For PlayStation users like me, the year long wait to play Rise of the Tomb Raider has finally come to an end. Boy oh boy was the wait worth it. I want to start off by prefacing that this is actually my first ever Tomb Raider game. I know that probably loses a lot of my gamer cred, but this gives me a chance to have a first impression of both the game and the series.
From the start, RotTR has a very “Uncharted” vibe to it (again, first Tomb Raider game, you’ll have to excuse me but the closest thing I’ve ever played is Uncharted so I will be comparing the two a lot). The game did an excellent job of getting me emotionally invested in Lara Croft from the very start, something that never wavered throughout. The thought that kept going through my head was “wow, this is exactly what female video game characters should be like”. Lara is an absolute badass, but there are still glimpses of human frailty that make the character so believable.
Beyond the connection with Lara, the environment in RotTR is absolutely breathtaking. Much like in Uncharted 4 earlier this year, I spent a large chunk of time just sitting around enjoying the view. The map itself is a semi-open world, with new areas unlocking as you progress through the story. I often found myself going back through old areas to explore areas I couldn’t reach before because of a lack of tools (or just because I was in a rush to complete the story).
That brings me to my next point; the tools. The tool system implemented in RotTR was incredible and easy to use. The allows you to use the different tools in rapid succession in order to traverse the vast environment aerially. Acrobatically flying through the sky was both breathtaking and heart-racing at the same time. I knew that if I hit the wrong button or wasn’t fast enough (no comment on whether that happened or not), I would send Lara plummeting to her death.
The game, as incredible as I found it, was not perfect. I found that Tomb Raiders’ claim to fame, the puzzles, were relatively lacking. It wasn’t that they were bad, it’s just that they were few and far between. I found myself having to search deeper in the game in order to find them, and for me that was not a good thing.
I also found the combat to be a bit stale. It reminded me of a cross between Uncharted and The Last of Us. All of those games are great, but the combat seemed like an afterthought by the developers. The combat wasn’t bad, it just felt uninspired. I will say, though, that the weapon system and upgrades were intriguing. The nail bombs specifically were pretty cool, and I became somewhat of a master with the bow and arrow. I think the biggest disconnect was that the game rewarded players for taking the route of stealth, but the weapons themselves were good enough to the point that taking my time to stealthily kill my enemies just became redundant.
Overall, this game is absolutely worth buying. The 20th Anniversary Edition comes with all of the DLC for the game (which was all great, I just don’t want to spoil any of the story for anyone), but having the same release date as Gears of War 4 will certainly limit the fanfare that this game deserves.