Lara Croft is back in the spotlight once more with her latest outing in Rise of the Tomb Raider. We continue Lara's journey in the sequel to the popular 2013 franchise reboot. At the end of Tomb Raider, our heroine began to realize that the mystical artifacts that her father had been looking into might be more real than she expected. With her trusty crowbar by her side, it is up to Lara to raid some tombs and uncover the truth behind a false prophet and the secret of immortality.
In Rise of the Tomb Raider, you play as Lara as she heads off to Siberia in search of the mythical city of Kitezh. Following on from her exploration of the Prophet's Tomb, she spots a symbol that also appeared in the research her father was laughed at for. Her newfound knowledge that there are things in the world that we can't quite understand peaks her interest, and she begins searching for the secret of immortality.This story is not just woven between Lara's family and the history of the land, but into the overarching tale of the false prophet and his journey, and it's a story that you'll want to be paying attention to.
As you play and gather collectibles, you unlock the back story of prior expeditions in Kitezh. You will also hear stories of the false prophet, and the excursion of those who were sent to go after him by a secret religious organization, Trinity. The main story is enough to keep you playing Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it's great to see that there is so much more to be gained from this side content. After you play through the story once, you will likely find it pointless to replay the game again, especially since any collectible you have missed can be obtained using fast travel points.
One of the first things that anyone will notice about Rise of the Tomb Raider is just how pretty this world that Lara has ended up in is. From the arid deserts to the frozen mountains, every landscape is populated with fantastic sights to see. This game will run at 1080p and thirty frames per second during all of the segments where you are able to control the action. During cut scenes, the quality of assets is increased, then decreased during gameplay to maintain the FPS. This means that they still look pretty when you're up close and personal. It is a workaround, but one that works very well. This all pays off fantastically for Rise of the Tomb Raider as you'll be stopping every now and then to really take in your environment without sacrificing character detail in the slightest.
The soundtrack in Rise of the Tomb Raider is top-notch. It does exactly what a video game soundtrack should in terms of enhancing the action during each scene. While you might barely notice any of the tracks playing where you are being stealthy, you will notice and enjoy the music as you run from a crumbling tomb. In terms of the different environmental sounds, you can really hear the crunch of the snow under Lara's feet as she is waist deep in it. Whether you're shooting them or using them to hit an enemy soldier, every weapon's sound has a lot of weight and lends to the game's realism.
The controls in Rise of the Tomb Raider are very similar to the 2013 Tomb Raider. You get to do all of the things that you would expect Lara to do such as running, jumping, melee, and climbing. There are also plenty of other different skills that you will get through side quests and natural progression. Apart from the one or two times that the game might help you slightly to grab a ledge by pulling you onto it, the game does a good job of letting you enjoy the world. These all lend well to a Tomb Raider experience; you know that when you do well it's because of skill, but if you mess up you're the only one to blame.
It is completely up to you during enemy encounters to decide how you wish to take them down. There is no real bonus for completing an encounter using stealth or by running in guns blazing. A couple of times you can even just sneak entirely by the enemy soldiers and they will be none the wiser. This freedom gives a player time to sneak around and maybe distract some enemies away, while other players could just get everyone together in one place and throw in a Molotov cocktail.
As you progress through the game, you will find various fireplaces that act as checkpoints and quick travel areas. While you are here, you are also able to upgrade your equipment with the various materials found in the world. You can get these materials by looting the environment or by plundering the pockets of foes you have dispatched. You can also change the outfit that Lara is wearing in this menu, with most outfits being cosmetic choices and just a few giving added bonuses when equipped. You're able to craft special ammunition at fireplaces, but you can also craft these wherever you are out in the world.
It is at fireplaces that you are able to spend skill points in the three different upgrade trees for Lara. These are known as the Brawler, Hunter and Survivor. The Brawler skill tree has your hand to hand combat and healing abilities, while Hunter contains the abilities that pertain to hunting and scavenging, and Survivor is your crafting and exploration skills. The fireplace system is a returning one from Tomb Raider, but the game never makes you feel like you'll desperately need one and have none about. Normally if you ever do start wishing there was another fireplace nearby, you'll turn a couple of corners and find one.
The multiplayer in Rise of the Tomb Raider is asynchronous, as opposed to the competitive multiplayer present in Tomb Raider. This mode is called Expeditions and allows you to complete a variety of activities for a point score. This score will then appear on your choice of global or friends only leaderboards.
There is a card system across all of the Expedition game modes. Each card has a different modifier that will affect the way your expedition can go and a percentage modifier that can increase or decrease the credits earned in the expedition. These credits can then be spent on buying card packs for more modifiers. The card packs in expeditions also cannot be purchased any way other than credits, which somewhat defies the micro-transaction trend that is becoming a part of gaming recently.
The first Expedition mode is Score Attack, where you will replay a level from the campaign. On top of that, you will have various objectives like collecting items, shooting lanterns, and killing enemies to maintain a combo meter. The higher your combo meter, the more points and the more credits that you will win at the end of the round. There is Chapter Replay and Chapter Replay Elite, which is self-explanatory apart from elite mode, giving you all your items from the rest of the game. The last of the Expedition modes is Remnant Resistance where you can play and create custom missions. In these missions you are able to change aspects like objectives, time and weather, as well as adding modifier cards. The more difficult you make your custom level the more credits you will get for successfully completing it. You are then able to post your custom levels online so that anyone can try to beat your challenge.
Crystal Dynamics has taken the best aspects of Tomb Raider and maintained their quality while also adding a new and interesting story into the mix. Rise has a great variety of different weapons, equipment and skills, and the way you play the game will change as you grow. One of the big problems is the lack of replayability after completing the campaign. Unless you have a deep need for more gameplay, the Expeditions mode will be fun for a couple of rounds and then you probably won't look back.
This game was provided to the reviewer by the developer and was played on the Xbox One.