Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC) game review by SgtT8ie

Date of Review: 15/08/16 or 08/15/16 whatev’s
Score: 7 — Great, noticeably above average.
OpenCritic Link: http://opencritic.com/game/2220/rise-of-the-tomb-raider-pc-edition

Rise of the Tomb Raider – PC by SgtT8ie

If you don’t know who Lara Croft is, either from previous generations of her titles or the abysmal Hollywood treatment of her legacy, then may I provide a simple description of her: British, well educated, self-reliant & survives by pillaging the relics of long forgotten cultures. That pretty much sums her character up. However the latest set of reboots are doing wonders at providing the backstory as to why she does what she does and how she arrived at her title. The predecessor to this game is the 2013 reboot and it is well worth a look if you haven’t already done so. Being the sequel the events of the original game are mentioned in passing a couple of times, and so with this game Lara is an already accomplished kicker of arse and is able to morally split the factions of the story into those that need to die & those that need to be helped.

The story for this game is that Lara is off hunting for an artifact that became her father’s obsession & was the cause of his downfall. Shady organization Trinity is off to get there first & Lara does everything in her power to prevent them from getting there grubby little hands on the McGuffin called the Divine Sauce (hahaha as pointed out this should be Divine Source! I must’ve been hungry at the time of writing). All of this occurs primarily in the setting of a mountainous region of Siberia.

I am a big fan of the 2013 game and I was hoping for a much better story than Rise of the Tomb Raider delivered. It’s not that the story is particularly bad, per se, more that there was so much room for it to be better. What we end up with is a fairly generic action adventure story, with requisite shadowy organisation, a hidden group of culturally isolated guardians, a double cross and almost every other cliché you could think of within the pulp action genre. It’s a pity because we have a protagonist who’s immensely likeable, but not given a decent story to thrive in. I’m torn on my feelings with the story because I like the gritty reboot nature of this Tomb Raider series, but the story being so far out there, in the realms of pulp adventure fiction (think Indiana Jones & Allan Quartermain) with all of its supernatural/spiritual elements that it plays far too dry and I just couldn’t find myself being swept along by the saga. I felt that it needed just a dollop of self-irony or fun to break the ever increasing levels of personal angst & emotional high stakes.
low graphics:

high graphics:

Graphically the game is gorgeous at high settings with a decent card (I was using a RX 480 at the end of my playthrough) but with low end equipment (HD7850) the game chugged along at medium settings with some nasty framerate drops occurring, to the point I needed to go down to low settings. But when matched with decent hardware, this game thrives. Pure Hair is obviously something that can be turned OFF to improve performance but then doing so causes Lara’s ponytail to become possessed by the unholy power of the game’s physics engine. It bounces around as if made of tissue paper becoming distracting during cut scenes and expositional pieces. All the NPCs’ hair is a flat shell of highly reflective plastic and having Lara’s ponytail be a creature with a mind of its own stands out. At the higher settings the ice and water effects are superb, my personal highlight would be the light interaction with the wet rock surfaces, having the dimpled rock catching the shadows and reflecting light in a way that kept me going back and forth through the same crevice multiple times the first time I noticed it.
that hair:

that wet rock tho:

Sound is solid in the game with the ambient wind and water sounds filling in the atmosphere nicely. The atmospheric music also does a wonderful job of tying to the pacing, indicating when Lara has been spotted or being tracked by a wild animal, additionally during set pieces and action sequences the music does a wonderful job of keeping the focus on the screen and the player moving forward at speed. The delivery of the dialogue is good with the speech helping to convey more layers to most of the characters. Very little of the delivery falls flat, unfortunately the same cannot be said for what they’re saying, with the actual dialogue suffering from the same issues as the main storyline.

Gameplay is solid with enough in game settings to tweak to fit your ability and level of challenges. The main game is pretty standard 3rd person action fare, full of open world running, scrambling & jumping at ledges, branches etc. all the actions you’d come to expect. Added to that is the crafting options. You need to spend time scrounging for wood, feathers, cloth & bits of salvage in order to craft arrows and the upgraded ammo types. The good part is that you can craft on the go, using the controller bumpers to either heal or craft whatever specialist ammo is currently selected. You hold down the right bumper to craft but you also use the same button to deploy that ammo. If I was honest some of the specialist ammo is overpowered, but then again I did need to use a fair amount of it to defeat the game. During combat you can swap which shoulder you are looking over which make shooting around corners/obstacles a bit more natural, combat plays well, with a zoom function, the ability to draw the bow and hold it for a limited period of time. There is the aim assist function but thankfully it is able to be toggled off. I played through without aim assist and it made some of the animal battles very tough as I had to run away from the predator and hope I was a decent enough distance from them before turning & firing… more often than not I wasn’t and I either got torn to shreds or I panicked and launched my go-to poison cloud arrow, but with it ON the game is far too simplistic.

