Lara Croft Is The Worst Thing About Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Lara Croft Is The Worst Thing About Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the best action-adventure game of this generation, a game that effortlessly balances great gameplay with puzzles that feel more naturalistic than artificial. As if that weren’t enough, the levels are awesome, exploration is a blast, and the game’s great at encouraging a sense of completionism. There’s just one problem: Lara Croft is boring.

I had hoped Uncharted 4 would be awesome. Instead I got bored, drifted over to DOOM, and didn’t look back until a few weeks ago, when I picked up Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and started playing the first Uncharted game.

I’m not really a fan of any of Naughty Dog’s games — their enemies suffer from the cardinal sin of enemy design, their guns are boring, the encounters rely too heavily on waves of enemies, the combat arenas are almost never interesting, and the games take way too many opportunities to take your camera away and make you look at things to wow you instead of just letting you play.

But you know what? Nathan Drake is cool.

I wish Lara Croft was cool.

Lara Croft Is The Worst Thing About Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider both suffer from the same problem of Everything Is Serious All The Time, and Lara herself is so serious that Heath Ledger’s Joker could probably write his doctoral thesis examining why. Both Tomb Raider games present themselves as origin stories, with Lara as someone coming to grips with being a survivor and doing cool stuff.

The problem is that everything was sort of relentlessly awful. Lara would get stabbed in the throat and start gasping like she was the lead actress in a torture porn. She’d wake up in a pool of blood and corpses and (understandably) freak out. Tomb Raider had some character development — there’s a moment where she readies her bow and is all “I’m coming for you,” and the dual wielding pistol moment at the end of Tomb Raider felt like such a satisfying payoff that Rise of the Tomb Raider disappointed in that regard.

While Lara is certainly more confident, she never really feels like she’s ready to go kicking anyone’s butt. She makes jumps that I, as a mortal human being, would never so much as attempt, and she scales cliff faces that would give even Batman a scare, but when it comes to dialogue and stuff, she seems to have just one speed, which never, ever changes, and she’s so fixated on her father — who we have never met, therefore having no idea why she cares — and his legacy that she never feels as if she owns anything.

She never jokes, never laughs and says “wow, haha, I can’t believe I survived that.” Indiana Jones was cool in part because he had a sense of humour; where’s Rise of the Tomb Raider’s “shoot the guy with the sword” moment? Sure, there are many guys with swords you can shoot, but it’s never played for any effect other than “oh no, another peril to overcome.”

Rise of the Tomb Raider acts like a roller coaster, but the emotional tenor is so rigidly consistent throughout the game that it’s like a roller coaster on a track that has no peaks or troughs. The narrative features a sort of bland intensity from beginning to end, punctuated occasionally by moments of tragedy or fright.

Lara Croft Is The Worst Thing About Rise Of The Tomb Raider

It’s why I can’t connect to this rendition of Lara Croft, and why I enjoyed the previous version so much, even if Rise of the Tomb Raider is mechanically a far superior game. I don’t relate to her at all. She’s a boring person; there’s nothing to connect or relate to. I don’t know her dad, so I don’t know why she’s obsessed with his legacy other than “he’s her dad,” which doesn’t mean anything to me. This is a common story problem known as “assumed empathy.” Good fiction proves why you should care; bad fiction assumes you will.

Even Angelina Jolie was a better Lara Croft than this, and the scripts she had to work off with were horrible, but at least her Lara was cool in some situations, clever even under pressure, genuinely terrified when terrifying things were happening, and so on. I could relate to and admire that Lara Croft, because she was significantly more human than Rise of the Tomb Raider’s dull version.

Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t bad because what is there is bad, it’s boring because that’s all there is to it. Lara is a nice person who does scary things and is like “don’t worry, I will help you out,” but there’s never a cocky eyebrow tilt or a joke or any moment of anything else. For a game to be a roller coaster, it has to be an emotional roller coaster. All the dramatic moments in the world mean nothing if your protagonist reacts precisely one way.

I’m excited to play the new zombies mode this fall. Rise of the Tomb Raider is genuinely one of the best action-adventure games ever made, and I can’t wait for even more fans to be able to play it, but I’m tired of this version of Lara. Where’s the confidence? Where’s the swagger? Where is just one moment of humour?

Add that, and the Tomb Raider games will finally be perfect.


Lara Croft Is The Worst Thing About Rise Of The Tomb Raider


  • “When this site hits 88 articles of mine per day, you’re going to see some serious shit” – Doc.

    These are really good, keep them up please. I hope we still see some (freelance?) Aussie contributes still, however

    I have been eyeing off Rise. I want to try it out but I really don’t want to have to go through TR first. Uncharted is course there, but I would rather do TR. I suppose it stems from such a heavy-story-focused game. I feel like I’ve already experienced Lara’s story through osmosis and it’s entirely on me I didn’t play it at the time, now everybody else has and I feel I missed a damn good party.

    Some games, like other books or movies, need a few years to truly find out what they are about. I’m glad TR/Rise are out, I imagine there will be at least one more nu-Tomb Raider game, so I better get cracking. Then, as a complete saga, the game’s central character and journey can be looked at definitely.

    • Honestly I loved Rise but it didn’t stand up against TR. I can’t agree with the author that Lara was boring in TR. It was about character development and they did it perfectly. Much of it is just heartbreaking to see what she goes through. Played through the game 3 times and it’s still one of the most stunning games I’ve ever played.

      Rise not so much. The mechanics, the story, the action, they’re all great and the game is interesting. But Lara is dead boring. It’s no longer about character development and the author is right, without that character development in the first game she just has nothing interesting going for her. She’s just going through the routine. It really made the game a let down for me. I still enjoyed it but after playing TR this was just a step back.

