Tomb Raider is the franchise that defined a generation and really started the trend of action/adventure games but has struggled for me personally compared to the likes of the Uncharted series in recent years. However the series is back with a bang. The single player campaign starts with Lara held captive inside a cave after crash landing on an island. This is a prequel to the series with Lara Croft vulnerable, learning to survive. As the story progresses Lara encounters her fair share of enemies but not so many puzzles as previous Tomb Raider titles. Though some fans of the series may miss the puzzles that Tomb Raider games are renowned for, I enjoyed the fast combat and progression through the game.
Lara Croft utilizes various skills near the start of the game and can be upgraded as you progress and earn XP. The skills seem like a good feature to start with but after completing the game you’re left wondering whether it was really necessary including some parts into the game. example: Hunting animals is a necessity at first as Lara needs to heal herself so she cooks the meat over a fire. After this you can then hunt wolves, rabbits, deer, birds and any other animals you encounter. However Lara no longer cooks them, simply carves the animal and in return you earn a small windfall of XP. Hunting a defined quantity of various animals unlocks Steam achievements.
Achievement unlocks and the small XP contribution are the only reason to hunt animals so the need to upgrade hunting skills seems to be invalid and a pointless exercise. Personally I’d have liked the hunting to be a survival requirement instead of being superficial as Lara regenerates health by avoiding combat for a few seconds.
The tools used throughout the game are a pickaxe, shotgun, rifle, grenades & a fire torch which are up-gradable as the story progresses (no torch upgrades). Skills are upgraded using XP acquired by killing enemies, locating artifacts and hunting. Salvage is the in-game currency used for weapon upgrades which can be collected whilst exploring the environments for crates. Smashing said crate generates salvage. Tomb Raider does have it’s faults. One such fault and real annoyance is cut scene combat whereby the user has to press the correct button at the precise time. If you fail to press the corresponding button Lara WILL die. Surviving swarms of enemies but missing the press of a button at a precise time is what finally kills Lara Croft. As with all Tomb Raider games there will be moments when Lara jumps into the abyss to her death instead of jumping to the wall you instructed her too. Thankfully this isn’t a regular problem but does make some situations repetitive and annoying. Die try again, Die try again. You will feel a great sense of satisfaction when she does make it to safety knowing that you won’t have to be doing that part again!
Throughout the entire single player campaign the combat isn’t very challenging albeit on normal settings. Weapon selection during combat is quick and simple but enemies are defeated with the greatest of ease. Even boss battles aren’t too challenging. Roll, shoot, roll, shoot. The only difficulty comes when you have a hoard of enemies coming at you from different directions. Finding a well-placed location with only one access point and picking people off makes it almost effortless. The only hint of struggle is venturing out to recover ammo from the fallen bodies of the enemies. Of course Lara being the adventurer she is there’s lots of climbing and abseiling. Temples are hidden throughout the island for Lara to discover. Inside each temple is a treasure as well as a puzzle to solve to allow Lara to progress to said treasure. It’s a wonderful side track to the main quest and as stated previously treasure earns XP which improves Lara’s abilities. There are other collectibles and plenty of achievements to unlock so exploring the island when the opportunity presents itself is well worth the time and brings added depth to the game.
The lighting and graphics on PC are incredible on ultimate settings which includes having tessellation on. A feature which brings characters and the environment to life with unprecedented detail. This is THE game to showcase the graphical gulf between home consoles and PC’s.
Aside from the faults mentioned I had a great time playing Tomb Raider. The best single player experience I’ve had since completing ‘The Last of Us’ on PS3. The combat is fun and the interaction with the environment such as zip-lines and ascending walls with a pickaxe is easy and seamless. Lara Croft is back to her best in this edition of Tomb Raider. This is a game not to be missed. Once the campaign starts it becomes an obsession to finish!