August 23, 2019 at 6:27 AM #1067
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Another Fantastic Entry in the New Tomb Raider Franchise
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to 2013’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. After enjoying the reboot so much, I was excited to play the sequel. Having waited for the PS4 version after a year of console exclusivity, Rise of the Tomb Raider on PS4 not only comes with all of the DLC, but also with special PS4 Pro exclusive features: 4k resolution, 60 frames per second, or enhanced visuals. Fortunately, the game itself is filled with adrenaline-pumping action, challenging puzzles, wonderful exploration, fantastic pacing, and an intriguing story, making it one of my favorite games I’ve played in recent history.
Rise of the Tomb Raider surprised me with how enjoyable its combat is. While not traditionally one of the iconic features of the series, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s combat is extremely fluid and fun. Players can switch between four different weapon types, each with multiple upgrades and special ammo types, all of which have ideal situations to be used. Instead of going in guns blazing, stealth is a heavily viable option as well. Countless skill upgrades help heroine Lara Croft distract enemies, place traps on corpses, and instantly kill guards from behind without making a sound. In most games I find myself sticking strictly to stealth or to full-on combat, but for every time I missed a headshot with my silent arrows I was able to easily transition into a more combat-focused approach. Other features such as dodging, sprinting, and counter attacks all fit in perfectly for an enjoyable fighting experience.
Outside of combat, most of Rise of the Tomb Raider is spent on what the series is known for: platforming and exploration. Fortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider delivers here as well, providing tight controls all around for jumping and climbing. The world is filled with tons of collectibles, all of which provide some sort of experience or currency which can be used towards upgrades. This incentivizes scavenging every nook and cranny of the game’s varied and beautiful environments. Also, the game does a fantastic job of making it clear to the player when they are venturing into an area where they do not yet have the required tools to proceed, saving them a lot of time. I found myself spending hours in the open environments completing rewarding sidequests for locals, hunting animals, finding coin caches, and looking for relics. All of these are facilitated with Survival Instincts, a feature that highlights all nearby interactable objects. Instead of wasting time trying to decipher what you can and cannot do, a quick use of Survival Instincts reveals all nearby climbable walls and hidden objects.
Of course, what would a Tomb Raider game be without tombs? Fortunately, Rise of the Tomb Raider is filled with optional challenging, puzzle-filled tombs to explore. Each tomb follows a relatively similar pattern—solve a puzzle or two, explore for collectibles, then obtain a new unique skill. While the puzzles in the tombs aren’t the most difficult, they are undoubtedly thought-provoking. There are a few cases where I had to think about how my positioning in accordance with nearby obstacles for a few minutes before coming to the solution. Although there were a few times I died to bad edge detection or unclear level design, these were few and far between. Plus, since the loading times on death are extremely quick it rarely felt like a problem. If it weren’t for my enjoyment of the puzzles themselves, the skill at the end of each tomb which ranged from faster climbing speeds to new combat capabilities would be incentive enough to complete them.
Few games actively make me pay attention to game design and pacing, but Rise of the Tomb Raider’s natural progression is extremely impressive. New tools are obtained by Lara Croft in authentic situations instead of in a glowing chest at the end of a dungeon hallway. For example, Lara obtains the shotgun in the middle of a battlefield from a deceased soldier. These events are so brief that it caught me off guard a few times to obtain a new tool after a couple-second cutscene interjected into the middle of combat. Even more impressive is how constantly new tools are received. The game presents the player with a new object approximately every two hours, all the way to the end of the story. At no point does the game feel stagnated as there is always a new element to gameplay to keep the player interested. In fact, between major story segments I often wanted to return to previous areas for collectibles that required use of a new item. The game never forces a player to return to older areas, but returning to previous locations for collectibles rewards the player with experience which can be turned into new skills.
Although story is not pivotal to the enjoyment of Tomb Raider, I found myself enjoying the adventure-themed plot. Picking up after the events of the first game, Lara is determined to redeem her late father by proving that his research into the source of immortality does exist. In doing so, Lara travels to the region of the ancient Byzantine Empire to find the Divine Source. Fighting for her life countless times, Lara teams with a group of natives and fights the evil organization Trinity to prevent them from reaching the Divine Source before she does. Although there were some predictable events, the story is unquestionably fun and reminiscent of an Indiana Jones film with its over-the-top action, mysterious characters, and epic set pieces.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a must-play for any fan of action and adventure games. Amazing combat, beautiful and interesting environments, and a fun story are bound to entice most gamers. Outside of the rare mishap with platforming, there is nothing for me to complain about. Plus, with my PS4 Pro, I was able to enjoy a smoother gameplay experience in 60 frames per second, adding to my personal enjoyment. For anyone who enjoys the adventure genre, I cannot recommend Rise of the Tomb Raider any more than I have already said.
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