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Rebooting the “Tomb Raider” series

The latest entry in what is perhaps one of the most iconic series in gaming is now on the market.

Tomb Raider, despite a large fan base, critical acclaim, and generating enough revenue to buy a small island, has had a rocky history and has released numerous bad games. The newest installment aims to breathe life into the franchise.

Tomb Raider retells the origins of the series’ main character, Lara Croft, the adventurer with the agility of an Olympic gymnast who wields a pair of huge pistols that are only matched in size by her digitally enhanced chest.

Taking place during the present day, we’re introduced to a young Lara in her early to mid 20s. She is on an expedition to a mysterious island off the coast of Japan when her ship gets caught in a storm and crashes on said island.

The story seems to have taken a grittier tone this time around; in the first hour of gameplay Lara is kidnapped, stabbed, beaten and almost raped. Things get worse as Lara and the survivors learn the island is inhabited by a cult of religious lunatics who are worshipping some sort of ancient weather god that once ruled the island.

With only her wits and survival skills, Lara sets out to uncover the secrets of the island and find a way to get herself and her friends off this accursed rock.

The character of Lara Croft has undergone some changes in Tomb Raider. Unlike her older self, who was more or less a glorified grave robber of ancient ruins, the new Lara is driven not by the pursuit of old relics but a thirst for discovering lost wonders and knowledge.

tomb raider_square_enix_games
Courtesy of Square Enix Games

Lara is also much more likeable this time around. While still strong and steadfast, she displays sympathy toward others and even admits to being vulnerable at times. At one point, she tries to reason with the cultists, even though they’re trying to kill her. The old Lara would blow their brains out first, ask questions later.

The old Lara’s personality came off as a bored, sarcastic rich girl, who only adventures because she has too much time and money on her hands, making her difficult to relate to.

The new Tomb Raider offers both old and new elements in the gameplay department. The classic route of traversing your surroundings by jumping, climbing, and scaling various terrains returns in style. At the same time, the new Lara seems to lack the acrobatic grace of her older self when navigating the environment.

Puzzle solving is back, providing the player with multiple clever yet simple challenges.

The style is more cinematic this time around, with many scripted sequences and quick-time events where you press a certain combination of buttons to get through a gameplay cutscene. The transition between these cutscenes and the gameplay itself is smooth and seamless so as to not break the immersion.

There are some impressive set pieces that the player will explore, such as the gruesome underground sacrificial chambers, the chilly snow-covered mountain tops, and a graveyard of ships and planes from various time periods.

Lara wields four different weapons: a compound bow, a WW2 Japanese assault rifle, a trench shotgun, and a silenced pistol — each equipped with alternate firing mode. Lara can upgrade her weapons and skills by completing missions, finding collectibles, and, of course, “raiding tombs” for artifacts.

While the gunplay is exhilarating and well-done, your enemies are comprised solely of humans, and occasionally wolves, which is in stark contrast to older Tomb Raider games where Lara was pitted against demons, mythical beasts, sea monsters, and even a freaking T-rex.

Tomb Raider is visually stunning and brilliantly designed. The series has always been hit-or-miss when it comes to making a good quality game, but this time it hit the bullseye.

4 out 5 stars

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