• Tomb Raider - First Impressions

    When an announcement was made about the reboot of Tomb Raider, fans of the series were very mixed, and rightly so! Then when it was announced it would be a prequel, the fans became even more divided. Lara’s story had been fleshed out in earlier titles like The Last Revelation (1999) and the reboot would be scratching that out. It’s no surprise that there was an outrage.

    I will admit that I too was a skeptic and had completely ruled out any chance of me being interested in this game, let alone wanting to play it. As more and more trailers were released, I found myself slowly being swayed…

    Now I wonder why I was so against this reboot. This game is completely mind-blowing. Unlike its predecessors of what I like to call the ‘Second generation of Tomb Raider’, (Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld) which all seemed to follow the same style, the same template – each feeling like a re-run of the last; this Tomb Raider feels like a new adventure entirely with very little of the old Tomb Raider. This is all original, and it’s bloody brilliant.

    The opening shows Lara on a ship called "Endurance" somewhere in the ‘Dragons Triangle, South Japan’ – and a mighty storm is brewing. The ship of course goes down, and Lara gets washed up on an island. She spots her crew-mates from afar and tries to call out to them. BAM. She’s punched right in the face - and I really didn’t see that coming. If there’s one thing that this Tomb Raider does, it’s throw things at you hard and fast.

    Lara wakes up hanging upside down in a dark cave lit by candlelight. Time to free her. Swinging back and forth, Lara’s shroud catches fire and she is released. BAM. She’s fallen on a very long nail, right through her side. I felt myself wince and feel her pain. I then had to bash down on the buttons to help her pull it out. SQUELCH. Lovely. This game is not for the faint of heart. Lara often finds herself in some very… tricky situations.

    All of these ‘situations’ help to build the bond between Lara and the player, and the quick time events aren’t just haphazardly placed. They make sense within the cinematic and frightening scenes in which they take place. The first 3 hours of game play are tense and painful to watch at times. But Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics have built this fantastic atmospheric island which is just alive with dangers to ensnare you. You are never safe. You can never stand still. You must always move.

    Areas are dark and have cracks in the walls. You can hear people talking, wolves howling, and flames crackling. The place is completely breathing a life of its own, and the island belongs to some beastly humans who are killing, torturing, and sacrificing people to appease their Sun Queen, Himiko. Lara has many run ins with them. These moments are adrenaline-filled rushes, and by this point I was completely in awe of Lara.

    The connection between the player and Lara happens so quickly. I truly felt for her, felt every nuance of fear in her voice – and believed it. She is fantastic. There comes a point in the game where she changes - this one point when Lara begins to take the island back. The voice on an enemy cries out “Huh! You’re still alive?” and with absolute unwavering certainty and resolve, she replies; “Yes, I am still alive!

    Camilla Luddington is just perfect in this role. Her voice gives off so much of the vulnerability and fears of Lara at the start of the game, and goddamn her screams of pain are really believable. It makes me wonder if someone was there attacking her in the studio. Later in the game, grit and determination begins to seep through a hardening surface. A young girl becoming a woman and changing before our eyes. I have nothing but praise for Camilla for this, without her voice Lara would be nowhere near as realistic.

    In earlier titles Tomb Raider has had a very lacklustre and bland combat system. However this reboot offers a great, fully interactive system which requires a lot of strategy at times. For those players who don’t like their games to have too much combat, you may be disappointed. It plays a major part in this game and it isn’t like the combat in any of the other games. It has many elements carefully borrowed from first-person shooters, but not too many for it to feel awkward. There isn’t a lot of melee options until later in the game, and they can only be ‘bought’ with Skill Points.

    The leveling up process in Tomb Raider is new. In previous games, Lara doesn’t really ever ‘level up’ as it’s not required. Leveling up in this game is split up into sections. To start with, you’ll have 'Survivor' and 'Hunter' options. When a skill point is gained it can be spent on a new skill (well, duh!) in the skill menu. The more skills you get, the more you can unlock.

    The Skill Point system offers a great way to feel like you’re really taking on the environment. Some of the survivor skills include being able to scavenge dead bodies and animal carcasses… Lovely. It’s an easy enough system, with plenty of room for manoeuvre so that it isn’t too ‘guided’ and fixed when you choose a new skill.

    I find that the Skill Point system also makes a lot of sense in this game. Lara is at first a very unsure and frightened young girl. Yet as she progresses through the island, she develops more skills one by one. It gives a great sense of realism to the game and it again helps to build up the bond between Lara and the player.

    The island is littered with Secret Tombs which the player can stumble upon in order to find out more about the inhabitants of the island and about the island itself. So despite following a storyline set in one place, there is a lot of time to explore. The game is nowhere near as linear as many fans argued. Of course, there are the objectives which the player must go through to progress in the storyline, but the island is completely open for exploration. There isn’t always one set path to follow to get to each location.

    Overall the game is fast-paced, dramatic and frightening, but very very fun. Young Lara is relatable and realistic, and unlike the Lara’s of the past, she isn’t sexualised. Tomb Raider is a game about growing up and the adventure of being faced with danger at a young age, and the consequences of it. Tomb Raider is about this young and smart, but shy girl becoming Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider that we all know and love. It should be celebrated as every minute of this game is incredible. Well done Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics, because this game is truly art.

