Tomb Raider or A Pleasant Surprise

This year has been a tough year for gamers so far: Omerta is simply a disappointment, Dead Space 3 is a micro-transaction fueled Gears of War clone, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a rip-off, Metal Gear Rising Retribuvengeance a bland hack’n’slay. But fret not, Tomb Raider is exactly what we have needed right now!

After having played approximately 5 hours, Tomb Raider has already hit home many important points: First, the gameplay is fun. Platforming, fighting, exploring, it’s all in there, and it’s all well-implemented. Second, the step back to Lara’s beginnings has paid off: We have a credible character instead of a jumping and occasionally fighting pin-up doll; trembling with fear and pain (and there’s lots of pain), afraid of killing, and yet, she manages to cope with it (maybe a tad too well, but killing seems to run in the family’s blood). Third, Tomb Raider scarves its own niche; there are cinematic set pieces which remind you of Uncharted, the seamless and easy to learn platforming of Assassin’s Creed, the sense of adventurous exploration and backtracking of the Batman Arkham games (including new areas available thanks to new gadgets), and the mysterious island emanates a strong Lost feeling.

Tomb Raider excels in pacing: Usually, you need 10 to 20 minutes to finish a story mission. They are rather linear, full of fighting and set pieces, and might leave you breathless on occasion. Afterwards, you can rest and explore your surroundings for EXP, new gear and books which shed light on the history of the island. Sadly, the puzzle ratio is incredibly low. There are only a handful of  tombs to solve via environment puzzles, and sometimes there’s an ridiculously easy puzzle to advance the story. Shame.

Of course, Tomb Raider also offers the usual RPG light upgrade system which does not let you choose your playstyle but rather unlocks stuff for you gradually. In short, it’s about unlocking gruesome ways of killing enemies. Speaking of gruesome and dark, Tomb Raider is both. Poor Lara has to suffer … much. Impaled, beaten, shot, washed down a river etc. And she is clearly not happy with what happens to her. Astonishingly, some reviews mentioned the game was “too dark”. Rabidgames is glad we don’t get another glorified wannabe Nathan Drake who is a decent pacifist who just happens to slaughter hundreds and thousands of people on his way to steal some ancient artefact …

Is everything perfect then? No. There are QTE. Just a few, but they’re there and they serve no purpose but to annoy us. Also, the fighting system is decent in general, but fighting guys with shields (well, that’s an original idea now) is a pain because dodging does not mean simply rolling forward in Tomb Raider: First, Lara dives to one side which is a feint. Then, she starts rolling. If a shielded guy hacks at you with a sword this is not what you want.

Rabidgames plays: So far, Tomb Raider is fun. Actually, the first Tomb Raider game which is fun. We’ll see if the balance between linear shooter and platform exploration keeps intact, and if we get a good story, and a decent ending. At least,there is hope at the end of the winter.

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One Response to “Tomb Raider or A Pleasant Surprise”

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