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December 2023

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: Jan. 28, 2016

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'Rise of the Tomb Raider'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on March 7, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

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.

Buy Rise of the Tomb Raider

The 2013 release of Tomb Raider breathed life into Lara Croft, as the franchise up to that point was in a bad state. Rise of the Tomb Raider builds upon that successful formula, with Lara back into action a year later in search of an ancient city. This city once drove Lara's father to ruin, and she is driven to unravel its mysteries and clear his name. During the new adventure, Lara deals with the struggles of a new land as well as threats from the shadows of her family's past.

Much of what made the original game work so well is kept essentially completely in the new title. It doesn't differ too much from the original formula, with Lara once again alone in a remote land, seeking an unspeakably rare artifact while fending off armed hostiles and the environment itself. What sets it apart is the plot, which showcases a great deal of characterization.

Set a year after the previous game, Lara's adventure to find the Divine Source referenced in her father's records takes a turn during a trip to Syria. While searching for the tomb of a prophet referenced in the legend, Lara encounters Trinity, a paramilitary organization with a ton of ordnance and a leader hell-bent on finding the Divine Source. Lara barely makes it out of the encounter alive, and she has a new lead that takes her to the snowy tundra of Siberia. Most of the game unfolds in these frozen wastes, across an old Soviet mining installation, and the nearby caves and canyons that have held hidden secrets for generations.

Much of the gameplay from the 2013 game returns intact in the sequel, with a few noteworthy improvements. Lara continues to be adept at climbing sheer cliff faces and navigating her way through treacherous handholds, and she can now fashion equipment, such as rope arrows to create rope lines to new areas or pull distant objects toward her. She can also improvise a selection of weapons out of containers in the environment: glass jars to make fog grenades, tin cans to create explosive grenades, and glass bottles to create Molotov cocktails. These weapons cannot be stored and effectively must be used immediately, but it's awfully nice to be able to MacGyver one of them on the fly and then chuck it to wipe out a group of enemies.

The crafting engine tasks you with gathering resources from the environment. Obviously, they are used in creating improvised weapons, but they're also necessary for weapon upgrades. Some resources are only found in the wild, such as skinning animals or gathering wood, while man-made ones can only be found while looting bodies or exploring buildings. Upgrades can take a lot of resources to unlock, but they usually apply to all types of that weapon: bows, long guns, pistols, etc. The ones that don't are usually due to simple logic; a rate of fire upgrade for an assault rifle isn't exactly going to affect a bolt-action rifle.

When it comes to combat, Lara is more capable thanks to better stealth gameplay. You can hide in bushes or distract guards to get them to move toward a location, so you can dispatch them one by one. Distracting them feels less cheap due to the tendency of all guards to face that direction, even though only the closest will actually investigate. It still requires some thought to clear out an entire encounter without being detected. Lara is obviously capable of silent kills at range with her bow, but she can also stealth-kill at close range — slowly at first by strangling them with her bow and more quickly once she acquires the hunting knife.

When combat breaks down into a gunfight, Rise of the Tomb Raider tends to falter somewhat, as the gunplay doesn't feel terribly enjoyable. It's mechanically capable with the cover system, but it really boils down a slugfest that more often than not could've been avoided with better use of stealth. Lara's health does not automatically regenerate, so the only way to heal is to use a healing kit. For the most part, you'll want to use stealth to your advantage, since it's more fun and can often be done without using anything other than a few arrows and a knife.

The plot is the driving factor throughout the game, with Lara's brief foray into Syria followed by a trek to Siberia. There are plenty of tombs to raid, but a majority of them are separate from the plot. The tombs are usually smaller in size and sometimes only have one main puzzle, but all feature some sort of bonus at the end, such as unlocking a new perk for Lara.

Exploration is rewarded throughout the rest of the game, from finding weapon parts to unlocking new firepower and finding caches of ancient coins. The coins can be traded with a disgruntled Trinity merchant to unlock items, such as devices, firearms or suppressors. Lara also comes across relics covered in a certain language, such as Greek or Latin. Reading them increases Lara's experience in that language, which lets her read higher-level relics of that language. These have a variety of benefits, such as showing the location of more goodies on the map. It's a little gimmicky, as it feels like a contrived way to unlock the locations rather than an actual skill.

It's somewhat noteworthy that the developers seem to have taken just a little less glee in murdering Lara in horrible, horrible ways. With some of the stuff that she does, failure means death, but the original game seems to revel in close-ups of her expiring in grotesque ways. This time around, there's still ample opportunity for a similar demise, but if she falls into a spike pit, Lara just dies as opposed to choking on blood or something similarly terrible.

If there is any place where that effort went, it was in making the adventure and Lara feeling like part of the environment. You'll constantly be on the lookout for resources to gather, and you'll keep an eye out for Trinity mercenaries — even in areas that were previously cleared of threats. The environments also feel more open and offer numerous ways to navigate them.

There's simply no way that a review of the game would be complete without noting how absolutely stunning it looks. When maxed out, the game looks better than any other available right now, thanks to the engine's capability as well as the art direction. The cut scenes seem to feature more detailed character models than what you see in-game, and they feature fantastic facial expressions and movement. Even in normal gameplay, you'll make your way through snowstorms and under the cloak of night, and it all showcases how good a modern game can look.

The 2013 release proved that the Tomb Raider franchise could evolve. Rise of the Tomb Raider is anabsolute treat thanks to its attention to detail and overall art direction. It's rare that a game does so much so well, and with only a few missteps, Rise of the Tomb Raider is destined to be one of the most recommendable PC games this year.

Score: 9.6/10

Reviewed on: Intel i7 4970k, 16 GB RAM, NVidia GTX 970

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