Rise of the Tomb Raider – Review

Platform – Xbox One
Developer – Crystal Dynamics
Publisher – Square-Enix
MSRP: $59.99 USD

(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed within a course of 5 days with a final game completion of 98% on the Survivor Difficulty (Highest Difficulty in the game), and the copy was provided by Microsoft.)

 

Introduction

It’s time to get ready for a whole new supernatural adventure. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the sequel to the new Tomb Raider reboot that was released back in 2013. The reboot was well-received, and the majority of the fans were happy to see a fresh new Lara-Croft. Here we are today, with Rise of the Tomb Raider the next chapter in Lara Croft’s myth hunting journey. The game has added many new aspects to the franchise such as crafting, survival, more tombs, crypts, puzzles and most importantly open-world regions. So how does Lara’s new epic journey go and is it a worthy successor to the reboot? And the answer is yes, find out more in our in-depth review down below.

 

Story, Visuals, and Audio

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara is on an adventure to find an artifact called ‘Divine Source.’ It is believed that the ‘Divine Source’ is a secret ancient relic that grants immortality, and this is where Lara’s personality comes in with her obsession for treasure and mythical stories. One of the best things that the game does well that adds to the game’s plot is the facial animations when it comes to Lara’s and other characters emotions. It was never boring to watch a cut-scene thanks to the fantastic character models and the realistic looking emotions.

During her treasure hunting adventure, you will be visiting different world regions such as Syria, Siberia and more. On your epic journey, you will come across an organization called Trinity. Trinity is an evil organization that is also after the ‘Divine Source’ for their own purpose. As you can imagine, this is where things start to get interesting and story-driven. Rise of the Tomb Raider has a well-paced story that gets more intriguing as you through the game and gets fascinating once you get near the end.

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Overall, I enjoyed the plot in Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s a simple, easy to follow and there are no loopholes. It’s fun to watch it unfold as you go through the different regions in the game and learn about the game world throughout in-game items collectibles called ‘Documents.’ ‘Documents’ are fully voiced audio logs that tell parts of a tale of particular characters. They’re well voice-acted, fun to listen and they add richness to the lore. Crystal Dynamics have done a great job at immersing players in this new, dangerous and cruel world of Tomb Raider.

The game is visually impressive. You will come across beautiful vistas, waterfalls, and forgotten tombs. Everything felt atmospheric and mysterious and for a game like this, it’s crucial for the world to feel real and believable. Crystal Dynamics have done a good job at presenting the dangerous and mythical world of Tomb Raider. Everywhere you go, there will always be something to look at, appreciate its beauty and move on along. Whether you’re in a mining cave, a tomb filled with dead bodies, ice caves or the gorgeous outdoor wilderness you won’t be let down with the visual representation of the game.

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The ambient audio also adds to the immersion factor depending on where you are. If you’re being hunted by a bear or a cougar out in the wild, the music starts to change dramatically change to a more hyper and dramatic feel letting you know that something is trying to slaughter you and have you for dinner. The audio cue also changes once you engage in combat or start being pursued by enemies once spotted in the bushes or any other hiding spots.

In a nutshell, the whole representation of the game is very clear and is done in a proper way. Everything fits together in terms of audio, visual and story elements that create a complete package that any person playing the game would appreciate. There is no state of the art technology here that is going to set a new standard, however; it looks good, sounds good and works very well across the board.

Open World Gameplay, Survival Aspects, and Combat

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a combination of many genres that consists of open-world elements, survival aspects that involve hunting animals, collecting parts for weapons, materials for crafting and intense 3rd person action combat.

The open-world exploration in Rise of the Tomb Raider is filled with content and plenty of things to do; it’s probably one of the best open-world structures I’ve experienced in a very long time. The game is divided into different regions, and each region has a set of collectible items such as relics, documents, secret caches, and murals. Some regions also feature tombs, crypts, additional challenges, and side-quests. For example, one of the challenges asks you to burn down Soviet flags, while missions can send you to a spot in the region to do something particular for the individual such saving a prisoner or finding the intel.

The tombs are super fun, mysterious and well-designed. They reminded me of old-school games such as Zelda or obviously the original Tomb Raider back from the 90s. Expect that this time around, the tombs are a lot bigger, prettier and atmospheric. Once you figure out the puzzle and you find the secret codex you will be given a new passive ability. As for puzzles themselves, they can range from raising water levels and all the way to figuring out how to get rid of debris that’s covering the path to your reward.

