Rise Of The Tomb Raider: The Kotaku Review

Rise Of The Tomb Raider: The Kotaku Review

When we last saw Lara Croft, she was growing out of being a victim. A victim of fate, of other people’s aggression, of her own uninspired previous playable incarnations. She’s still growing, but she’s different now.

For most of Rise of the Tomb Raider, the second instalment of a rebooted Tomb Raider series, Lara Croft doesn’t go around being scared. She still faces down overwhelming odds, grapples with doubt, and absorbs a ton of trauma. The newest iteration of the iconic video game heroine displays less fumbly panic than she did in 2013’s Tomb Raider. There are more moments of steely determination and fewer moments where she pauses to psych herself up. She knows what she’s capable of — she hasn’t forgotten that one time she wiped out a supernatural army, climbed a mountain, and took down a sun god. It feels like she’s grown.

That feeling of growth is a key factor in this sequel. For Rise of the Tomb Raider to succeed, it needs to convince players that Lara has matured, but that she still has more growing to do. Yet the changes in a new instalment can’t be too radical, lest this Lara become unrecognizable to old and new fans.

Rise of the Tomb Raider tells the story of young Lara Croft, alone in a dangerous place, exploring ruins, solving puzzles, and shooting lots of guys with flaming arrows. It combines hunter/gatherer elements — where you need to scavenge for the stuff you need to survive or make weapons — with a mix of melee and ranged combat with pickaxes, guns or a bow and arrow.

Rise opens yet again with Lara searching for proof of a time-lost civilisation. This time, however, her motivations come from a deeply personal place. Before he died, Lara’s father was on a quest to find the Divine Source — an artifact said to grant eternal life — and the apocryphal Prophet who performed miracles with its power. Lara’s continuation of his work is directly linked to her desire to restore respectability to the Croft name — her father’s name. Her travels take her to a snow-swept mountain range in Siberia where she comes into conflict with a mysterious organisation named Trinity, whose paramilitary goons are also looking for the Divine Source. Hello, cannon fodder.

Crystal Dynamics’ latest effort at a Tomb Raider game benefits from smartly imagining the psychological underpinnings of both its heroes and villains. Just as Lara is trying to contend with her father’s legacy, the main bad guy’s thirst for power is likewise driven by very personal reasons. There are moments that you feel like you’re fighting against a screwed-up worldview and not just a bunch of artificially-intelligent mannequins.

Rise of the Tomb Raider tweaks the gameplay formula established in its 2013 predecessor. There’s a new crafting system that has Lara constantly foraging for resources that she can use to make ammo, equipment or bandages. Once she has enough resources, she can craft what she needs on the go. The player holds down the left bumper and can craft, mid-action. So, collecting deathcap mushrooms lets her make poison arrows that release a fatal gas. Similarly, other new craftable items increase the ability to silently skulk through encounters if you want. If loud, messy combat engagement is your thing, then you can quickly turn bottles and cans into molotovs and hand grenades.

Lara’s newly improved abilities are a direct reflection of how much effort you put into exploring the gameworld. As her skills increase, her ability to spot resources and read the world gets more powerful. Lara buffs her mastery of ancient languages by finding murals and improves her arsenal and equipment by amassing exotic animal hides. Other combat upgrades let you pull off feats like multiple headshots at once with the bow. The way that ROTTR‘s mechanics are structured feeds into the overall sense of growing or maturing.

Aside from its opening chapters, Rise of the Tomb Raider is set around the geothermal valley in Siberia where Lara and Trinity have tracked the Divine Source. It’s a gorgeously layered landscape that feels more like an open world than the terrain of the 2013 game. Whether snowy or lushly green, the terrain feels alive, teeming with plant-based resources or animals to stalk (or flee). Aside from scads of posthumous testimonials about the history of its events and fiction, the game also teases players with optional tombs. The entrances to these tombs are secreted away and you’ll need to apply some extra effort to even find them. Once you find these tombs, you’ll be faced with a single physics-based environmental puzzle — familiar to longtime Tomb Raider fans. But you’ll need to navigate through various section of the tombs to trigger various elements necessary to their solution. As a result, they wind up feeling bigger and more significant.

