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A Survivor is Born. Tomb Raider: Why You Must Play It. An In-Depth Discussion.

March 21, 2013

larabeach

A couple days ago I wrote a post detailing my first impressions of Tomb Raider.  I wrote about how I had enjoyed the game so far but that I had found it a bit too similar to Uncharted. I also moaned about the lack of tombs and puzzles as well as Lara’s characterisation. I thought it was a good game but I believed it was somewhat lacking. Well, I can tell you my opinions have totally changed. This game is awesome, and you have to play it. Here’s why:

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As most of you probably know this game is both a reboot and a prequel of the originals. We join Lara Croft on her first ever expedition. As I mentioned in my original review, at first it all seems a bit like Uncharted. The story starts with Lara and her crew being shipwrecked upon a mysterious Island that is believed to be home to Himiko: the sun goddess. Straight away, just like Drake,  you find yourself running along beautiful scenery as it crumbles beneath you. You will be jumping around the landscape, searching for relics whilst fending off a plethora of enemies. Needless to say, I am not surprised that most people immediately relate this game to Uncharted. After all it is a treasure hunting themed game. However, after a couple more hours of play you realise this game is of a whole breed of it’s own. This is the game that just keeps on giving! It is truly phenomenal!

(WARNING: I am going to be writing quite a lot so I will break it down into chunks so you can pick and choose what you want to read. )

 

lara bandage

 

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Where It Excels

 

The Depth of the Story

If you were to go through this game just watching the cut scenes you would get a full, interesting story line. The story thrives on the mystery of the island. Why can no planes or ships make it to the island intact? How did all these ancient relics get here? Who are strange people trying to kill us? It kind of reminded me of Lost, except with answers at the end. However, if the developers had left it at I wouldn’t have been overly enamored by the story.

But they didn’t. As well as the cut scenes there are lots of additional bits of info that keep you intrigued  For example, you find documents all over the island which have been written by a variety of characters. And what’s more, they actually get read to you aloud unlike most games that rely on you to read them. From these documents you can piece together the islands past and learn a bit more. Furthermore, you can also listen to Lara’s thoughts on the island when you get to each camp and again we are given more info. We also get to hear Lara discuss the island throughout the game, especially in the optional tombs. Lastly you find a bunch of relics all over the island which show you the breadth of interesting people that have visited the island. Now the beauty of these extra snipets of info are they are all optional, you can choose to listen and read but you don’t have to. You can choose how much of the story you want to learn or you can choose to stick with the cut scenes. Your choice.

Customisation: Skills and Weapons

Throughout the game you can earn experience through killing people and animals, or by looting boxes or completing the optional Tombs. With this experience you unlock skill points to use. You can use these skill points on three tiers: Hunter, Survivor, Brawler. Each gives you some nice additional skills and abilities to choose from e.g. the ability to stab an arrow in  a startled opponents neck or being able to get better loot from enemies or crates. The skills are arranged in three tiers which you unlock as you use more skill points so you can work up to better attacks etc. It is a nice touch in this game to be able to customize your character. It also hooks you in because you want to unlock the better skills and you feel you are able to change the game a little to your tastes.

As well as skills points you can also build upon your weapons. Throughout the game you can collect salvage from boxes or dead enemies. With this salvage you can modify your weapons in order to improve them e.g. increasing fire rate or ammo. You can choose which weapons you want to improve upon. I found this a bonus as  I tend to not use a couple of the weapons often. What’s more is all the modifications aren’t available at the beginning of the game. You have to find weapon parts on enemies or in crates in order to unlock the modifications. This makes it a bit more exciting as you don’t know when you will find the weapon parts. It keeps you looting in hope of finding them.

As well as the optional modifications, you also get upgrades for your guns and bow as you complete the game, e.g. fire arrows. These upgrades allow you to do things you weren’t able to before. This is also a reason to go through the game again to see what you missed the first play through.

larawolf

Optional Tombs

In my first review I moaned a little at the lack of puzzles and tombs. And yes, this game isn’t full of them. However, there are a few tombs throughout the games which  you can complete. Each tomb requires you to complete a short puzzle in order to reach the treasure. I liked finding these tombs at it gave you a nice break from the main story. They are no enemies in the tombs which gives you a breather from the plethora of enemies. However, they are also optional so you can decide to blast through the main story and come back to them. When it comes to immersion, this game is pretty flexible. You can take it casually and simply do the story or you can aim for 100% completion. It’s up to you.

Adjustable Difficulty

This game has got the usual Easy, Normal and Hard modes that most games do, however, within the game you can also choose how much help you want to an extent. As Lara you have the ability to use your survival instincts which illuminates the items in the scenario that you can interact with as well a showing you the way point.  It also can show you where relics and crates are so you can get the collectibles and Lara sometimes offers hints when you use it. This feature can also be pretty helpful when you can’t distinguish the target wall or ledge apart from the rest of the scenery.  The good thing is: it is an optional ability. If you prefer to discover things yourself then you don’t have to use it but it is there if you are struggling. This means no annoying parts when you are truly stuck.