      • The character development wasn’t as good… but the mechanics and visuals were so, so, much better than the first game… and the first game was pretty damn pretty.

  • I remember in one of the tombs, Lara find a “relic” of a wine flask and she remarks jokingly, i might need a drink by the time I am out of here.

    There are a few quips with Jacob as well.

    But yes, she is mostly serious. However, I imagine the reason for that is the criticism against past Tomb Raider and Uncharted games where Lara and Nathan are killing 100s of people and then joke about it without any emotional damage to themselves or their sanity. So, I assume this is an attempt at humanizing Lara a little.

    You also mentioned there is nothing to relate or connect to Lara. I must argue that is not the case. That was the case with past games (which I love) but apart from Lara being a kick ass adventurer there was not a lot about her personal life (except her mum) to make her relatable. Her wit and confidence made her likeable. But not relatable. Adding the father issues is again an attempt at making her a little more relatable. Granted it is not a great attempt.

    I do think the lack in confidence is because it is still her first voluntary adventure. Her rise. She is definitely more confident and aware than in the first game. And I am hoping that the writers will finally grow her into the ass kicking, witty adventurer by the end.

  • Halfway through the game I realised that this version of Lara is an absolute psychopath. In the 2013 reboot she was killing to survive, but in this version she’s mowing down hundreds of private military contractors who don’t want to be there just because her father had a hunch about something being important.

    The game tries to justify this with the villagers also being victims of Trinity, but it never really satisfactorily answers the question of why Lara persists. Again unlike the 2013 game she kills mercilessly and without consideration. In the end I was more scared of Lara with the Divine Source than Konstantin.

    • Oh come on! Don’t tell me you’ve never gunned down hundreds of people because a family member had a hunch?!


    • At the end of the day it is an Action Adventure game. They did their best to justify why Lara is killing. To the game’s credit, most areas had fully functional stealth and it was possible to play without killing. She only had to kill when she was cornered (or she’d be killed).

      You even had the choice to walk away from you kno who or kill at the end.

      So in my opinion the game did a satisfactory job of justifying the violence.

  • I didn’t mind the tone of either of the new games. Sometime when playing games, I think we forget that the events are occurring over just a couple days rather than the 2 weeks of real time it might take us to get through it (well me any way) The situation playing out would have been serious and life threating for Lara and all the NPC’s. I’m not sure I would be delivering one liners if I was there. The developers had a tough job. Lara was one of mainstream medias favorite icons to show video games are nothing more than over sexualised, misogynistic, teenage boy wank material. This Lara changed that and gave her a breverty and seriousness inline with the maturing industry. Excuse spelling gramma, writing on the move.

  • Rise was a bit of a let down for me. Still loved it and still worth the play through but it just didn’t stand up to the original especially with no real character development.

    UC4 was an odd one. It looked great but it bored me so much that I stopped playing it. I guess I expected too much after the kind of over the top action you get in UC2 and UC3. Eventually I went back to UC4 with different expectations. Focused on the narrative. I’m quite surprised how well they capture the emotion of every moment and the effects Drake’s decisions have on the relationships around him. By the end of the game I just wanted to play through the whole series again. It went from an average game to one of my favourite games this year.

  • I’ve been a fan of Tomb Raider most of my gamer life, played all of them including Angel of Darkness and even the mobile J2ME one a long time ago.

    In my opinion Lara Croft was never designed or supposed to be a casual likeable person. She raids tombs destroying ancient relics/human remains on her way to steal treasure competing with other parties that have the same agenda. Most of the time she’s somewhere between good and evil and sometimes veering into evil more so than good. She also uses her sexiness as a tool to get what she wants whenever possible, in fact for most of the lore men are disarmed around her and her greatest nemesis are all women raiders like herself. As a character and based on the first 5 games at least, Lara Croft was designed and presented to be respected for what she is but not necessarily liked. When she fights with similarly capable raiders it always felt like a conflict of interest rather than good vs evil.

    In comparison, I dislike Nathan precisely because he’s trying to be this funny likeable person in between bouts of raiding and slaughtering tens of men and women almost casually to steal things which makes him a textbook psychopath and his shallow story one I’m not interested in.

  • I’m glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t particularly like the UC series. The Nathan Drake collection was one of the first things I bought when I got a PS4, and the presentation is decent enough, with breezy storylines, decent graphics and good-natured humour, but the gameplay is just dull.

    As good as TR (reboot) was, it definitely suffered from ‘take me seriously’ syndrome. And I guess that’s to be expected after the series’ fall from grace and considering Lara’s infamous reputation as a character, but there was a whole lot of cognitive dissonance in the brutal death animations and sheer number of people Lara mowed down.

    In the end, games aren’t movies, so it’s going to be difficult to reconcile a story about discovering tombs and solving ancient riddles with action gameplay that requires you to kill hundreds of people. But that’s part of the challenge of making a game – you have to design enjoyable gameplay mechanics that fit into the narrative or emotional world that you’re creating. Eidos have tried, at least, but they aren’t quite there yet.

  • I stopped reading this article after “I’m not really a fan of any of Naughty Dog’s games”…

  • I played both Tomb Raider and Rise definitely enjoyed the first one more. The first one had an arc of Lara going from rookie to unstoppable badass, but didn’t shy away from the repercussions of that (I won’t forget the bad guy from the first game calling Lara out for wiping out an entire cult of people). All the second one did was establish some weird conspiracy as Lara’s antagonists.

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