I’ve slept on Rise of the Tomb Raider for a while. Too long perhaps (3 years to be exact) as I’m really enjoying it. It’s staggered launch on consoles put it out of my mind for a while. It wasn’t until the recently released shadow of the tomb raider came out that I gave it a thought and decided to play. As the second game in Lara’s rebooted trilogy I don’t think I ever felt the urge to jump into it. I enjoyed 2013’s Tomb Raider. It was a very well made and engaging reboot. I liked that the story was self contained but opened itself for sequels. It wasn’t a reluctance keeping me away from Rise, Tanked Up co-host Lucy spoke highly of it when it first released on Xbox, I just missed the window and moved onto other games.
Rise fits in nicely to my January games backlog, list of shame, pile of stuff, whatever it’s called. Most of the games I’ve been playing are smaller experiences or games I can take at my own pace. Rise though is a massive game. There’s so much to do but it benefits from being well structured. The large areas used for hunting and resource gathering are linked by story driven corridor sections and almost arena style combat areas. The pacing and playable world fit together nicely. This allowed me to experience a story section or open area and take a break. I can comfortably play in 30 minute sessions and pick up very easily where I left off. Or when I know I’ve only a quick 10 minutes to play I can just explore and find collectables. If I’ve longer I’ll tackle the story. This flexibility is brilliant in such a large game.
I still have an issue with the game that stems from the 2013 Tomb Raider. In that game Lara has a rather brutal beginning. She kills in self defence which opens her up to doing anything to survive. This in itself was good story telling and character development. I had issue with the brutality after that initial act. The issue continues into Rise as Lara cuts people down to move through the games environments. The first kill in Rise was a stealthy one but one that didn’t seem to phase her or need any passing comment. It was brutal and didn’t suggest any other way to resolve the situation; Stealth or just knocking the guy out could have been used but the brutality continues. Rise does however, at least as far as I’ve played, address this a little. It feels slightly more considered. Lara isn’t running through killing indiscriminately. She rarely shoots first, unless I make her, and the encounters are few and far between. The exploration and platforming take precedent over the combat yet the story keeps bringing me back to killing. As with Tomb Raider there’s a disconnect with story and game progression.
My problem with that disconnect luckily doesn’t continue with the rest of the game. Platforming is fun and satisfying. In the larger areas there are multiple ways to traverse around the space making it feel expansive. The corridor platforming sections provide tense moments where quick reactions are needed and the challenge tombs are really interesting little puzzles. Collectables, challenges and side missions have you returning to areas and experiencing them in a different way. Rise’ map doesn’t need to be huge because of the way the loop is cleverly structured.
The disparity of story and combat won’t stop me moving onto Shadow of the Tomb Raider when I’ve finished Rise. I can’t imagine I’ll leave it that long in between Rise and shadow either. However I don’t expect much of a change. Tomb Raider, Uncharted and action games revolving around exploration platforming need an evolution and I hope its something that will come with the inevitable next instalment of these franchises. However long we have to wait for them.