You know, there’s a lot of mascots in the video game world. Apart from the major blockbuster of Smash, the collective genres of video games have made remarkable characters: Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot, Captain Price, and Mega Man. But, let’s forget the women too; Samus Aran- the first leading heroine in a Nintendo game, Chun-Li- the first female fighter in a fighting game, to more current iterations like Ellie from The Last of Us, Chloe Fraiser from the Uncharted series, and Clementine from Telltale’s The Walking Dead. But, more famously than the others, we need to look to the Playstation and its most famous idol, Lara Croft. After years of seeking treasures and being the eye candy, Lara is back in a new light and in a new story.
Tomb Raider (2013), developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, is a third person action adventure shooter in a semi-open world. This reboot of the classic Tomb Raider series reinvents Lara Croft and gives new fans a chance to become the Tomb Raider of old.
You play as Lara Croft, a budding archaeologist with a mission to find the lost treasure of Queen Himiko. As told in her father’s journals, this treasure is the lost city of Yamatai somewhere in The Dragons Circle, a collective of islands a la The Bermuda Triangle. After getting caught in a ferocious storm, Lara is separated and now forced to fight through a cult dedicated to resurrecting the long dead queen. There will be sacrifices made, explosions to run from, and all that and more leads Lara on a quest of self-discovery of her family name as a Croft. More importantly, as the Tomb Raider.
Game play is redefined in Tomb Raider. Instead of simple exploration of tombs, you are thrown in as a survivor in a connective island environment with select fast travel points between “camps.” You gain weapons and gear throughout the game; starting with a dinky bow to a full arsenal of semi-automatic weaponry, ropes and a climbing axe, to an attachable grenade launcher.
During combat, most times you are blasting through railroad segments or sneaking around semi-open spaces and tackling enemies with your bow and arrows. Exploration is the name of the game; there are a ton of items to collect and Tombs to raid, either for getting EXP or salvage. By collecting salvage all across the island through the regular map or seeking out hidden tombs, you have the chance to upgrade your weapons. Further exploration also rewards you with in game collectibles; artifacts, narrated lore, and collectible maps. Sometimes, weapon parts are found in salvage crates to increase your arsenal’s potency.
Throughout the game, either from collecting salvage or food, you are rewarded with skill points, which are split into three branching pathways: Survivor, Hunter, and Warrior. For each point used, abilities, such as extended axe attacks, enemy stuns, more salvage per cache, and recovering arrows from bodies. As you progress through the game, added abilities are unlocked as you level Lara up.
As the first game is a supposed trilogy, Tomb Raider gives itself an excellent head start. It can be rough rebooting a classic mascot in the gaming world; gamers who have grown up with the character and their games- good or bad- expect that this reboot may introduce people to a character that was that and more, with the odd tweak in writing and personality. I feel like Tomb Raider preserves Lara Croft’s character at its infant stages. She isn’t the no nonsense archaeologist or an acrobat in tight khaki shorts and a blue crop top. No, Lara is written as a woman thrown into terrible circumstances, only to rise out from the ashes and fire as a certified hunter, savvy tinkerer, hero, and friend. Only when we get to the second and third games do we see her continually grow into her title.
Lara’s journey is a refresher to old fans of a massively recognized character in the world of gaming mascots; the fact that Tomb Raider came before Uncharted, then it steals back its core exploration game play with new mechanics and great replay-ability just in case you missed a collectible or need to discover a new tomb.
Tomb Raider (2013) is rated M for Mature. It was released on March 5th, 2013 and is available for Ps4 and Ps3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and PC.
- Johan C. Wyckoff