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Crypts, on the other hand, are small cave dungeons that don’t have a lot of depth to them, and they do not require any puzzle solving to get the reward at the end. They’re ok for the most part, but honestly, I feel like there could have been a lot more potential with them. It’s also worth noting that the collectibles in the region are also included in the tombs, crypts, and caves.

If you’re a huge collecting junkie, then there will be plenty to do. Some people may think it’s another collect-a-thon, but to be quite frank finding secrets in Rise of the Tomb Raider feels extremely satisfying and fun to do.  The developers were smart when it came to how they let you explore their world if you want to find everything in the game you have to go into every nook and cranny to 100% the game. Lara Croft can also find survival satchels and treasure maps. These items let you automatically pinpoint the locations of other collectibles on your map menu. Finding these items in the first place is not easy at all, as they’re very well hidden and sometimes hard to spot if you’re just bum-rushing through everything.

My favorite part about Rise of the Tomb Raider’s open-world aspect is how everything is connected to each other. The world feels real and believable; it’s full of atmosphere especially when you find secret hidden tombs, crypts or even dens that have a pack of wolves living in or a big grizzly bear. You can physically go from region to region on foot or fast travel via camp fire that you find throughout your journey. Everywhere I went and explored there was always something new to see, whether it was a new collectible that I missed or another path that I didn’t see before that led me to another path and then a cave that’s filled with things to explore and materials to mine for. However, my only gripe about traversing and exploring in the game is the platforming. There have been far too many times where I accidentally jumped off a ledge or missed a jump because the controls were either unresponsive or the camera was facing the wrong way at the wrong time. Basically, the platforming mechanics can get clunky sometimes which leads to frustration when you’re trying to escape from an enemy or get away from a trap in a tomb.

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The survival aspects of the game also play a big part in Rise of the Tomb Raider. During your exploration, you can find different materials to collect such as wood from small tree branches, berries from bushes, ore from mining nodes in caves and so on. All of these materials play an important part in the crafting system. You will be able to consume the materials for weapon upgrades, and each weapon class has its own progression tiers. You can also use materials to craft ammo for your bow, guns, and healing during combat. Hunting animals is also important in Rise of the Tomb Raider; they will provide you with more materials for higher quality items and upgrades for your tools.

One fear I had that it would be really easy to run out of materials to collect, however; even on Survivor difficulty (hardest difficulty), I didn’t have much trouble finding materials for enough bullets or healing bandages. If you’re looking to go on a farming session, you can fast-travel from place to place and repeatedly farm materials because the gathering nodes respawn over time and also spawn at different locations.

The combat in Rise of the Tomb Raider feels good and visceral. However, there are no new mechanics or any kind revolutionary changes in how third person shooter games are played. The combat itself works well and most importantly it is fun to engage and fight enemies. Although, they have incorporated bonus mechanics into how you kill your enemies for experience points. When you land headshots, you get more experience for killing the enemy as opposed to killing them by shooting them anywhere else in the body and the same thing can be said about stealth kills or leaping kills from a certain height level.

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During intense combat scenarios, you can use your d-pad buttons to switch to different weapon classes, and they’re a total of 4 which includes the bow, handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Changing weapons feels fast and fluid, depending on the situation you’re in sometimes you might need to use your trust-worthy shotgun if multiple enemies are chasing you at once. Or switch to a handgun if you just have one enemy left, and you want to save your ammo for more powerful weapons instead of for tougher situations. In a nutshell, the combat is decent but I wish there were more types of animals to fight along with the humans. Although, the combat does get a lot more interesting in the ending parts of the games and you’ll see why. I was also quite sad about the final boss, the fight wasn’t that engaging, and I wish it could have been better designed because the whole thing ended up feeling predictable and anti-climactic, but other than that it was okay.

The developers have implemented many familiar RPG elements that into the combat system and crafting. As you explore the world, fight and collect items, you will get EXP for everything you do in the game. As you level up, you can start unlocking new passive abilities and bonuses to three different skill trees which include Brawler, Hunter, and Survival. If you’re trying to 100% the entire game you can unlock every skill in all the talent tree if you’re willing to put in the time. Brawler tree focuses on combat passives while Hunter adds more to your animal killing and Survival gives you bonuses to crafting, gathering materials and so on. The simple is very similar to other talent trees out there. If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft or any RPG in the past, then you will know what to do and how it works. The talent system works well, it’s not too deep, but it’s simple enough to be meaningful. You will notice how Lara Croft becomes more survivable and becomes tougher for the harder sections in the game.

