In the run-up to the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider, there was a mix of excitement and trepidation. Many gamers looked on, wondering if the latest title in the Tomb Raider title would be a triumph or a disaster. And then, of course, came the news that the game would be time-exclusive to XO – and PS4 gamers would have to wait a whole year before they could join in the fun, while PC gamers have to wait until January. So the question is: Is Rise of the Tomb Raider worth the wait?
We think so – particularly if you’re already a fan of the Tomb Raider franchise. I’m old enough to remember the very first Tomb Raider title on the PS1 back in 1996, and just how exciting it seemed – awesome graphics, less linear gameplay, with more opportunity for exploration, and intriguing puzzles and challenges. The whole Tomb Raider series has had both highs and lows over the years, and if you like a straightforward beat ’em up, these games probably aren’t the right choice. If you like something that’s a little more involved that exercises your brain power, then Tomb Raider titles are a good choice.
As for Rise of the Tomb Raider, we think it’s a brilliant addition to the franchise. Firstly, its graphics are outstanding and really make use of the XO’s capabilities. The game is exceptionally detailed, with unsurpassed character depth and stunning scenery and backdrops. With such great visuals, it’s a really immersive experience, particularly if you combine your gameplay with a decent headset to take advantage of the sound effects and musical score.
This time, the game has a semi-open world. Ok, so it’s not as wide open as games like Elder Scrolls or GTA, but as a refreshing change to the Tomb Raider franchise, the gamescape is open enough and immersive enough to take you away from the main mission path. You can find plenty of hidden secrets, tackle side missions, hone your fighting skills on the deadly native wildlife, and practice your movement and death-defying leaps across the treacherous landscape.
The cutscenes are seamless and pretty fabulous – they draw you further into the story. The only exception to this is in the very beginning when you’re just getting the hang of the controls, and you’re desperate to race off, find hidden treasure, or do battle with villains. This early in the game, so many cutscenes is a tad annoying – but it’s worth the wait – so persevere! It’s also a necessary evil in the early stages, as it sets the story for you and makes the whole experience more engaging in the long run. Lara is more complex and has a more compelling story arc than ever before – and it’s deep enough to make you care about her. All those little extras help, too. Yes, the landscape is stunning – but it’s things like the snow that settles in Lara’s hair and the way her breath mists and her body shivers that really completes the gaming experience.
There’s a great mix of stealth, puzzles, and all-out combat. There’s lots of opportunity for ranged and melee combat with a whole range of weapons, including poison-tipped arrows and lots of explosives. You’ll also need to make use of your inhospitable surroundings to survive. As an added bonus, human opponents as well as predatory animals are tougher to kill than in previous incarnations, and they’re less predictable, too.
The challenge tombs are among the best features of the game. They’re huge and intensely elaborate. While you don’t need to be a genius to solve the puzzles, it’s incredibly satisfying when you do complete one.