Feature Rise of The Tomb Raider E3 2015 Preview

Will Lara Croft return to do what she does best?

Liana Kerzner

Published

By Liana Kerzner @redlianak

Despite being a longtime fan of the Tomb Raider franchise, I'll admit that I didn't love the 2013 game... because there weren't many tombs, and Lara wasn't raiding tombs that weren't there. Furthermore, the characterization of Lara herself was unfamiliar and thin, steering too much toward generic, vulnerable "likability" and away from the defined, iconic, steely character that fans like me had come to love.

There was nothing wrong with the Tomb Raider reboot as a game. It played smooth and had stunning graphics. To me, it just didn't feel like a Tomb Raider game, and Lara didn't feel like Lara.

With its E3 2015 behind-closed-doors presentation of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics promised a return to many of the things I felt were missing. In a voiceover, Lara even says that she feels like herself again. Heck, the very title of the game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, practically admits that she, in fact, wasn't the tomb raider the last time around.

And yes, they showed tombs being raided.

Metaleater E3 2015 Best Xbox Game Award

The survival theme of the previous game is still there, and a theme of survival is fine. But Lara does what she does to do more than just survive: she does it to feel alive. Her search for artifacts tends to be connected to some personal search for truth. There were also prominent nods to the spirit of adventure in the demo, and that's a critical element to Lara's character that I felt was lacking in the last game. So hopefully we'll get more of the old thrill-seeker. Lara's complex relationship with her father seemed to be back to the forefront in the demo as a give and take, not a riff on being in his shadow.

Lara does what she does to do more than just survive: she does it to feel alive."

For those who loved the survival action gameplay of the reboot, that's still there, with new interactive environmental elements, an improved crafting and upgrades system, and combat that encourages players to "approach combat intelligently." There's also a translation system for puzzles that offers gameplay-based rewards as well as more narrative for doing side quests.

The demo also involved fighting a lot of really pissed off bears. I'm not sure why we needed to see two fights against bears. Perhaps because bears aren't spoilers. But I felt bad for the bears.

Grizzly bear attack in Rise of the Tomb Raider
Grizzly bear attacks are a reality in the wilderness environment.

The bits of story we were given included locations in Siberia as well as the Northwest border of Syria. It's a rough few minutes for Lara that, at times, borders on feeling like you're playing torture porn. But there are also moments where Lara seems blissfully awestruck as she makes some archeological discovery based on her father's notes. Those parts were really nice to see.

What we saw was an early build, so I have no idea how much the little audio-visual hiccups here and there will be in the finished game when it releases on November 10 on Xbox One and Xbox 360. Five months is a lot of time in game development. Lara's legs were out of sync with the paths carved out of the snow she was trudging through, and it was so obvious that I can't imagine they'll leave that unfixed. Her hair also didn't look quite right, though the facial expressions were amazing. Lara's dialogue is still recited with an abundance of breathy earnestness, and while I still miss her previous incarnation's steely delivery, I'm getting used to this Lara. Slowly.

So despite my status as a grumpy old school Tomb Raider fan, I'm looking forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider. It still probably won't quite be the game I personally want it to be, but it will still be a game I want to play... assuming the tomb raiding is the central feature that Crystal Dynamics promises.

Images courtesy of Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics.