by Matthew Thompson
As a big Tomb Raider fan, sometimes I just want to talk about the series. I had intended to write a bit about its showing at E3 along with the new Lara mobile game they announced last month, but never had the chance. Then a couple of other things crossed my mind with the series since and I have decided to cobble it all together in today’s franken-TR post.
Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3
I talked a bit about the demo from Microsoft’s Press Conference around E3 and I still feel the same way now. While I don’t love how setpiece-focused the reboot was I don’t have a problem with them being one part of the whole experience in this new Tomb Raider series. Having said that, the one they showed at E3 wasn’t a particularly exciting sequence with things seeming to lack interactivity early on during the climbing bit and then seeming too much like the run along crumbling planks and slide down slopes that was already overused in the 2013 game. If setpieces are to be a part of the equation, Crystal needs to up their game in regards to them.
I would say the same about combat, but the “Siberian Wilderness” demo showed they are taking some steps in the right direction. The small combat encounter featured in this demonstration showed off a lot more options available to Miss Croft which should make for a more engaging experience for the player. We see Lara climb amongst the trees to get the jump on foes. We see her craft poison arrows and makeshift explosives. We even see her use arrows and enemy radios as distractions which goes nicely with the expanded stealth options. Finally we see her face off against a ferocious bear. While the wolf encounters weren’t anything special in the reboot, I feel they were at least different from some of the repetitive human fights throughout the game and could have been used more often for variety. So seeing Lara go head to head with more wildlife like this bear is a good sign.
That demo ends with Lara stumbling across a large ship stuck in the ice. The devs are promising tombs will be a part of the main campaign and this along with a number of other locations featured in the trailer are the kind of places I want to explore in a TR game. Having tomb-like locations feature more prominently is a start, but we want to be doing classic tomb activities in them and that is yet to be seen. You can certainly see some potential for platforming in the aforementioned ship shot and the screens I included in this post, but I can only hope for some of the large-scale puzzles I love to run into while raiding tombs. The more varied combat and larger presence of tombs along with other little things like having to make health packs and being able to swim underwater all have me looking forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider more after its E3 showing.
Lara Croft Go
Rise wasn’t the only gaming starring Lara to show up at E3. There was also the newly announced Lara Croft Go. This is a new mobile game from Square Enix Montreal. It is a bit reminiscent of the developer’s own Hitman Go with art that recalls mobile gem Monument Valley with an obvious Tomb Raider flavor injected into it. It is a touch-based puzzle experience that feels simultaneously like the right style of game for the mobile platform and an appropriate way to adapt Tomb Raider to it, more so than the recent Temple Run clone, Lara Croft: Relic Run. I look forward to playing both though when I finally upgrade my phone!
More Lara Croft
I think it is cool to see the Lara Croft spinoff series continue in various ways. This Tomb Raider offshoot started with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. That was followed up by Temple of Osiris. Then we have these two mobile titles. And they recently announced a new comic featuring this Lara called Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen (part of the cover art shown above). What differentiates this Lara from the reboot’s? Well this is a more experienced Lara Croft. I’m not exactly sure how it fits in canonically with Crystal’s first trilogy or the earlier games, but it features a similar more seasoned Lara with her short shorts and dual pistols.
I have to wonder where this Lara will go next. This spinoff line has featured plenty of experimentation with GoL and ToO bringing co-op and arcade action to the series and then obviously the mobile adventures have a different vibe too. I know I’m always trying to find a way to return to a more classic style of TR game, but with this more classic Lara I could certainly see a few experimental ways to bring back a game more akin to her pre-reboot adventures.
One way would be just a short mini-adventure. I’ve always thought Beneath the Ashes, the DLC for Underworld was a fantastic little level. A two-hour jaunt of that quality in a more exotic locale would certainly help scratch that itch I have for tomb raiding adventures of yesteryear. You could even throw a few of these together for an episodic release of sorts. Creating a fully 3D action/adventure might be too intensive for their aims for this subseries though. So maybe this is where you bring back the isometric viewpoint of GoL/ToO, but this time make it a singleplayer affair. Cut back on the combat (or straight up remove it to really differentiate it from the reboot) and focus on the puzzle-solving and platforming. This might be a way to create something more in the classic mold at a smaller cost. Talking to a lot of classic Tomb Raider fans, I think there would certainly be an audience for something like what I have discussed here.
This is probably a lot of wishful thinking on my part, but regardless I’m glad to see this version of Lara hasn’t been abandoned yet. And I look forward to seeing what she and the younger Lara get up to when their new games release later this year. That is all for now. Thanks for reading!