The Tomb Raider Reboot Could Use A T-Rex

I'm worried that Lara Croft won't ever get to fight a dragon again. And that she'll never go back to Atlantis. Everything we've seen so far from the gritty Tomb Raider reboot due out next year seems to indicate that the Crystal Dynamics is burning the fantasy trappings off of the action franchise. And that shouldn't be the case, because Tomb Raider thrives on unreality.

Now, I've argued before that the quiet, sparsely populated stretches of past Tomb Raider games have been amongst the best parts of the franchise. A sense of wonder feels easier to communicate when there's fewer jabbering humans around. So far, the impressive forests and wreckage shown in Tomb Raider demos have doubled down on a naturalistic realism. Even the threats that Lara comes up against -- staving off starvation, surviving harsh weather, sexual assault (even if it's not called that) -- have been more as down-to-earth. There's been dirt smeared over everything. And that's one approach to making a re-imagined origin story more believable.

However, Lara Croft's always been a character that's plumbed secret histories, whether it's been the mysterious fates of her own parents or finding out parts of mythologies that have been true. The magic/mad science/fantasy part of Tomb Raider games has always been an essential part of the heroine's appeal. Remember, this is a character that's taken down yeti and Nephilim.

In fact, when you compare Lara's adventures to those of Indy or Nathan Drake, the dive into the supernatural has been more pronounced. Indy only ever gets brief glimpses of the fantastic in his movies. Uncharted has stepped that up each time out, giving you a grotesque subspecies of humans in the first game and a parallel dimension in Uncharted 2. But those look like baby steps compared to Lara. She took down a T-Rex, after all. Call it magic, science-fiction or fantasy. Whatever you name that unreal element, it needs to be a part of a Lara Croft adventure. Fighting against superpowered Atlanteans and re-animated T-Rexs made Lara Croft come across as ultra-capable. Wielding just two Uzis against a horde of velociraptors makes her more of a bad-ass, not someone you need to protect.

In globe-trotting archeological adventure mythos like the one Lara Croft operates in, protagonists usually chase after an artifact that proves the existence of things that were considered myths. Going back to the 19th Century Allen Quatermain novels, you can see the roots of the Lost World genre -- where riches, power, items or knowledge from time-lost civilizations get re-discovered -- that lives on Indiana Jones, Uncharted and, of course, Tomb Raider. It's troubling that very little has been teased so far with regard to supernaturally significant material. And, yes, such elements could be teased without giving away the whole experience. Hell, it might make people even more excited.

If we're going to see any sci-fi or genre elements in the Tomb Raider reboot, they'll probably be rooted in dark fantasy. Some of the screens we've seen so far hint at a horror element and the feral bogeyman grasping at Lara in the game's E3 2011 reveal certainly might have been a supernatural enemy. There's also the fact that the island where Lara's trapped seems to be a magnet for shipwrecks. So there might be a gothic style of fantasy underneath all the bow-hunting and precipice-jumping.

But my worry is that the wholesale leap into fantasy that Tomb Raider has generally provided will get minimized for more realistic-feeling drama. And that would be a shame. Lara Croft has swung Excalibur, for Christ's sake. She needs to do more than just huddle under a tarp. Hopefully, the new game gives her the chance to do confront horrors of the unknown.


    I never had the chance to play the original TR, but bought TR2 when it came out. I remember being surprised and terrified when I stumbled upon the T-Rex. Holy crap that was a great game. I'd hate to play it now and have my memories ruined! I don't think a game could make me that scared anymore. Especially not with a cuboid-headed dinosaur.

    I started Tomb Raider Underworld recently and it was the first TR game I'd played since 2 or 3.
    The story recap detailed events of the previous few games and was completely absurd. Atlantis? People with wings? Really?
    It was no wonder the series died. I won't miss any of it in the re-boot.

      Atlantis and people with wings? You mean Tomb Raider 1? It is a wonder that series died from the first one isn't it.

