Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Tomb Raider reboot that released a few years ago. When the reboot was released, fans were blown away by Crystal Dynamics’ phenomenal work and fans were delighted to see Lara back in action. Now that Rise of the Tomb Raider is finally out, fans and critics alike are excited to see what the developer has done with Lara’s next adventure. Unfortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed-exclusive Xbox title, so those who without an Xbox One or Xbox 360 will have to wait next year for Lara’s next adventure, though is that a bad thing or will this choice result in a lot of fans saving their money? If you were hoping for a flop, then I’m sorry to say it, but Rise of the Tomb Raider is what I consider to be a system seller.
Set a year after the events of the first game, Lara Croft sets out on another adventure in search for the Divine Source that is said to contain the secrets of immortality. With the help of her father’s research, she ventures through many treacherous snowy mountains of Siberia to find the ancient city of Kitezh that holds the information on what she’s after. Unfortunately, a new organization called Trinity is also after the Divine Source, and it’s up to Lara to find it before it falls in the wrong hands.
In Lara’s search for the secrets of immortality, she will go through a lot of flashbacks back when her father was still alive. Fans who are looking to see more Lara’s past and witness how she rises to become the famous Tomb Raider we all know will get to see it in this game, hence the title. From being a naive treasure hunter, fans will get to see her transformation to a far more experienced hunter as her survival skills in the wild becomes more refined compared to her last outing in the reboot. What Rise of the Tomb Raider focuses on is her personal story, which is a good thing since we don’t know much of Lara’s origin and this title will expand what the reboot intended to show – more of Lara’s dark past and origins.
Compared to the reboot that was released several years ago, the core gameplay of Rise of the Tomb Raider remains the same, though there are things that have been improved to make the game even more polished. One of the significant things that I find Crystal Dynamics drastically improved upon is the amount of quick time events in the game. If you are one of those people who were annoyed in the excessive quick time events that seemed endless, they are now limited in the game. When you see a quick time event, pushing a lot of buttons isn’t necessary anymore as you will only have to push one or two buttons and that’s it.
In the first game, we often see that there are more gunfights than actual exploration and solving puzzles in the game. Well, it’s the other way around now in Rise of the Tomb Raider as fans will get to see more dungeons that Lara can explore, solve puzzles to gain rewards, and explore the beautiful landscapes the game has to offer. Since the classic Tomb Raider titles are focused more in tomb raiding rather than being a third person action game, it’s good to see that this game goes back to its roots. Don’t get me wrong, there are still gunfights but they don’t appear as often as the last game.
When it comes to gunfights, I am utterly disappointed to see that they haven’t been improved at all. The combat is stale and feels unpolished just like the first game. There is precision in gunfights but the way the combat is executed is not that good. The good thing is, Rise of the Tomb Raider a offers stealthy approach to enemies just like in the first game, which I’m fond of doing throughout my playthrough. With your bow, you can easily take out enemies without making a noise. Personally, I like taking them out from behind using bottles as a distraction to lure them in my position. If you are indulged with the stealth gameplay of the first game, you will be happy to know that they are back in this game.
With Lara being by herself in the wilds, she has to rely on her survival skills. That being said, players will be doing the same things she’s been doing in the original game and that’s using her survival skills. One of the main focuses of Rise of the Tomb Raider in terms of survival aspect is crafting, which means that wherever you go, you should go consider picking up all of the materials that you see glowing when you have your Survival Instinct on. The materials ranges from the hides that you get from downed animals, feathers you get from downed birds or nests, or simply the bushes you see around you- it can be overwhelming at first but you’ll get used to it. Collecting gears to craft items from the first Tomb Raider game is long gone as actual materials are now required, even in upgrading your weapons.
Everything you do in the game nets you experience points. Every material that you pick up, items that you craft, or even collecting relics will gain you experience points. Similar to the first game, you will gain a level after earning experience points and once you do, you will get a skill point that you get to use on Lara. In terms of skills, not much has changed in how you can make Lara competent as a character. The skills are somewhat similar to the first game where it’s divided into three different categories; brawl, survival and hunter.
Since Lara has matured now and and has more experience compared to her last outing in the first game, there are skills that you can do that aren’t available in the first game. The skills available that Lara can use varies from using lock picks, using a knife to cut down ropes or use a bow with two arrows firing at the same time. These skills can be obtained through a variety of ways such as doing sidequests. For the first time, you can now do sidequests given by NPCs in the game. Rewards in doing sidequests varies from skills to items. As for the kind of sidequests, they aren’t quite hard.
Visually, Rise of the Tomb Raider looks phenomenal and even better than the first game. One of the first things that you will notice right away are the beautiful landscapes where the environments are rendered well with detailed textures. The lighting and shadows found in many dungeons and tombs look exceptional. Character models look a lot more realistic now with facial expression more apparent. As for voice overs, they are very well done with perfect time with the lip-syncing. As for its cinematics, they are my favorite part of the game as it depicts realism especially during the heart-pounding moments of the game.
Exploration is a key in Rise of the Tomb Raider, therefore expect a huge area to explore once again filled with secrets and hidden items. Using the Survival Instinct of Lara, you can spot a point of interest that you can investigate – you will find relics, documents, items, or even loots for your crafting needs. Obtaining Relics and Documents is common in this game and by collecting them, you will get to learn more about the game’s setting and its people.
As for its multiplayer portion, they are omitted in this game. Instead, they replaced it with Expeditions, in which you can revisit areas you previously completed and do challenges. There are a total of four different modes in Expedition; Score Attack, Chapter Replay, Chapter Replay Elite, and Remnant Resistance. Think of the Score Attack mode as time trials with a lot of twists that you can implement in the stage. Chapter Replay will allow you to go back to the story and complete the challenges again with modifiers, where the Chapter Reply Elite will allow you to use your skills and items from the campaign while redoing past missions. For Remnant Resistance, you will create a level where you have a list of objectives that you have to do like collecting munitions, eliminate a certain target or recover relics. Out of the four modes, Remnant Resistance is my favorite as it’s quite challenging doing different kind of missions with objectives in place.
For every stage that you complete in Expedition mode, you gain points that you can use to redeem the Trading Card Pack. For each pack that you use, five cards will be available. These five cards are modifiers that you can use when during an expedition. The cards that you will get will help you along the way as there are modifiers that are beneficial, while others are utter trash that you won’t use. You can however play Expeditions without using a trading card but you won’t maximize the full potential of the available modes.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a sequel that improves in many aspects that makes the game a worthy contender for Game of the Year. The elements found in the first game are back in the sequel but they are more refined now making it a perfect action game to play as the year ends. The game offers once again an emotional story that further expands on Lara’s dark past and origins, crafting that offers depthness, impressive cinematics and visuals that exceeds fan expectations, and an Expedition mode that relives the great moments of the single-player mode. Those who don’t have an Xbox One this year to play this title, should definitely get one for this game as it’s system seller that is on-par or even better than Sony’s exclusive, the Uncharted series.
[Editor’s Note: Rise of the Tomb Raider was reviewed on Xbox One platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Rise of the Tomb Raider Review,