The game’s also got side missions — given to you by actual in-world quest-givers — that grant you new tools/weapons, like a lock pick and crafting tool. You can also use in-game currency to obtain some of these weapons and equipment from the supply shack that opens up in the first third of the game.

This is an enjoyable sequel and the reason it’s very fun is because it feels upgraded in nearly every way. When I tried for stealthier approaches in the 2013 Tomb Raider, the results felt haphazard. In this game, I was able to plan and execute better, thanks to a plethora of options that let you blind or poison enemies from afar. The feeling of being a cunning predator was a welcome change for me, especially after enduring the emotional rawness of the last Tomb Raider. Another thing I liked about Rise of the Tomb Raider is how it constantly rewards your curiosity. If you head to a seemingly innocuous cliff or stop and take in your surroundings with Lara’s survival instinct, you’ll almost always find a resource or collectible waiting for you. I leaned hard on Lara’s survival instinct because Rise of the Tomb Raider is the kind of game where I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I played Rise of the Tomb Raider much like I did its predecessor: almost exclusively with the bow and arrow and as stealthily as my patience would allow. This time around, however, I didn’t feel like a trembly twentysomething, scared of every shadow. I felt more like a hunter and explorer, systematically taking down enemies and challenges. That said, I didn’t like having to unlock the same suite of weapons as in the last game. Lara knew how to counter enemies and perform quick stealth kills in the last game — why should she have to re-learn it now?

Unlike the Tomb Raider game from two years ago, Rise doesn’t have any competitive multiplayer. Instead, it offers another gambit geared to entice players to keep returning to the game. The Expeditions feature lets you play remixed chunks of the story campaign in one of four modes — Chapter Replay, Chapter Replay Elite, Score Attack or Remnant Resistance.

In Remnant Resistance, you can create custom five-part missions by picking specific objectives, loadouts and time of day. Once you finish one of these missions, your friends will be challenged to do the same.

Completing Expeditions missions earns credits and winnings can be increased by using collectible cards as modifiers to increase difficulty, grant buffs and add challenge objectives.

So, a Lobotomy challenge tasks players to notch five headshots with the bow and arrow and using a Big Head card on enemies swells their craniums makes their torsos and limbs more resistant to damage. The credits you earn in Expeditions can be used to buy more card packs for increased variability in the missions you create. I enjoyed the handful of Expeditions missions I took on and the feature feels like a clever way of re-jiggering the work that’s already in the game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s greatest success is in how it encourages exploration, which in turn makes you feel more connected to its fictional world. Every hapless corpse in the frozen Russian wastes is a reminder that Lara’s moving through a place that’s killed many others. As I played, she came across as increasingly gifted, with enough spirit and ingenuity to find ways to see herself through to the other side. This Lara isn’t a wide-eyed newcomer, nor is she a flinty veteran. She’s somewhere in between. Rise of the Tomb Raider makes me want to follow her where she goes next.


  • Sounds pretty good but my big question is are there dinosaurs? The next tomb raider should have her on a lost island full of dinosaurs finding out why they were in the first games (was this explained and I missed it?).

    • Are you talking the first one, many years ago? or the first in the rebooted series? I can’t remember a dinosaur in the reboot

      • From memory the first two had a t-rex and I think the third had a raptor. Probably wrong but they showed up a bit in the early games. Not in the reboot.

  • Microsoft executive: “Ok, we managed to pay more to get the next Tomb Raider game exclusively on THE ONE for a specific amount of time. We can take this advantage to earn extra money before it’s available on all platforms. Releasing this game on the right date is key to its success. But when should we release it?”


    Exec: “Brilliant! Nobody will see it coming!”

    • yeah Fallout 4 is a juggernaut. but I know myself and probably a lot of other people are probably gonna go Tomb Raider over FO4. I don’t have 100000000 hours to sink into an open world game right now. if I just want something fun and quick i would rather go with Tomb Raider.

      I will eventually get to FO4 but it will most likey be a GOTY edition with all the DLC included free and some bugs patched out.

      • Doubt it. I saw a LOT of people lined up at JB Hifi and EB Games today talking about Fallout 4. Hell, even the lady who served me my takeaway lunch asked if I had just bought Fallout 4 when she noticed my EB Games plastic bag (JB was sold out of PC – EB pricematch was last resort).