The AI in the game is quite aggressive (well at least on Survivor difficulty which is the highest setting in the game) they will try to flank you and melee you if they can. Although, there are some instances where you can just easily pick them off from their cover position because they never change their location or decide not to move around. Other times they will just sit there and spam grenades at you to expose you and kill you. The AI is not bad, but it’s not good either and there is nothing to expect here other than the fact that it gets the job done and that’s about it.

Crystal Dynamics have made sure that wherever you go in the game your time is never wasted, and you’re always rewarded in some shape or form. Future open-world games need to take a note of this because right now this is one of the biggest issues that most open-world games have. Many of them depend on their enormous size that is not filled with quality content, meanwhile; in Rise of the Tomb Raider everything is quality wherever you go, and there is always a substantial reward. Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider has one of the best open-world/region designs in recent memory besides Witcher 3. The world is obviously a lot smaller, but everything in it serves its purpose.

Post Game and Score Attack and Card Packs

After you beat the game, you can load up your last save and go anywhere you want and tackle missing side-quests/challenges and scout for the rest of the collectibles and to get a 100% completion. You can keep leveling if you wish to max out all of your talent trees and harvest crafting materials to finishing upgrading all of your guns to the fullest. The game’s mainline story will take a good 10-15 hours depending on the difficulty your playing and how much you explore. As I was playing and reviewing this game, I was going through it at a slow pace and exploring every nook and cranny and also playing at the highest difficulty which is Survivor. At the end of the game, I ended up with 98% overall completion of the entire game and my game clocked around a good 50 or so hours. Rise of the Tomb Raider has a healthy amount of content that’s not overwhelming but yet still a ton to do.

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If you have 100% completed everything in the main play-through and still want to get the rest of the achievements in the game or have something else to do then you try out something called ‘Score Attack.’ ‘Score Attack’ is a mode where you can choose a level to replay from the story, but this time around you will be pressed for time and try to complete in-game challenges such as speed running,  not getting hit, no deaths or completing the level on the highest difficulty. At the end of the level, you will be awarded your final score, and you can achieve three types of medals including bronze, silver, and gold. The best part about is that it’s tied to the achievement system, and you can also compare yourself on the leaderboards to your friends or global rankings. The ‘Score Attack’ system lets hardcore players have their own type of competition between each other. Speed-running is a popular thing these days and so are no-death runs. Crystal Dynamics were geniuses to come up with something so simple like this and yet addicting. The challenges also reset via a timer or once they’re completed until a new one shows up. Trust me, you won’t be running out of challenges to complete because some of them are tough to achieve. It’s possible to complete multiple challenges in 1 run, but more of the harder once will require particular strategies.

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The points that you earn in ‘Score Attack’ give you credits that you can spend on card packs in the marketplace. Once you buy a card pack and reveal each card, you will get passive bonuses that make things easier for you in the game or harder. This system adds another layer of difficulty to the game, so if you want some insane challenge under certain conditions, you can do that. Once you use the card though it gets burned, so before you use any card make sure it’s going to be useful for you and it’s not going to be wasted.

Final Verdict

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic game in the end. It’s a game that combines multiple genres and mixes them well together without feeling like it’s too much of an action game or an RPG and vice versa. It has great exploration, good leveling and crafting systems that are easy to understand and combat that can be engaging and fun. Post-game also provides more content for those who are hardcore enough and like to challenge themselves and their friends on the leaderboards. This is one of those rare games that you need to play no matter what. The only issues I have with is that the platforming mechanics can get a bit clunky and the game also lacks a variety of enemies and animals to kill. Most importantly, it’s a very fun game whether you’re a fan of the series or just looking for a good game period.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider
9

Overall

9.0 /10

Pros

  • Fun and engaging combat
  • Combines RPG elements and blends it really with the action genre
  • Meaty single-player and post-game content will keep you going via challenges

Cons

  • Lack of enemy variety
  • Platforming mechanics can sometimes feel clunky
  • Survivor difficulty is a lot easier than it should be