Title: Rise of the Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Platforms: PC (Reviewed) / Xbox One / PS4 (Fall 2016)
Rise of the Tomb Raider takes place one year after the events that transpired in 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, and it begins with series protagonist, Lara Croft, making her way up a mountain in Siberia amidst a dangerous blizzard; an intense sequence that not only sets the tone for the 12-hour campaign, but also establishes that Lara is willing to do whatever she must to uncover the truth about her father’s studies. Lara’s tenacity and determination are at full-throttle here, and her father’s work — and death — fuel the driving force behind her motivation. Rise of the Tomb Raider builds on the strong foundation established during the franchise reboot by creating a tale about redemption, revenge, and Lara’s continued transformation into a world-class explorer…and ass-kicker.
My only complaint (other than the atrocious, tacked on multiplayer) with the Tomb Raider reboot was how easily Lara transitioned from a doe-eyed, rookie explorer to a stone-cold killer in such a short amount of time. Granted, a more believable transformation would’ve greatly hampered the game’s overall pacing, so I understood the quick change in character. With Rise of the Tomb Raider, we don’t have that issue. Lara has already been established as a character and she is more than capable of handling her own in hostile situations. Essentially, she’s graduated to “terminator” status. Thankfully, the voice cast does a phenomenal job keeping these characters as grounded and fleshed out as possible by delivering believable performances that are conveyed through impressive motion capture. Like most adventure games (and movies), check your brain at the door and enjoy the experience for what it is; Rise of the Tomb Raider is one hell of an experience that any fan of the genre needs to play.
Much like the cinematic classic Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, we learn that Lara Croft’s father was obsessed with an artifact that has the ability to grant immortality, and his infatuation with the Divine Source — as it’s called — often interfered with his responsibility as a father. Years later, after her father’s mysterious death, Lara is dead-set on proving that her father’s fixation with the Divine Source wasn’t insanity, despite constant attempts to deter her otherwise by her friend Jonah and her father’s widowed wife, Ana. After going over all of her father’s notes and audio tapes focused on the location of the Divine Source, Lara disregards their pleas to “let it go” and sets out to redeem her father’s — and the family’s — name. It’s an extremely gripping tale as we see Lara continue to mature into a character that everyone can get behind and root for. There are a number of interesting characters who help Lara along the way, heinous villains who have plans of their own for the Divine Source, a couple of plot twists that you may or may not expect, and no shortage of over-the-top, high-octane set pieces that’ll leave your hands sweaty as you try to catch your breath. The only issue I had with the story was the final act; it was really drawn out and teetered the line between super exciting and incredibly exhausting, leaning more towards the latter.
Even though Rise of the Tomb Raider has already enjoyed a wealth of well-deserved critical praise since its launch on Xbox One back in November, many have wondered how it would look and perform on PCs, and I’m happy to confirm that this game looks freaking amazing. I played through the game on a pretty nice rig, and was constantly in awe of what I was seeing. In the interest of full-disclosure, I played through the title with the settings on “high” with a setup that breaks down as follows:
The level of detail in each environment looks great, and the character models and lighting are exceptional. It’s clear that Crystal Dynamics — and the game’s porting studio, Nixxes — took great care in utilizing high end PCs to deliver the kind of visuals fans of the platform expect. The real pleasure here, though, is the silky smooth frame-rate and how well it holds up during even the most explosive set pieces. I’d often kill myself intentionally in the hopes that I’d load back to a previous checkpoint, just so I could play through one of the game’s many bombastic scenes again and enjoy the great work that Crystal Dynamics has done here. If you have a GTX 970 GPU or better, you’re in for a real treat when the explosions and fast-paced action kick in. I’m still relatively new to PC gaming — so my opinion isn’t as experienced as those who’ve been gaming on the platform for years — but, damn, this game looks spectacular in motion.
The gameplay itself benefits from the improved frame-rate as well, as the combat, both melee-based and shooting, feels silky smooth. Just like in Tomb Raider before, the bow is still my weapon of choice, simply because it’s a blast to use and its diversity makes it ideal for just about any combat scenario. Switching between explosive, incendiary, and poisonous gas tipped arrows is seamless, even during the most heated confrontations. Firearms, however, are a mixed bag. The pistol is probably the most useful weapon for both CQC and medium-ranged combat. The first assault rifle you have access to is all but useless, even when fully upgraded. The shotgun, however, was probably my favorite firearm to use because it was so damn overpowered in most instances. That said, it was still extremely rewarding to light up a group of baddies with incendiary ammo and watch them burn. There are better versions of each weapon class that can be unlocked by completing challenges, optional quests, and finding hidden lockboxes. I completed the main story in about 12 hours and still only managed to complete 67% of the game, so there is still plenty more to do here in the form of challenge tombs, which feature expertly crafted puzzles, and finding collectibles.
I was saddened by the fact that I never got around to playing Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One this past fall, mainly because I was such a huge fan of the reboot. Games like Fallout 4, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Halo 5 (along with real life) monopolized most of my time. Now that I’ve finally played through the definitive version of the game, I can honestly say it would’ve easily claimed a spot in my Top 5 games of 2015. Rise of the Tomb Raider encompasses everything I want in an action-adventure game, from stellar voice acting and an engaging plot, to sensational gameplay and presentation. Lara Croft has been thrust into the upper-echelon of heroes in gaming once again, and the Tomb Raider franchise has earned a place alongside the current crop of action-adventure heavyweights. If you have a rig capable of running it close to maxed-out settings, you’re in for one hell of an experience.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was reviewed using a PC code generously provided by our friends at Square Enix & Crystal Dynamics.
- Outstanding visuals and performance
- Entertaining story and characters
- Platforming is as fun as ever
- Voice acting fleshes out characters
- Gunplay is a mixed bag
- Final act is overkill