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April 2019

Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2015 (US), Nov. 13, 2015 (EU)


Xbox One Preview - 'Rise Of The Tomb Raider'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 24, 2015 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

In Lara Croft's next chapter of her journey, she must use her survival skills and wits, learn to trust new friends, and ultimately accept her destiny as the Tomb Raider.

After the success of 2013's Tomb Raider reboot, it was only a matter of time before a sequel was confirmed. Though the announcement wasn't a surprise, the time-limited exclusivity means that Rise of the Tomb Raider is effectively an Xbox exclusive for this holiday season, and Microsoft is treating it as such. The Xbox One is the lead SKU, with the Xbox 360 version being a port done by Nixxes. Eager to know how things were shaping up with Lara Croft, we sat down with an early build, and played through the first few hours of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

To say that Rise of the Tomb Raider has been influenced by Hollywood would be an accurate statement. The opening prologue level ( the ice mountain that we've seen in various demos) is about 10 minutes long and is half tutorial level, half QTE. It's there to set up the storyline as much as it is to introduce the basic controls. The QTEs continue into the next section, though after the first hour or so of play, they seem to lighten up.

The overall story driving the game feels as though it was inspired by elements of the major Abrahamic religions. The prophet of Constantinople was a charismatic leader who was murdered by the Order of Trinity. His tomb reportedly contains a powerful artifact and various players, including Lara, are on a mission to find the prophet's tomb and recover the artifact.

Visually, Rise of the Tomb Raider looks good running on the Xbox One, with sequences that transition seamlessly from cinema scenes to gameplay with no visual difference in quality. The cinema scenes appear between each of the first few levels.

After the prologue, Lara finds herself in Syria, which is the first proper level in the game. There is still a fairly heavy amount of hand-holding going on here as you explore your first tomb. Specifically, the game seems to treat players with kid gloves as far as the puzzles are concerned. As you venture forth, the solutions to each obstacle are presented almost immediately after the challenge becomes apparent. Thankfully, the hand-holding only seems to happen in this specific tomb. After you finish the Syrian level, Rise of the Tomb Raider starts to open up, both in level design and in terms of how the game treats you as a player.

The Siberian Wilderness can be both beautiful and unforgiving. It's also where the first major hub of the game is located and where Rise of the Tomb Raider really starts. As you explore the wilderness, you find pre-determined base camp locations. Start a campfire at each location to set up camp, which enables fast travel as well as offers an opportunity to upgrade your weapons and skills. Upgrading weapons borrows a page from the Far Cry series, requiring you to collect various ingredients from the world before you can craft an upgrade.

Lara's skills are split between the brawler (hand-to-hand combat and healing abilities), hunter (hunting and scavenging abilities) and survivor (crafting and exploration abilities) categories. Skill types can be unlocked in any order you choose, with the only restriction being that lower level skills have to be unlocked as prerequisites to more advanced skills. There are 15 brawler skills, 17 hunter skills and 17 survivor skills, which means you should be able to specialize or aim for a more balanced character as you see fit.

In addition to the crafting and skill upgrades, the Siberian wilderness also introduces survival caches. These are hidden caches of items that can be identified by a flashing light on the ground. Finding them helps provide ingredients needed for crafting.

The flexibility in how you develop your character is a plus, but it isn't the only place that Rise of the Tomb Raider offers choice. You can play it as an action game, with Lara gunning down people, or you can play it as a stealth game, with Lara going in for quiet stealth takedowns. While playing, I found the stealth aspect to be the more satisfying way to go, though that may simply be personal preference. The few times I did find myself caught in a firefight, Lara handled herself well, with the gunplay feeling accurate and responsive.

One weapon — or item, to be more accurate — that became a quick favorite was the oil lamps that could be found throughout the Soviet installation in Siberia. The lamp could be used to throw light, but it also doubled as a very effective fire bomb.

Exploring the Soviet installation, I discovered a handful of Lara's allies on this adventure. Some give you optional missions, which can reward you with useful items. The Trinity equipment tech at the supply shack can also be called an ally, if a profit-motivated one. So long as you have the coins he desires, he'll happily sell you gear, items, outfits and weapons rather than turning you in to his comrades.

It's also worth calling out that Rise of the Tomb Raider appears to be specifically designed with streaming in mind. The game includes a nifty border overlay that is meant to be used when streaming. Turn it on, and the overlay displays the game's logo along with various stats (time spent playing, enemies taken out, hidden items found, etc.) that cycle through a ticker area. The border isn't required, but it's a nice touch and is sure to be appreciated by anyone who plans on broadcasting a playthrough via Twitch or YouTube.

Looking back at the time I spent playing, the first hour of Rise of the Tomb Raider really doesn't do the game justice. Those early levels are linear and tightly paced, offering little in the way of exploration. It isn't until you reach Siberia and the Soviet installation that things come into their own. The open-ended hub style layout allows you to explore at your own pace, and it makes the world feel much larger than the map seems to indicate. Assuming the rest of the game operates on a similar hub style layout, things are looking good for the further adventures of Lara Croft.

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