    “She’s just a girl and she’s kicking our asses!” No. She is not just a girl, she is Lara Croft, and I really hope she is here to stay.

    Stay tuned for Part II of my Tomb Raider review, in which I’ll be having a good look at the multi-player, and delving deeper into the story!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Tomb Raider - First Impressions started by Lockharted View original post
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. Formalhaut's Avatar
      Formalhaut -
      I don't even watch horror films. A large nail going through her? (no pun intended)

    1. Del Murder's Avatar
      Del Murder -
      Great review. Made me interested in a game from a series I have never played or even wanted to play.
    1. Loony BoB's Avatar
      Loony BoB -
      Want to read, but don't want to spoil anything at all, so... Will have to wait until after I've played a good few hours!
    1. Night Fury's Avatar
      Night Fury -
      I tried not to put in any storyline spoilers BoB Most of it is about the gameplay really, but do enjoy the game! It's brilliant.

      It also gets bloody difficult as you get on some more. Saying that combat is a major part of the story was an understatement!

      Also to Formalhaut - It gets gruesomer! There's a reason this game is rated 18! In one bit, I managed to kill Lara by not freeing her from a trap quick enough, and an islander came over and sliced her throat open with a pickaxe....
    1. Aulayna's Avatar
      Aulayna -
      Looking forward to playing it tonight after having to wait a whole week since it came out in America!
    1. Night Fury's Avatar
      Night Fury -
      No, I think the worldwide release is today!
    1. Aulayna's Avatar
      Aulayna -
      Oh, I was under the impression it'd be out for a while and EU was get the stick just like old times where some sites have had reviews up for over a week now. My bad.
    1. Freya's Avatar
      Freya -
      It looks so violent! Everything i've seen. Kinda scares me D:
    1. Aulayna's Avatar
      Aulayna -
      If anyone gets on the PC I recommend changing your bindings right away. Some of the keys used for the QTEs really don't seem very well thought out for keyboard and mouse users. There's one part where you're expect to press F, Left Mouse click twice, press F again, then spam left and right arrows, left mouse and immediately hit E then F... all in the space of about 4 seconds - it's almost like the default binds were made by a left-handed person.

      Apart from that it's quite good.
    1. The Summoner of Leviathan's Avatar
      The Summoner of Leviathan -
      I am playing it on PC, though I never bothered to change the bindings, though I have Melee and Reload's secondary bindings on my mouse's side buttons.

      I am really enjoying it so far. You really feel for Lara as she goes through things. Every time she seems okay something else happens to her. :/
    1. Night Fury's Avatar
      Night Fury -
      I'm getting increasingly bothered by the amount of combat. I'll write up in more detail in my Part II but last night I was basically cornered, with enemies coming at me from two different paths. And it's sooo hard to take them out when they're throwing bottles of flames at you, and grenades AND shooting me with a rifle - and they're like.. absolute bullet/arrow SPONGES.
    1. Shauna's Avatar
      Shauna -
      Gotta get in those headshots!
    1. Night Fury's Avatar
      Night Fury -
      I think the headshot trophy was the first one I got.... >.>
    1. Loony BoB's Avatar
      Loony BoB -
      Had huge amounts of trouble last night getting this game to install correctly as it wouldn't let me get through certain quick time events in the initial cave/chapter, then it would constantly log me out, then it crashed, then it wouldn't have sound on install... uninstalled it twice and on the third install I got the DLC installed (also third time) and this time upon installation of the DLC completing it congratulated me on installing it, and that was a first despite me doing it three times. So then it worked fine after that and all was good. Played about an hour and a half after that before heading to bed, really looking forward to playing more tonight as so far it's really intriguing.
    1. Xannidel's Avatar
      Xannidel -
      Already ordered my copy, gotta wait until Monday or so to play it but I feel that will be worth it.


      Just got it today (early birthday gift to me from me )
      Here is my first impression: Her hair defies gravity! I can't really take her seriously when she is huddled up close to a campfire trying to stay warm when her hair is sticking to the side or free flowing.
    1. McLovin''s Avatar
      McLovin' -
      Graphics are smurfing crisp. First couple levels are already awesome. The Japanese influence is really neat. I had to stop playing to go to bed but damn is it good so far.
    1. Loony BoB's Avatar
      Loony BoB -
      I was thinking to myself last night that it really could use a wide open map at some point, a la the Archelytte Steppe (or whatever it's called) on Gran Pulse in FFXIII. And then about ten minutes afterwards I got my wish. I'm happy now, I feel like the game has opened up a chunk... until now I've always looked at the option to fast travel back to areas I'd already been and just not been able to do it, but now I'm thinking I might go traveling for a while and see what I can find.
    1. Night Fury's Avatar
      Night Fury -
      Glad to see you're all enjoying this game! I haven't been able to play it for a couple of days but I'll be back on it today I think :3
    1. Aulayna's Avatar
      Aulayna -
      Her voice is so sexy.
    1. Loony BoB's Avatar
      Loony BoB -
      Finished! Satisfied. Although feeling kinda sick today so I haven't got the energy to really play through to 100%. Finished on 80%.
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