Rise Of The Tomb Raider: Once again offering the chance to run around shooting wolves in the face

Crystal Dynamics’ rescue mission has extended its area of effect: first the studio wanted to bring beloved videogaming icon Lara Croft back from the brink, now it wants to help Xbox One get the upper hand in the ongoing battle for console dominance the former has been a huge success so far, but will the latter, in the form of this year’s Rise Of The Tomb Raider , continue the pattern?

Early signs are very positive, with Rise following on from the events of 2013’s extremely well-received reboot. Lara is still younger than the demi-character we were introduced to in 1996, but she’s grown since her experience on the island of Yamatai. She’s also somewhat traumatised and pretty depressed. Though you would be too if you had to battle an immortal queen trying to possess the body of your best friend.

This Lara is one of knowledge, and with knowledge comes preparedness. No longer is she shocked when she kills for the first time, or apologising to a deer she has to impale with an arrow she’s still young, but Lara is more world weary than before. With her newfound knowledge and confidence come new elements in Rise Of The Tomb Raider. You’ll be crafting new survival gear, exploring more tombs and battling more baddies this time around.

Why yes, we did say ‘exploring more tombs’ for the titular activity that was rather absent in the last game, bar the optional sidequests, is back in a big way for Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics has been talking up the inclusion of tombs (and raiding) for its latest game, and with the exploration of ancient burial places comes, of course, puzzles. We’re not looking at the exercises in pure illogical irritation a la Tomb Raider ‘96, instead with something more closely resembling the more modern head-scratchers and tests of pad-based dexterity being offered up.

Crystal Dynamics has, to be fair, said it wants to challenge players, but not alienate the ‘average’ player. Admittedly if you’re reading this article, you’re unlikely to be an average player, but the point stands. There’s also the actual exploration aspect to take into account, and with Crystal Dynamics touting an updated traversal system something it has concentrated on a lot and that includes more upgradeable, changeable elements than last time around it sounds like those who were angry or just confused as to why there wasn’t a huge focus on tombs and/or raiding last time around will be happier.
“Lara will have to defeat different animal guardians on her way to scratching that archaeological itch”
But it’s not going to be as simple as just walking up to these tombs and knocking on the door Lara will have to defeat different animal guardians on her way to scratching that archaeological itch. Rather than just your regular bears/wolves/monkeys, these guardians will be tough hombres and if you’ve not specced yourself up to the right level, you’re going to be running away with your (pony) tail between your legs.

But there’s no need to fear all of the animals in Rise Of The Tomb Raider, because Lara is still the fauna-murdering killer we all know and love yes folks, hunting makes its return. This time there are a couple of twists, though, like weather coming into play as snowfall hides tracks, and a day/night cycle only seeing certain animals come out at certain times. It doesn’t sound insanely in-depth, but it adds that extra dimension to what was already a fun if slightly gruesome element of the last game.

But what’s the point of all this exploring, raiding, guardian animal fighting and hunting? Story time! Lara finds herself struggling through the post-traumatic stress of having battled the previously-mentioned immortal queen, and as a way of combating this she invests herself in finding out about other immortality myths. One in particular catches her eye the lost (invisible, actually) city of Kitezh: a city who only those pure of soul can gain access to, according to Russian legend. While we doubt it will see Lara ending the game immortal, it is a nice enough excuse to slap her into the frozen mountains of Siberia and slather a load of game-flavoured goodness all over it.

But the last Tomb Raider was big on its story as well as said gamey goodness, and Rise Of The Tomb Raider will be continuing this aspect writer Rhianna Pratchett is back on board. She has said that this time around we’ll find a Lara shaken by the good and bad things she found herself doing on Yamatai, and she’ll be backed up by another cast of supporting characters though one smaller than in the last game, in order to give each individual more time to grow as a personality. Does that mean we’ll be crying when they inevitably die? Probably not, but hey.

And there are two distinct names you might be seeing pop up in relation to Rise Of The Tomb Raider’s actual development, rather than the story Tore Blystad and Nate Wells. The former was at IO Interactive, while the latter arrived at Crystal Dynamics from Naughty Dog and both have very impressive CVs. There’s still a few months of work left on the game, so hopefully these two devs can bring their experience and talent to the game the Hitman and Uncharted series’ would be two fantastic ones to crib from, after all, with a combination of cold-hearted murder and jaunty adventuring.

There seems to be an odd backlash against the Tomb Raider reboot, as if it wasn’t a great game or didn’t deserve the attention it had lavished on it. Frankly, that’s daft it was a brilliant, exciting and well-crafted adventure and a fine restart of a beloved series. As long as Rise Of The Tomb Raider is half the game its forebear was, we’ll surely be looking at an essential Xbox One exclusive. As long as there isn’t too much focus on the supernatural  elements, at least.

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