When Square Enix rebooted Tomb Raider back in 2013, the developers took a couple of pages out of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted playbook.
The game mixed up platforming, puzzle solving and high octane Third Person Shooter (TPS) action and the odd Quick Time Event (QTE) sequence – which usually involved Lara running away from something or fighting for control as the elements hurled her towards earth.
Okay, so it took more than a few pages from the Uncharted playbook, but to be fair, Nathan Drake and the Uncharted series’ exotic high adventure setting owed more than a couple of nods to the Tomb Raider series.
Perhaps fed up with languishing in second place to a game franchise that owed such a debt of inspiration to it, the Tomb Raider series decided that purloining a few features here and there from Uncharted was more than above board.
After all, it’s probably what Ms Croft would’ve done.
The reason for running through Tomb Raider’s features as a preamble to this preview is because, based on the Rise Of the Tomb Raider demo on rAge’s shop floor, the sequel to the 2013’s reboot looks set to offer more of the same.
Over a brief twenty minute demo set (fittingly, in a tomb), Lara shimmied up ledges, solved the odd puzzle with timed jumps, engaged in a shootout with a pack of heavily armed ne’er-do-wells and then frantically ducked, jumped and dived for an exit as her surrounding crumbled around her.
On top of that, the tomb – before it fell in on itself – was constructed as a kind of mini-sandbox, filled with hidden artefacts (with accompanying messages explaining the game’s back story) and pots of salvage. Every time Lara picked up an item, uncovered a mystery or blew a hole in an enemy’s head with her firearm, a tab in the bottom left hand corner of the screen showed a rising XP tally. Presumably players will once again be using salvage and XP to augment weapons and unlock talent trees.
In other words, Rise Of the Tomb Raider’s demo was a perfect, short encapsulation of 2013’s Tomb Raider, albeit without boss fights and with prettier graphics. The only real new features involved traps dotted around the tomb Lara was exploring. Two of them were pits filled with spikes situated under loose bricks in the floor and a third was a rack of spikes that came swinging in from the roof at chest level if Lara stepped on a pressure pad.
When a trap is activated, the Lara enters a kind of bullet-time slow motion bubble, allowing the player to plan their leap to safety with ease. That having been said, if the sight of Lara plunging to her death is something your feel like experimenting with, we can report that the death scenes in Rise Of The Tomb Raider are as grisly as those in its predecessor.
Also present is the palpably gritty atmosphere. Tomb Raider may have taken more than a few cues from Uncharted, but it eschewed the sun-dappled splendour of that series for something altogether more harsh. Lara Croft was put through the mill in 2013’s instalment, emerging bruised, bloodied and more than a little traumatised.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider doesn’t seem to be the adventure where she’ll catch a break in this regard – the demo begins with Lara breaking the surface of a cave pool, gasping for air and even though the water may have washed some grime off her, her bloody rake-lines across her cheeks look like she’s had a run-in with a panther.
Without knowledge of the plot, it’s hard to know how Rise Of The Tomb Raider will shape up against its forebear – although one hopes the ending won’t be as rubbish. But what the demo does show is that for the most part, Crystal Dynamics aren’t deviating too much from the formula that helped shift upwards of 8 million copies.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider doesn’t offer too many surprises and, to be honest, that’s just fine with us. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.