Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

 After crowning Tomb Raider my Game of the Year when I played it in 2016, I’ve been meaning to return to the series for a while. Playing through the sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, recently, I found that this installment was iterative of its predecessor, with a few tweaks that made the gameplay experience smoother and addressed the gripes I had (the main one being the heavily scripted events). Some thoughts from my time with the second installment of the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy:
  • The structure is nearly identical to the previous game. That’s not a bad thing when the core design is good! It took me no time at all to get hooked by the combination of exploration, puzzle-solving, and third-person shooting that the Tomb Raider series is known for.
  • Crafting is a much bigger component of Rise of the Tomb Raider than it is in Tomb Raider. I was initially concerned that I would have to devote a lot of time to farming for wood, feathers, animal pelts, and other crafting supplies but found that the game provided very frequent opportunities to gather these items while accomplishing other tasks, so I pretty much always had all the necessary ingredients for healing items and special ammo whenever I needed them. My favorite part of the expanded crafting system was the ability to create improvised explosives and Molotov cocktails in the heat of battle by picking up bottles and other debris on the battle field.
  • The game’s story was entertaining but not particularly deep. It was about on par with what you’d see in an Indiana Jones movie which is perfectly appropriate for this kind of game. Just don’t go into this one expecting to be hanging off every word in the cutscenes.
  • I was happy to see that Rise of the Tomb Raider largely cuts back on the quick-time events (QTEs) that were used in the previous game to make scripted scenes feel more interactive. This style of “immersive gameplay” may have been a novel concept in 1999’s Shenmue (a game I love, by the way), but now it feels dated and incongruent with a game like Tomb Raider. Fewer QTEs make Rise a smoother Tomb Raider experience.
  • Since Rise of the Tomb Raider takes place in Siberia, most of the environments are snow-covered mountains, glaciers, and tundras. The first few areas of the game had me concerned that each area would just be a frozen wasteland, but as the game went on, there were some truly beautiful vistas (even as rendered on the Low settings by my aging graphics card).
  • As you would expect, there are tombs to be raised in this game (I found 9, not sure if that are more). Some of the puzzles were pretty challenging. I enjoyed these and wish there was a few more on the game.
  • Each area of the game seemed to feature even more types of collectibles than the previous game. I found that this lessened my desire to get 100% completion on any given map, but I was still easily able to acquire enough stuff to upgrade my character and weapons to make the endgame combat manageable.
Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider took the core game that I loved a few years ago and removed most of the sticking points. This makes it a comfortable 5-star game in my book. I thought I would be done with the Tomb Raider formula after this game but instead ended up putting the next game in my Steam wishlist as soon as the credits were rolling on this one.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 27 hours, 89% map completion

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