The Enemies

One thing I loved about this game is the NPCs actually have discussions and walk about so you have to wait for the perfect opportunity for stealth kills. They don’t just stand there passively while you pluck them off one by one. There is also a nice variety of enemies with different weapons and armour. You have to think about which weapons you want to use and which baddies to target first. It is much less passive than just shooting constantly. I also liked listening to the baddies moan about having to do their jobs or about Lara. They had some depth.

We remember where Lara Croft is from with this double gun scene.

We are reminded of Lara’s humble beginnings with this two gun homage in the final scene. A survivor is born.

The Ending

This game is awesome throughout but the last hour or so is truly exhilarating  The story really hits a boiling point and I personally got excited about what was going to happen. The final few fighting scenes are tough but not impossible. You will find yourself having to think even more tactically about which enemies to go for first or how to use your weapons to your advantage. It is also great to see some enemies naturally killed by the environment rather than being seemingly invincible to it. The ending will leave you wanting more and you will have warmed to Lara. If you are anything like me, you will waiting somewhat impatiently for the sequel.

The Replay Value

Once the story is over, that’s not all. At the end you are told how close or far you are from completing the game (I ended on 69%). You won’t have mastered all the skills or have upgraded all your weapons. You can go back and collect salvage, relics and documents in order to reach the 100% percent. I completed all tombs I came in direct contact with but I still haven’t unlocked the achievement for completing them all so there are more than meets the eye. There are also some small tasks you will have to complete e.g. lighting all the statues. The side tasks in themselves are pretty menial but you will want to complete them so you can play more and better your skills and weapons. You will want to see what parts you missed because you didn’t have the relevant tools for the job. I just completed the story so I haven’t gone back yet but I am really excited to!

larablood

So, Tomb Raider is one hell of a game and I’ve just explained why. It was so close to perfect but it did feature some downfalls. I would also like to see one or two parts improved in the sequel! 

 

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THE LIMITS

LIMIT – Characterisation: I still think the characterisation of Lara was pretty off, especially at the beginning. She seems really upset to be killing animals and people during the cut scenes but during the game play she doesn’t flinch from killing masses of people. She even goads the enemies out loud while you are playing. One minute she is innocent little Lara, the next she is a bad ass almost as ruthless as the enemies. I did find myself warming to Lara near the end but I’m not sure which one I was warming to. Hopefully in the second one there will be less of a void between the characterisation of the cut scenes compared to the game play.

LIMIT – The Graphics Were Almost Too Good. Sometimes I couldn’t tell between a cut scene and game play. I often found myself falling from a cliff because I had thought I was watching a cut scene. It didn’t happen often but it did happen. Luckily the auto saves are very regular so you don’t find yourself going back very far.

LIMIT: The Puzzles Aren’t Hard. If you are looking for a game with hard puzzles then this isn’t it. Personally I liked the puzzles it did have and I liked that the tombs were optional. However, some fans of the originals would be expecting the game to have some more puzzles.

LIMIT: The Last Fight Scene Wasn’t Really a Fight Scene. I won’t ruin the end but let’s just say I was a bit disappointed about how Lara dealt with the last enemy.

LIMIT: The Game was Very Unrealistic.  There is no denying this game was far from realistic. There were several points where a normal human would have broken their back but Lara walked away without a scratch. She was also great with a bow and gun immediately. I didn’t let it put me off though because I enjoyed the escapism but it was verging on completely bizarre. If you like a bit more realism then this might annoy you.

Lara Croft Bow

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So, What  do I Hope to See in the Sequel?

  • More Customisation. I liked how they added skills and weapon upgrades but I feel they could definitely build upon that. It would be awesome to see a bit more variance!
  • More Optional Tombs: I really like the tombs so it would be awesome to have more in it! But not at the expense of anything else.
  • Better Characterisation. A better, less contradicting Lara.
  • Different Baddies: This sounds obvious but I find with some games(Uncharted etc) they change the scenery but they pretty much keep the enemies the same. They might change an outfit or two so it isn’t so obvious. I hope Tomb Raider doesn’t fall into this trap.
  • Better Differentiation Between Cut Scenes and Game Play.
  • A Stronger Final Boss. That you actually have to use tact to fight. Having said that, MORE BOSSES! Like proper bosses with weak point that you have to figure out! I would like to see that 🙂
  • More than anything I hope they don’t get rid of anything!

 

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VERDICT:  So, that was a lot of information. Let me just say,  I really enjoyed this game and there was a lot to love about it. I found myself truly immersed and I couldn’t stop playing. However, there was some teething pains e.g. characterisation. However, it didn’t stop me from loving it. I would give this game:

A Near Perfect – 9.5/10! Go Lara!

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