Another personal gripe was the inclusion of Survival Instincts, an alternate vision mode that so many games these days are employing (a.k.a. Eagle Vision or Predator Vision etc.), when employed all important interact-able elements glow on screen and even the enemies are highlighted as to whether or not they are OK to attack or not. Luckily there are different levels of setting for it & I was able to use it simply as a waypoint navigation utility, honestly in game my sense of direction is awful. There’s more than its fair share of Quick Time Events as well, whether preventing Lara from falling, avoiding traps or countering enemies I found as they also combined with a slow-time effect that didn’t mesh well with the flow of the action. There are a decent number of weapon variants to unlock through purchases or discoveries that allow a change in play style.

Lara can skill up through earning experience, which is rewarded from defeating enemies, the more stealthily or technical the kill the higher the reward, and exploration/discovery. Finding the hidden relics and documents results in either a brief voiced description of the object or a narrated version of the written document; this fleshes out the game world nicely and helps to ground it better.

The Challenge Tombs are a set of great side areas that require some puzzle solving or physical manipulation of the game environment to complete. They return from the previous game and are a personal favourite of mine. I’d say they’re better this time around requiring a bit more thought or multiple points of interaction than the previous game. They aren’t overly long and reward the player with skill upgrades. My only gripe with these would be that some are locked until certain plot events are passed. These plot points are after you move past that map, so in order to explore the tomb you need to break from saving the world and go back to a previous area and explore… definitely immersion breaking. Exploring the tomb isn’t necessary for completing the story and can be completed in the end game but when the rewards for doing so are beneficial to completing the story easier then I feel that the unlocking of the tombs could have been handled better. I should also point out that the delivery of some the gear upgrades is handled very clumsily, in that Lara receives certain pieces of gear due to luck more than anything else. Where the Challenge Tombs are handled nicely, the similar Crypts are not. Once you find the entrance to a crypt that’s pretty much the challenge over, go inside & blunder about in the dark until you find the burial site. Luckily all they unlock is a different weapon.

To keep playing beyond the discoverable caches there are also a bunch of challenges and optional missions to complete and provide impetus o get that 100% completion. I see, but haven’t experienced that there is also the ability to replay chapters using a hand of cards to provide benefits & detriments to affect a score that can be compared amongst your friends.

The control scheme works well on controller, I find myself getting annoyed at most console ports on mouse and keyboard as there is often parts that don’t work well. It was certainly the case in the 2013 game and so for this playthrough I started from the beginning using a wired Xbox 360 controller. It worked well apart from one interesting point. In the game there is a challenge involving swan diving from marked boards into water, using the controller I couldn’t get the actions to be initiated correctly and instead drop feet first into the water. This resulted in me having to get out of the water & climb all the way back up to the dive point only to fail time after time. Each time I swapped to the keyboard commands it worked first time.

All in all I enjoyed my time in Rise of the Tomb Raider and recommend the game to anyone wanting to scratch that action adventure itch. I tossed up whether this deserved a 6 or a 7, in the end I went for 7 because by the end I was enjoying myself and I can see myself returning.

Personal Highlights:
• You get to use trebuchet
• Lara
• Challenge Tombs

Personal Low points:
• The story and dialogue
• The possessed pony tail
• The self-igniting chem stick that doesn’t ignite in some really dark areas

Thanks for taking time to read the review - any critique as to how I could improve my reviews in the future please let me know. What you liked or what you didn’t.

1 Like

I agree the story was kind of meh. It actually felt like a movie based on a video game, which isn’t a good thing haha. The story in the first one was much better. BUT the game was pretty and lots of fun so meh. Good review and good score choice.

1 Like

Oh and you typed “divine sauce” instead of source, which made me laugh so hard I almost didn’t let you know.

1 Like

Great review!

1 Like

ShiftySatchmo said in Rise of the Tomb Raider (PC) game review by SgtT8ie:

Oh and you typed “divine sauce” instead of source, which made me laugh so hard I almost didn’t let you know.

I made a sad joke about the Divine Sauce in my play through post… I think it must have stuck in the subconscious! Definitely didn’t mean it on purpose in this review. Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll let my incompetence stand.

Awesome review! This game is a lot of fun. While the story wasn’t great, I really enjoyed the entire game.

1 Like

teh_g ShiftySatchmo LetsGetIt1220 Thanks for reading & providing feedback.

I feel that if the story was stronger then this game could’ve been a classic. It’s as if Crystal Dynamics played it safe after the 2013 game. I can’t quite explain what I’m trying to say, but almost as if they catered for first time players more than returning ones? By the end of the 2013 reboot Lara had a pretty strong character & they diluted it back for the start of this one to allow her some character progression… which in a really basic way went:

I hate you Dad
I miss you Dad
I’m sorry Dad
I’ll do it for you Dad
I hope you’re happy Dad

After everything that Lara has gone through in these 2 games I’m hoping in the next one she starts off as a genuine badass and progresses from there. Also, she’s British, so how about giving her some of that dry British humour, Lara with a self deprecating and cutting wit? I’d also love to see her have character flaws beyond “Daddy Issues” & “Sometimes I care too much”.