A Redefined Croft
Rise of the Tomb Raider, while considered a massive release, has unfortunately been flanked by gargantuan game releases coming before, during, and after its scheduled November 10 release on Xbox platforms. While I was excited to finally give it a test run, considering the 2013 reboot was one of my favourite titles of that year, I didn’t really feel any hype thanks to the aforementioned problem. Having played through what is a segment of the Gamescom demo you can see here, I must admit – Rise of the Tomb Raider has become my most anticipated release of 2015.
The segment I was thrown into did well to showcase a handful of classic Tomb Raider moments: exploring tombs, investigating ancient markings, and great gunplay. As I jumped in and got used to the game’s controls once again, I was struck with an awe-inspiring attention to detail that is apparent throughout every inch of the environments I traversed. Each little segment, from the ancient markings Lara’s interacting with, to skeleton bodies scattered throughout the area, to the minute carvings of a world that once was – everything looked absolutely phenomenal.
This was further reinforced by how defined Lara is this time around. Crystal Dynamics were fairly talkative about the original game’s Definitive Edition providing Lara with better hair, but Rise of the Tomb Raider ups to ante tenfold. The attention to detail here is astonishing, and what really made me take notice was the fact that, following a sequence in which Lara was in the water, upon returning to dry ground she grabbed her hair and ringed the remaining droplets of water out of her ponytail. It was truly one of those moments where you double-take and think about the possibilities of what the current-gen consoles have to truly offer.
As I made my way through the first area, I worked through a couple of small puzzles, shot out some deadly traps (that I’d assume will lead to more gruesome deaths like the reboot had), and jumped across some deviously-set ground traps. It all felt a little Indiana Jones, but that’s classic Tomb Raider really.
Following that, I made it out of the more claustrophobic of areas and the camera opened up to reveal what was an absolutely awe-inspiring tomb. Combined with this was the Tomb Raider theme music that was prevalent throughout the reboot, leading me to feel goosebumps. After taking in the scenery, I continued on and had my first puzzle to solve. Most of the puzzles in the demo were water-based, with the goal usually resting on using the pickaxe to pull out boulders to allow water to fill in so Lara could jump to the next ledge or platform. There were only a few of these, and they didn’t feel tiring or boring at all thanks to the scenery and the sense of progression each instilled upon solving it.
The last puzzle I did was slightly different, this time making use of timed jumps and water to make it to the next area. It took me a few moments to gauge what was happening, but the subtle white ledges made figuring it out that much easier. Like other platformers, Rise of the Tomb Raider makes use of using subtle colour cues to guide the player around the area to know where to go. This was evident in the reboot, too, and it’s used to good use here considering the tombs are of a much grander scale this time around.
After that, a cutscene started up and the enemies in Rise finally made their appearance. While the demo itself doesn’t go into detail about who they are and what they specifically want, they did have a sense of intimidation and proficiency that made Lara anxious. Going by the name of Trinity, it’ll be interesting to see how they are utilised in the game’s over-arching story, but any particular arc of theirs was not really explored in the demo, which makes sense considering it’s only a small ten minute look into what Rise of the Tomb Raider is all about.
Following a small altercation, things go south and it was time to get a little more gun-friendly. Rise has a bigger sense of weight when it comes to aiming and shooting this time around, and as I shot at a couple of enemy Trinity soldiers, I realized that the whole tomb was starting to come apart. The sound really kicked in, and the sense of urgency followed suit. I had to jump through a variety of obstacles, avoiding some instances of enemy gunfire throughout, and make it to the outside before everything collapsed in on me. It was an exhilarating sequence to play through, and as I was making my run for it, I still experimented with a bit of hip-firing as I ran past doomed Trinity soldiers just to rub it in. I made my way out, which then had the camera zoom out once more and showcase an absolutely jaw-dropping landscape, a clear reminder of how much grander Rise of the Tomb Raider really is when compared to its predecessor.
My time with Rise of the Tomb Raider was fairly quick, lasting around 10 – 15 minutes, but it was by far the best demo at the Expo in the fact that it showcased everything that needed to be shown before the game’s release next month. I got to work my way through a tomb, investigate and solve puzzles, and experiment with the gunplay. All three of these factors are major pillars in the Tomb Raider franchise and they all combined exceptionally well to craft a Tomb Raider experience that I can’t wait to jump into.
This preview was conducted at the 2015 EB Games Expo. Rise of the Tomb Raider is set to release on Xbox 360 and the Xbox One on November 10, with a PC and PlayStation 4 release to follow in 2016.