      Would love to see some gameplay videos.

    lame article, go watch the equally lame tomb raider films if you can't handle something closer to reality.

    Not really sure what the problem is here, isn't that the point of the reboot? To get away from those fantastical elements of the previous games, making it a dour, gritty, realisitic experience. Wishing for a t-rex in it is kinda like wishing for bat nipples to appear in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. It does not fit.

      I disagree,I think its a great opportunity to give fantastical things new impact BECAUSE the experience is gritty and realistic

    This is her origin story. Surely they'll make a game at some point with all the fantasy and magic but at this point I don't see the lack thereof being a problem.

    As someone who's never been interested in Tomb Raider until now, I'd have to say to the author that, unfortunately, this game isn't for you. It's going in a new direction, one that appeals to me.

      well that's fine as long as you are happy with the franchise languishing as it has since it discarded 'tombs' and 'raiding' from the game.

        I dunno if you've heard, but word on the street is action/adventure games can be fun without the 'tombs' and the 'raiding'.

    I lost interest in the Tomb Raider series after three, and the fact that I'm interested in this reboot is definitely a step in the right direction. I kind of like the fact that these games sorts of games can chuck in a supernatural element or two - simply versing humans who get, inexplicably, less susceptible to bullets the further you go into a game gets boring. A monster or two in the third act always freshens up the experience, if it's contextualized.
    I reckon the previous Tomb Raiders have done enough to ensure these sorts of elements aren't out of place in her world, and so I hope I get to jab a dinosaur in the eye with a burnt stick at some point in the new game.

    Just get rid of the other humans, Tomb Raider.

    It's THE problem with every game from TR1 onwards. It is the root cause for every trouble the series has had.

    I want to be deep in an environment, alone, fighting animals or supernatural things. As soon as you are fighting humans, with guns, and they are fighting you, the whole thing breaks apart. Not only does it destroy everything thematically, it also destroys the game mechanically because its just so damn clunky compared to what we expect from other games who's sole purpose is to do human to human combat and even they don't often get it right.

    They've removed the magic and the mystery, and in a knuckled headed attempt to make Lara Croft more "culturally relevant" (to who, I'm not sure - fanboys in San Diego?) stripped her of her aristocratic background, her degree in archaeology and even her Englishness. It's klutzy, it's vaguely Anglophobic and it's disrespectful of an iconic character who was going strong when some of the present developers were in short pants. The sooner we get back to Tomb Raiding and classical Lara the better.

      The magic and mystery didn't help really after the third release as all the releases after it basically relied on it heavily. Hence the lack of interest in Lara. They tried to bring that back in Underworld but it was already too late then. It became a laughing stock as all the gamers brought up on Lara had moved on. Moved on is the key word us games stressed to the developers. We've moved on the fantasy element. We've moved on from her past and characterisation (don't think we've moved on from the boobies but anyway...).

      The reboot is a definite kick in the backside to get rid of the gremlins of the past. How many people that now say 'I want to play Tomb Raider' ever since the reboot was announced? Previously, only the hardcore Lara gamers would play. With this, Lara is back in the spot light in a similar vein as the Dark Knight trilogy.

      Wishing the old Lara back is basically putting on rose-tinted glasses and believing the world hasn't evolved from the Playstation 2 era.

        I disagree. I think this theory that Tomb Raider needed another reboot and that Lara Croft needed to be completely altered is just PR guff put out by the company to try and justify what they are doing. They could have easily have exactly the same new Uncharted type gameplay and left the character alone. Changing the Lara character is totally unnecessary and has more to do with "cultural imperialism" and envy than selling more games.

      How do you know they've stripped the series of it's magic and mysteries. Apart from what we've seen in the E3 demos, we know next to nothing about the plot. You're letting your assumptions get the best of you. All we know is she is stranded on an island and is trying to survive. The plot could go in a million different directions now. How about you play the game in its entirety first and then decide whether or not its lost its magic.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now