gamers to follow her progression into the character we love. It also had a compelling story, very fun and varied gameplay that was paired perfectly with stunning graphics. 

The story takes place one year after the 2013 reboot. Lara is struggling to explain what happened in her last outing. Looking for some answers, she looks into her fathers research on the lost city of Kitezh and the fabled source for immortality. She soon sets off to find out if her father's research is correct or not.

The story had me gripped through the whole game. I loved the new main villain, who is both a genuine threat and truly menacing.
Lara was back again, stronger than ever which added in good emotions to the story. Also, the new characters introduced are likeable. Without giving away spoilers, the game has a few twists here and there, but the story doesn't falter during the whole game, compelling you to keep going. The ending is also brilliant, and stick around after the end credits for a final cut-scene!

If you listen to all the hidden cassette tapes and artefacts, it will give you a deeper insight into the story.

The reboot's gameplay was already good enough, but it has been polished greatly in Rise of the Tomb Raider. It was so fun I even did optional side quests for characters and all the side tombs, which offer some of the best puzzles of the game and stunning environments. I would highly recommend to at least do all the side tombs as they add deep fun puzzles that make it feel even more like the classic Tomb Raider games.

This time around Lara croft has more ways to take down her enemies and to get around the environment.

You have many different ways you can take down the enemy from either going loud and just shooting everyone, using items to distract the enemy so you can either sneak past them or sneak up and get a silent takedown. Another way you can go is all stealth, which is what i like to do the most as I love using the bow. Your bow is a very important part of your arsenal again like the last game allowing you to kill enemies with arrows and now you can burn them, explode them or use poison arrows along with the regular ones. On top of that you get a shotgun, machine gun and a pistol that can all be upgraded to make them better in every way from power, handling and speed. You can pick up parts hidden around the environment in boxes to unlock better weapons.

This time Lara can craft items from the environment allowing more variety in your approach to each situation, so you can create molotovs, explosive cans and smoke bombs. It did remind me of the hit PS3 game (and remaster on the PS4) The Last of Us where Joel was able to create items too so was nice to see Lara being able to do this and it expanded her arsenal even more.

The variety of the combat is great, in the last game most the time there was just the enemy charging at you but this time you entered an area and it was your choice how you took them down to advance to the next area. They also offered more varied enemies ranging from many different classes of soldiers, bears, wolfs, snow leopards and some i won’t spoil as it's tied in with the story.

Lara can now also get around easier than ever before, not only can she jump, rock climb with her pickaxes, climb on ropes like she did in the last game. She now can swing over large gaps with her rope, use a rope and pickaxe to reach far gaps and high areas and even shoot arrows into soft walls to climb on top of. This allowed the climbing system to get around the environment more varied and never bored me throughout the game.

They also have introduced kinda open world areas, in certain parts of your adventure you will come to huge areas you can explore and find all the little secrets it holds. You can collect resources, solve tombs, do side missions for characters, hunt wild life, explore crypts and more. I loved the huge areas each time I found them as it made the world feel more alive and real, added more hours to the game and wasn’t just for show, it was fun to explore every nook and cranny and see what secrets were hidden.

Some people complained with the last game that it was more action and not many 
puzzles to solve, I’m happy to say it is a nice mix of both now, each tomb offers a clever puzzle for you to solve that can take between 10 to 30 mins to solve depends how quickly you can solve the puzzle. These tombs offer some very fun gameplay and some of the best set pieces in the game. I couldn’t wait until I got to each new area to find these hidden tombs and solve them. They offer some of the best gameplay in the game especially if you are a fan of the original games.

The weapon upgrade system isn’t the only thing back this time, your character upgrade system is back too allowing you to become even more powerful than you were before, making you faster, stronger and more powerful.

Overall the gameplay is even better than Lara’s last outing feeling more polished and more fun. Giving you many distractions to entice you from the main game, also in the last game the ending boss wasn’t so great but this time i feel like the last boss was just right after a very climatic ending scene. 

Graphics and Sound Design      
Rise of the Tomb Raider makes an already stunning game even better, at first when you start the game you feel like it is only just a little better than the last game but the longer you play you see more detail and nice new extras they introduced with better character models, more character animation, more effects into the environment and more. You will stop many times in the game and go "Wow that looks Amazing!!!", every area felt alive and super detailed. Not only did they make the game even more beautiful, also it felt like there was more detail into each part of the game, always giving you something to look at around every corner. You only have to turn the camera around and each time you do you will be presented with a beautiful scene. 

The tombs offer the best level design for the game giving you stunning places to solve puzzles, once i got to the lost city of Kitezh i was amazed how good it actually looked. They have really thought hard in their level design not only thinking of clever ways to explore it but they also keep giving you eye candy to look at.

The sound design is still up there with the last game making the world sound alive, giving you epic music during intense fights and scenes. The voice cast is very strong giving you likeable characters that you care for, Lara is strongest of course out of the bunch and makes you feel for her during the whole story. The actor is so believable that when they do the reboot of the movie series again I would love to see her play Lara Croft.

         Lasting Appeal
Rise of the Tomb Raider is great value for money, the main story will last you 10-12 hours long but if you do all the side stuff can easily last 20 hours. I know some people will just do the main story and stop but I recommend at least doing the side tombs and the side missions for characters. Both offer good rewards in doing so and offer some of the best gameplay in the game.                                       
Final Verdict
Overall I am very happy with Rise of the Tomb Raider not only does it improve on the 2013 reboot it offers one of the best gameplay experiences this year. It is a shame they released it so close to Fallout 4 as due to this the sales haven’t been so great, but hopefully once it comes out on the PS4 next year it will get better sales enticing Square Enix to carry on such a great series.

Rise of the Tomb Raider offers fun varied gameplay, stunning graphics and set pieces, stellar voice work and performance from all the characters, an intriguing story and one of my favourite games of 2015.

If you haven’t already picked up Rise of the Tomb Raider please do it, it deserves more sales especially with all the hard work they have put into the game and you won’t be disappointed. If you haven’t got an Xbox One and have a PS4 then when it comes out next year on PS4, please do the same.


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