        I didn’t even see a TR display at JB.

      • If you dont want Fallout 4 because you dont have the time to play much you may be more interested in some other AAA titles like Need for Speed or Black Ops 3 which have also come out just recently.

        Or perhaps you’re into Star Wars… Either way there are far too many big games at the moment for this to be at the top of your wishlist!

          • I find it hard to believe people are going to rush to grab this when there is an abundance of other games on the market which are getting better reviews…

            My XB1 is for Forza only – I may pick this up on PS4 down the track but wouldnt rush… I just perceive those with only an XB1 might be getting Fallout, Need For Speed, Black Ops 3 or Star Wars… They are all the hyped games for the season!

          • Funnily enough, since it’s currently sitting pretty tied with Fallout at the top of metacritic there aren’t any getting better reviews.

            But you’re probably right, it hasn’t really got much of a hope of competing with those guys.
            I hope so, but! Don’t like the idea of hard work going unrewarded

          • No I dont either – I would probably like to pick it up prior to Xmas if it was available on PS4 though…. lol

            In all honesty I could be the kind of guy to choose this over Fallout 4 as I dont know where im going to find the time to actually enjoy exploring in Fallout before the misses or one of the kids screams at me 😉 So nice story pace Lara Croft would be a good choice – guess im just gripey its only on XB1 I hate playing anything but racers on my XB1

          • Not quite as easy as that slyph…

            But maybe… just maybe… This weekend…. tonight maybe…. ah im just dreaming

        • Of the ones you listed I’ll be getting Tomb raider.
          Fallout tops it but of the other releases this is number 1

        • lol FO4 isn’t at the top of my wish list 🙂 already stated that ill be picking up rise of the tomb raider 🙂 (which I have it’s a fantastic game so far)

    • Lol I don’t see many box fanboys or girls shelling out for this as it is – Always seemed to have a larger following with PS players for some reason… hmmm…

  • That decision to launch with Fallout 4 was SOOOOO f*cking stupid.

    I can only imagine that they wanted to sell it as a “2015 Christmas Exclusive”, couldn’t get it finished any earlier and didn’t want to wait any longer (lots of people are doing their Christmas shopping now).

    I assume the fact that they’re packaging it with consoles (as a download) also meant that they were less flexible with the release date than would have been the case for a normal 3rd party release.

    I honestly hope the game is still a success, I know a lot of people have ill will towards it because they feel entitled to it as a multiplatform (which is both understandable and ridiculous).

    It does look like a good game though, I’ll have it on my 2016 mid-year sales list with Halo 5, MSG V, Assassins Creed and about 5 other top-shelf games that I don’t have time to play because of the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4.

    Damn it’s a good time to be a gamer!

  • Sounds pretty good, but also sounds like I can wait until next year to pick it up.
    There is a bit of a game-a-lanche at the moment with Fallout4, StarCraft, Black Ops III, Halo 5, Metal Gear 5, Assassins creed, Witcher3 and Star Wars Battlefront all vying for time over the Xmas break.

  • The first two hours have been a lot of fun. After playing the older Uncharted games recently it was a bit of a shock coming back to the better climbing mechanics. Jumping around, digging your pick into surfaces, etc really plays smoothly. The hunting elements feel just as good as the previous game. There’s something about drawing back the bow string and firing off arrows that really connects you to it.

  • So looking forward to playing this. Shame I’ll have to wait so long for it to release on a platform I own. Oh well, guess I’ll just play that other game that came out the same day. What was it called? Oh yeah… Fallout 4! (My God what idiot at Microsoft chose to do that)

      • Which actually would have been a far better option considering Uncharted is exclusive and TR is timed exclusive on a directly competing platform. Sure you’ve got cross over owners but still better than trying to fight FO4.

  • Thanks Australian Post for getting my game with express!
    Cant wait to play it toni…. oh wait. You have once again failed me!
    I think I’m going to just walk my ass over to the stores from now on and purchase it over the counter. At least then i know i’ll actually have the game.. when i purchase it
    Have to thank Dilan at EB he gave me a refund for the express price! so that made me a little happier

  • Square Enix must be so happy with their game, ending the review embargo a whole year before release

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