I was one of the biggest supporters of the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot when it was announced. Heck, way back to the leak about it a year or so before it was announced, I was excited for this game. The more they showed though, the more questions I had about the direction of this new entry in one of my favorite series. My biggest worry is that the core of the franchise is being lost in here somewhere.
All the articles leading up to the official unveil had me believing that this would in fact retain what was important to the series while expanding it in an interesting new direction. I have enjoyed all of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider games to varying degrees (and the excellent spinoff Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as well). But after three fairly similar entries, I think it was time for a change and for Crystal to put their own stamp on the series. Early write-ups described a game that retained the focus on the series’ core DNA of platforming and puzzle solving while adding more open environments within a single location, gear gating, and an experience/upgrade system. This would also start the story from scratch showing a young Lara Croft on her first big adventure.
All of this sounded like a great idea, but as gameplay was shown I became a bit more wary of this direction. The first demo I sort of gave a pass to. It was very linear and way too loaded with button prompts, but it was supposedly the first section of the game and it would open up afterwards. But well over a year later and plenty more footage shown, I have to ask: Where is the platforming? This is why I play this series. Say what you will about recent TR games, but in a world of automated platforming, these are games that make you think about where to go next in your environment and didn’t make the jumps for you. What little platforming has been shown in this game so far has looked very simplistic and not up to the series standards. My biggest sliver of hope in this regard is the leaked look at one of the hubs, but it is hard to make a whole lot out of this small bit of footage. Puzzle solving seems to be here to some extent, but that hasn’t been the focus either.
What they have shown is cool enough. Lara’s new look is great as are the graphics. Combat, the series biggest flaw recently, looks much improved. The addition of setpieces might actually be fun. Especially if they could carry challenging platforming into these situations (which I am still questioning of course). Giving it some survival aspects makes a lot of sense especially in this environment which I also like. I loved the idea of getting new gear that will allow you to get to new places. The story is harder to get a handle on. While the origin story is something that interests me, I’m not fully comfortable with the sexual assault scene or how the devs have presented it. And I am sort of hoping that despite having her friends on the island with her, we will still get plenty of that feeling of isolation while we explore tombs during the game. But this story stuff I’d rather see more of within the context of the game itself before I judge it.
I guess I just want to know if this is what the game is or if the platforming and puzzles are still going to have a big focus. They haven’t shown any of the open hub areas other than the hunting one which is supposedly a lot smaller than the others. They also haven’t shown much of the tombs which will also have a (seemingly?) big presence (there will even be optional ones). So maybe for whatever reason, they just haven’t shown the aspects I am most concerned about. The PR for this game has been kind of a mess, so maybe this just goes hand in hand with that. Or maybe they are trying to draw in a new audience by showing the footage they have, but that core Tomb Raider experience is still very much here.
The Tomb Raider I have seen looks like a fun game though. It just looks a bit more like Uncharted than Tomb Raider. That comparison might seem backwards to some. No one is more aware of which series came first than me. But while they share thematic similarities, their gameplay focuses are wildly different and the newest TR game looks a bit more like the setpiece/narrative driven, action-oriented Uncharted series as opposed to the slow puzzle-based platformer that the Tomb Raider series is. I expect it to be an enjoyable experience regardless, but I am just hoping that core DNA that makes Tomb Raider special to me is still here in full force. And that come March of next year, I will be able to say that this newest TR is not just a great game, but a great Tomb Raider game. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Anybody have any thoughts on the upcoming Tomb Raider game? Am I freaking out over nothing? Do you share any of my concerns? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!