Lara’s finally out on a console I can play! For a few months last year, Rise of the Tomb Raider was an Xbox One exclusive, leaving us PC and PS4 owners out in the cold. Now that the PC version has released, I was excited to get my hands on her latest adventure, and see what’s changed since we last saw her stranded on an island looking for treasure. First though, a quick recap. Tomb Raider got a reboot in 2013, and took a big change from a heavily puzzle based game with shooting bits, into a shooting game with cover very similar to the likes of the very popular Uncharted series. It was a big success, giving the series a much needed shot in the arm and giving players a chance to discover Lara’s origins.
The opening to this outing isn’t particularly interesting; set piece tutorials with very little wiggle room, and Lara getting more concussions than I care to count. The story does pick up once you get the freedom to maneuver, but again this is not a strong point for the game. I won’t spoil any plot points, but it ends up being less Indiana Jones, a lot more Avatar. It does however retain some nice twists throughout, and Lara herself is much more of a character this time. No longer a rookie adventurer, more experienced and hardened by her time on Yamatai island. But honestly, the story in these games take a back seat to the gameplay you’ll be experiencing for the 15 hours or so in the campaign, so what’s the verdict?
One of the biggest changes to the game is it’s open-world hub style of environments as opposed to the mostly linear experience of the previous game, which it accomplishes while still maintaining a fun gameplay loop throughout. While there’s your usual experience of collectables and whatnots to discover, in this game they have a purpose of funding your arsenal and it gives you a chance to go around the map and find the challenge tombs, which are one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.
Yes, while this is the same problem that the first game had with you not actually raiding tombs as the name would imply, the fun of figuring out the puzzles that are inside is more than worth it, giving you access to ancient documents detailing extra skills that you wouldn’t be able to obtain otherwise. The same can’t be said of the regular areas you go through though, very little puzzle elements outside of “Where do I attach the rope to this time?”
The combat did get a bit more polish and shine this outing, with stealth and sneaking playing a much larger role in the combat. Not only can you run and gun between cover like a lot of third person adventure games, but you can conceal yourself in bushes, throw out distractions and pick enemies off one by one, similar to the likes of Sam Fisher. Bottles and cans in the environment can be crafted into makeshift weapons if you have the materials, giving you access to explosives and Molotov cocktails to help even out fights when the enemies get bigger and hit harder.
Gunplay is a pretty standard affair, move from cover, fire out of cover, kill bad guys. If you’re playing on standard difficulty, you’ll have recoverable health in fights and be mowing down enemies like a hot knife through butter once you start upgrading your gear. Upping the difficulty a notch made it way more enjoyable, having to scurry away to heal manually with materials you’ve harvested during the heat of battle and making you plan your attacks a bit more thoughtfully, lest you get overrun by a group of armoured enemies. The guns themselves are a little more varied, you can choose which out of a set type you can use.
For example, a revolver for damage, or a semi auto pistol for putting out more bullets in a shorter time? The shotguns are monstrous up close, dishing out lots of damage, whereas the rifles are a bit of a mess prior to getting any upgrades. The bow is the star here in this game, it’s very satisfying to kill with, and with abilities such as double shots and silent kills, you would be silly to not use it whenever possible.
Gone is the okay but tacked on and out of place multiplayer, and in its place is a score attack mode with modifiers. Credits earned throughout the games let you buy card packs similar to FIFA ultimate team, with varying rarities. These add or subtract form scores through an area, giving you new abilities like healing on stealth kills or more score for headshot combos. There is a micro transaction element here too, allowing you to buy extra packs for real money , but the only competitive element here is a leader board, so it seems completely pointless and just shoehorned in to get a quick buck out of some people.
For a wrap up, I really like Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s a more polished version of the great reboot we got a few years ago, albeit with some similar issues such as not forcing any sort of real puzzle gameplay outside of challenge tombs. That doesn’t stop it being great though, the additions to the combat and the extra polish on the exploring give plenty of reasons for PC owners to pick this one up. As a side note, the PC port runs great, some people are reporting some slight frame drops for no reason though, so maybe wait for a patch or two if you’re worried. PS4 owners will sadly have to wait until winter of 2016, but definitely keep this on your radar, it’s worth it!