It’s taken a year for Rise of the Tomb Raider to hit Sony’s console, and after the anger that surrounded it after it was announced to be an XBox exclusive, later revealed to be a timed exclusive, the game arrived complete with all DLC attached to the 20 year celebration edition in a really nice packaging.
I adored the reboot, also buying the definitive edition on PS4 after originally having it on PS3, so I was extremely excited for the game… well, until the exclusivity announcement… but when the PS4 version of the game was announced, my interest in the game was reinvigorated.
So, when I first put in the game, I must be honest, I was slightly disappointed graphically, however, I do think that I’d been spoiled with playing Uncharted 4 earlier in the year, but after the first moments, and ones I’d seen during an XBox conference, I started to forget about it quite quickly, and began to see it for what it was. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great looking game, quite beautiful with some of the surrounding scenery across Lara’s latest adventure.
The new facial capture is quite remarkable on Lara, though, to me anyway, it appears to be just exclusive to her, with more detail and care taken on her than any of the other main characters. Again, not massively noticeable unless you’re actually looking for it. Maybe I’m just not noticing it quite as well on other characters, but even Lara’s hair is much more natural and flowing while the other characters, Jacob for example, does appear fairly static in comparison.
Any-who, those aren’t deal breakers for me with Rise of the Tomb Raider, what-so-ever. If you’ve played the reboot, you’ll have a good idea what to expect across the game, but there is much more emphasis on hunting and survival this time around, as well as crafting for numerous arrows, with plenty of upgrades for weapons. There is also more emphasis on exploration with more tombs and crypts to find, with character skills, byzantine coins and artifacts to be found throughout. There’s no enemies, but plenty of traps to catch you out.
My first run through of the game took a large amount of time, just with all the exploration, as there’s challenges, monoliths, with a nice addition of learning languages from murals in order to read monoliths, which inform you where coins or survival caches are in the map. The one thing I’d have liked, would’ve been to see how long my playtime was whether an indication when loading a game or via a stats screen, though, there is a broadcast frame you can have the option of having during play, though I could only see it when I was broadcasting my survivor run with the comments displayed. I couldn’t find an option to adjust the screen. Again, only a minor thing and just a preference on my part. There is a lot to find in these areas, and it’s quite enjoyable looking around for everything. You don’t even really need to find a guide for all the collectibles as there are maps hidden throughout, as well as the aforementioned monoliths that help point things out when you have the right knowledge of the three available languages (Greek, Russian and Mongolian).
I really enjoyed the story on offer, as Lara searches for the Divine Source that grants immortality, while the story also looks at her father’s death and the mysterious Trinity, that are trying to beat Lara to the source. While there is a lot to discover, as mentioned before, there isn’t really much that will keep you from just focusing on the story, though admittedly, some of the skills in tombs and crypts would come in good use, but on Survivor difficulty, it didn’t really seem too much harder, apart from having to bandage manually instead of regenerative health which there is on lower difficulties. I think with the large open areas to explore, and so much to find, the story feels, perhaps, is a little less driven, or direct, but I think that’s just down to how you choose to play. It is possible to play through the story and not become completely stuck or have too much of a hard time because you didn’t find all the skills. Some come automatically at certain points in the story, and the rest make things easier and add a bit to the experience, but it’s not too difficult a game, even on Survivor difficulty.
Once the story is completed, there is the expedition modes you can take part in, replaying the games levels trying to beat a preset score by building up a combo; collecting orbs, artifacts, shooting enemies and lanterns, with any damage or failure to collect or kill ending the combo.
What took me a bit longer to completing this review was that I wanted to try some of the extra game modes that were on offer. Endurance, a game mode I can liken to a less in depth Don’t Starve, where you, and if you choose, an online partner, can explore a harsh procedurally generated world, where you have to scavenge for resources through various changes in weather, hunt for food, try to keep warm from randomly placed basecamp fires and bin, as you try not to get killed by wildlife, trinity or the deathless ones. The aim is to search high and low for crypts, and to collect as many artifacts as possible. The game will end if you die (obviously), or if you find a signal fire and call for an extraction. It certainly is a game mode that will keep you on your toes, as there was a number of times where myself and Marc were ambushed by two or three bears, or lynx’s at a time, sometimes a couple of each ran out of the trees, and full on carnages ensued with trinity, bears and lynx’s all battling it out while you try to escape or defend yourself the best you can. The addition of the cards system, where you can make the game easer or harder with different weapons, player or enemy strengthening or weakening or you can even just have the Tomb Raider 2 Lara to control… or fire chickens with the crossbow, is a great addition and can add enough variety to the game.
Croft Manor is also available for exploration. It’s only the interior, and I wouldn’t say it’s as big as previous versions, but there’s a lot of closed off areas due to damage, but there’s still plenty to explore. There were parts I actually found quite creepy, such as the cellar, which seemed quite eerie on the first run through, as well as the west wing of the manor. However, it’s just all exploration again, with no threats… until you play Lara’s Nightmare. This mode sees you go up against infected enemies (zombies if you like), that will chase you through the manor, and ammo can be scarce unless you’re using some cards to help you out. I definitely found my first few games of this to be very creepy, and I felt quite uncomfortable (you should know, I’m a wimp when it comes to horror games/films etc…). You have to destroy 3 floating skulls randomly placed throughout the manor to trigger the final boss in the main hall in order to end the nightmare.
I actually really appreciate it now. I was annoyed, not as much as others when it was announced it was exclusive to XBox, but after awhile I could understand that it may benefit PS4 owners when it did eventually arrive, and with all DLC included and in an excellent book packaging including some really nice artwork, I do believe the wait was truly worth it.