The game begins with 21 year old Lara setting out on her first expedition aboard the ship Endurance: to find the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, home to the legendary shaman queen Himiko, called the ‘Sun Queen’ and said to hold mystical power. Traveling with Lara are Conrad Roth, an old friend of the Croft family and former Royal Marine; Joslyn Reyes, the ship’s mechanic; Alex, a computer specialist; Jonah Maiava, a fisherman; Angus “Grim” Grimaldi, the helmsman; Samantha ‘Sam’ Nishimura, Lara’s best friend and the group’s camerawoman; and Dr. James Whitman, a celebrity archaeologist desperate to make a big find and escape bankruptcy.
As the crew sails through the dangerous Dragon’s Triangle, their ship is hit by a powerful storm storm and find themselves separated on a mysterious island which soon the will find that was part of Yamatai. In her effort to reach the rest of the crew Lara will encounter a group of islanders that are always after her. This chase however will lead to a huge discovery regarding the kingdom of Yamatai.
The story may feel less impressive compared to previous adventures where Lara was chasing an object in every corner of the earth however it is the perfect story to introduce us Lara as a rookie archaeologist. This is a personal story that shows us in a very realistic way how Lara’s personality and emotions evolve especially in situations when she recognizes that her only option is to kill or be killed. Equal impressive are the secondary characters in the game who may feel casual at first sight but as the story progresses they offer some memorable moments in the game.
Gameplay in Tomb Raider has been completed redesigned and looks similar to the new generation of action titles, with the stealth playing a major part in the game and it is fair to say that Crystal Dynamics have created one of the best cover systems in recent memory. For Tomb Raider 2013 you don’t need to constantly try to find the right cover point, now as soon as Lara is close to a point that offers enough coverage can automatically hide giving you enough freedom in movement.
When you are in for a battle there is a suitable weapon for every occasion in the shape of an arrow, handgun, automatic riffle and shotgun. As expected as you progress in the game these weapons can be upgraded in both power and abilities. Tomb Raider emphasizes more in gun-play compared to previous titles and by the end of your campaign you will kill a fair amount of enemies, while unlike past games targeting and killing is a more realistic affair.
Tomb Raider just wouldn’t be Tomb Raider without the old raiding of tombs and usual array of platform jumping, rock climbing and the like. Platforming remains a very enjoyable part of the game and leaping across cliff sides with a climbing axe never quite loses that heart-in-throat feeling while the game’s “optional tombs”, which are essentially puzzle-solving exercises that reward you with a chunk of experience, some upgrade items for your weapons, and often the revelation of all hidden items in that area, are quite enjoyable but sadly there aren’t enough of them.
What you will also enjoy in the game is the ability to back-track to old areas. Tomb Raider doesn’t follow the linear progression of games like Uncharted and brings “hubs”, centered around the game’s “camp” system (which serves as save point, upgrade station, and fast travel location), which allows you to return to previously-visited spots in order to search out some of the many collectibles that you might have missed the first time.
This becomes important when you receive new pieces of gear or upgrades to old items, which allows you to access areas that were previously out of reach, all the way back to the starting area of the game. This system, combined with items that you can find in order to earn achievements (hidden documents that flesh out the story of the island, its inhabitants, and its history) will give you additional hours of enjoyable single player gameplay, over and above the basic story.
Outside of the hugely successful single-player campaign, Tomb Raider contains a fairly substantial multiplayer hub. At the time of writing there there are 4 available modes across five maps and two variations of capture the flag and area domination. By copying a formula similar to Call of Duty Modern Warfare where the player can gain experience points and unlock new character skins and armor. The problem however is that the game doesn’t pit you only against gamers with a similar ratings but against gamers with higher ratings as well.
We’ve seen Lara Croft in many forms over the years but we’ve never seen her like this before. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have set a new chapter for Tomb Raider, after carefully looking at its past erasing mistakes, threw a glance at the present by borrowing may gameplay elements from today’s AAA titles, and now they can look to the future with optimism.
This is a superb action game with well written cast of characters, mightily impressive production techniques, tight platforming and surprisingly enjoyable combat which brings new emotional dimension to one of gaming’s most enduring icons.
Tomb Raider is now available in stores for Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3. The PC version is also available in stores and via online platforms including Steam.
Gameconnect Rating: 9.2