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Tomb Raider Review

publisher: Square Enix
developer: Crystal Dynamics
genre: Action Adventure

ESRB rating: T

release date: Mar 05, 13
» All About Tomb Raider on ActionTrip

The Tomb Raider franchise and the character of Lara Croft have gone through some changes over the years. Development studio Core Design have handled most of the games in the series until it was handed over to Crystal Dynamics, who have been toiling away ever since to revitalize the story of the world’s sexiest archeologist and adventuress. Consequently, Crystal Dynamics split into two teams, one of which went on to develop a TR spin-off called Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, which turned out to be quite good actually. The rest of the crew focused on a new iteration, marking yet another attempt to breathe life back into the franchise.

In this tale we see Lara Croft heading out on an expedition, searching for the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai in the so-called Dragon’s Triangle – incidentally a location notorious for ships that were gone missing. After a devastating storm, Lara and her and her crew got shipwrecked on a mysterious island. Lara tries to get her bearings and starts to search the island for any surviving members of her crew, one of which is Dr. James Whitman, an archeologist who invested everything he had into the expedition in the hope of discovering more about the legend of the shaman queen Himiko, better known as the Sun Queen. According to the legend, the Sun Queen possesses mystical powers and Whitman was very keen on finding any evidence as to her existence or anything about the kingdom of Yamatai (I think I see where this is going already -Ed).

As far as modern-day games go, Tomb Raider sets up its characters and basic plot rather well. More importantly, you’ll be learning more about Lara Croft. This time around, Lara is just coming to terms with who she really is and as you progress you’ll be discovering more about her. Gradually, Lara slowly transforms from a scared shipwrecked traveler into a confident and skillful fighter. For some fans, this would be a sufficient reason to get into the whole adventure. But there’s a bit more to it than that. 

The main appeal of this game lies largely in its combat and shooting segments, so like it or not, action is the main focus here. The game’s now well-known slogan -- "A Survivor is Born” -- might be a touch misleading. In order to survive, Lara starts off by shooting a deer in the wilderness. However, as soon as you move on, hunting or surviving (look for food etc.) won’t be the priority of the game. So, don’t think you’ll be wondering around huge, open areas, exploring the wild to your heart’s content. It’s not about that really.

What it’s really about is developing Lara’s skills, so she can become a more efficient killer. Seriously, most of her abilities are centered on handling firearms and improving hand-to-hand combat. Once the player upgrades most of these skills, which takes a while, the rather well-polished and fun combat mechanics come into view. The whole system works smoothly, giving Lara an opportunity to tackle several opponents simultaneously. Quick Time Events (QTEs) represent a segment of the game where Tomb Raider just gets ahead of itself. These segments lead to some stunning and interactive cinematic sequences, but on the whole, they take up too much space in the single-player campaign, leaving very little room for the stuff that matters and, in this case, shouldn’t that be exploring tombs and solving puzzles? The good news is that the game features a set of optional tombs or side-missions, if you will. The main objective in each situation is to explore the tomb (which is usually quite confined and in most cases just a single room or cave) and look for any hidden treasures you may find. Of course, to get to the main treasure in any tomb, you are required to solve a puzzle. Again, these are optional sections of the game and not the real focus of the experience. Also, the puzzles are more than straightforward and shouldn’t be a problem for the average gamer (so much for being a Tomb Raider –Ed).

The AI isn’t exactly the best we’ve seen, but you can be damn sure every foe in the game will be a challenge to beat. Still, the enemies often rely on quantity and not so much on individual combat prowess and bravery. The point is that the more you dive into the combat and the gunplay, the more it becomes fun. 

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7.7   Good

Great narrative pacing, a new character is born and we like her, great music, some gorgeous locations and well-animated characters on display, fun combat and action;

Too much emphasis on action and too little on puzzles and exploration, QuickTime Events are overused as well, multiplayer seems a bit obsolete.


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