Many moons ago, when Rise of the Tomb Raider was first announced as an XBox exclusive for Microsoft’s then-new console, I proclaimed my outrage at the inefficiencies of a “paid exclusivity” model. I promised that not only would I never get an XBox, I would never get Rise of the Tomb Raider on that particular platform, instead waiting for the inevitable PS4 version. Well, that all changed when I received an XBox One pre-packaged with Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s not hypocrisy if you don’t buy it yourself, right? RIGHT? Whatever. Anyway…
Rise of the Tomb Raider tells the continuing adventures of Reboot Lara, the version of Lara Croft we were introduced to in the re-imagined, re-booted Tomb Raider back in 2013, which was an absolutely fantastic game. Centered around the concept of survival in a harsh environment, the reboot followed a lot of the design elements of fellow open world games of the time, such as the Assassin’s Creed series. It broke new ground within the series itself, but not as a game. It was well done, but nothing we hadn’t seen before. However, due to the quality of the title itself, a lot of the more glaring issues were looked aside while it raked in industry awards and critical praise. Sadly, the millions it made in sales were not enough for Square Enix (who purchased Eidos, the company that owned original creators Core Design; then had another company that was purchased, Crystal Dynamics, design the reboot, and brought in Ubisoft to co-develop on the newer title… it’s confusing, I know), so a deal was struck with Microsoft to help foot the bill for the sequel that wouldn’t have happened otherwise in exchange for one year of exclusivity. I don’t blame Microsoft for the exclusivity deal, I blame Squeenix and their bizarre monetary expectations (while their own projects lose millions *cough* Shinra Cloud Service *cough*). But that’s neither here nor there, how is the game itself?
Well, frankly, it’s more of the same. Even the title is derivative of Rise of the Dark Knight, which was popular for about a week when they were conceptualizing the game, I’m assuming. Sure, Crystal Dynamics manages to tweak a lot of the issues with the first game, but I honestly don’t see how Lara is “rising” in any way. You have the same side quests, relic fetch, and short-on-actual-tomb-raiding/puzzle solving the first game had. Lara is, again, a psychopathic killing machine who single-handedly kills just about everything in the game. You even have the same level progression: open area to pathway to open area to pathway, big disaster event you have to survive, the introduction of a new, harder type of mythical enemy, an enemy gauntlet at the end, and a lackluster end boss battle. Seriously, it was more intense fighting the bears in the game than the human characters.
Furthermore, if you want to get all the achievements for the game (as many seem to enjoy), you’re going to have to get either the more expensive “ultimate” edition or pay for the season pass, because half the achievements come from the Endurance mode which is unlocked by paying for it. I didn’t, so I won’t talk about it.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is, by no means, a bad game. It’s just supremely mediocre in what it accomplishes. It’s not the best looking game on the market (even though it’s very pretty), it’s not the biggest, it’s not even multi-platform. It’s a solid entry, but given what COULD have been accomplished (more puzzles, more adventuring, less shooting, the things fans have been asking for), it falls short.
Probably the greatest atrocity the game commits is doubling down on gunplay without actually fixing a lot of that aspect of the game. There’s still no cover system, even though the game was seemingly built around that sort of action structure. Melee ends up being EXTREMELY important to combat, but also falls short in that dodging only works half the time, and melee combat has been made a lot weaker; which is funny, because enemies are CONSTANTLY running right up to your ass in order to fight you. I once had four guys surrounding me, all attacking at once. It was chaos. I just pull out the shotgun and pulverize them all, but it doesn’t make for exhilarating combat. I just wanted it to end so I could explore more.
Rise of the Tomb Raider commits the cardinal sin of games in this generation: it tries to be too much at once, and tries WAY too hard to captivate the Call of Duty crowd with its combat. It ends up being nothing more than a slightly tweaked version of the previous game with nicer graphics and a rather boring storyline and mediocre villains. It was fun to play through the main campaign, but I don’t foresee myself ever playing it again, especially with paid achievements in the base game.