I Played A Game: Tomb Raider

NOTICE: Hi. What you’re reading is an old review from when I was using a different template. It was kind of ugly, so I switched. If I make a mention of spoilers going to be blacked out, they won’t be. Sorry. It’s just so long ago I wrote this and it’s a bother to go back and edit it extensively. Sorry if you get spoiled, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t put any major spoilers in anything without giving big warnings about it first. Cheers.

Tomb Raider is a good game.

So, I gave in, despite my starving wallet’s futile pleads, and bought Tomb Raider on Origin. I thought it looked great, but as I’m kinda low on cash at the moment I intended to let the price drop before getting it. Origin had a pretty good price so I picked it up. Funnily enough it uses Steamworks, so I had to install it on Steam anyway. WTF? Not that I mind, I have tons of games on and greatly enjoy using Steam. That sounded a bit corny. Anyway. ONTO THE TEXTING OF THINGS! Let’s begin with a run-down of the plot. I’ll try to keep this all spoiler-free. If there are spoilers, I’ll try to put them in red text.

While on an archaeology expedition with… other archaeologists, the ship Lara’s on (The Endurance, if my memory is correct) goes down and wrecks and the crew escapes. Most of the crew looks like they survived. Lara gets snagged by some guys as she crawls onto the beach. She wakes up upside down in a cave. Looks like she’s run into a cult of crazy dudes. After some burning of wood and a few QTEs, she makes it out and rejoins her friends. More things happen and Lara and the Endurance’s survivor’s are put against the cultists and try to find a way of the accursed island. Supernatural stuff are abound as Lara explores tombs and learn to survive on the island. The story is pretty simple but does a good job at taking you with it and making you care. The writing itself is a bit wonky at times. It goes wildly swinging from great and involving to horribly weak and redundant. It’s mostly good, but more consistency would have been nice.

One of the first thing you’ll notice is that the game is very beautiful. Very nicely crafted surroundings and impressive models make for a very pleasing visual experience.

Another thing you’ll notice is something that’s become a pet peeve of mine the last years. Quick-time-events. There are a TON of QTEs all over this game. Especially in the beginning of the game. As the story progresses they begin to thin out, but they come back in boss-battles and such. One of the reasons I don’t like QTEs are the way they’re often used, like in this game. Especially in boss-fights, where you try to find the right angle to shoot an enemy. However, you can only defeat the enemy in a specific way. First you dodge, and then you shoot his back. Then comes the QTE. Hit the button at the right timing and you cause damage. Rinse and repeat. I’d rather have a free-flowing battle where you wear down the enemy or find different ways to hurt him. For example:

  • Shoot the guy in the leg with your bow to slow him down.
  • Use the shotgun to blow his helmet off.
  • Dodge near a wall to make him get his hammer stuck.

And more possible things to do, instead of being tied to the one and only way to win the battle. It’s just lazy design to have it come down to a QTE. Slight spoiler: The final boss even comes down to a QTE.

And hey, the soundtrack is really good.

Jason Graves has composed a fantastic soundtrack that gets you caught up in the action. I’m definitely ordering this soundtrack ASAP. Great emotional, epic and action-y scores help the game have that much more impact. He even had a crazy instrument sculpted for the game. Check it out:

When soundtracks are this good, they enhance the entire experience, and Graves managed just that. Hats off to you, mate.

On the topic of audio, the voice acting of this game is absolutely bloody amazing. Especially Camilla Luddington, who of course plays the part of Lara. None of the bigger roles are anything but good, and apart from some very minor characters having some sketchy acting, it’s great all around.

Speaking of characters (nice segue, bwaha), most of the characters beside Lara are pretty bad. Except for Roth, who is pretty excellent, although clichéd, Jonah and Alex are pretty decent but are pictured as being pretty stupid. The female side-characters Reyes and Sam are absolutely worthless throwaway characters. Reyes is angry at Lara at the beginning of the game because Lara suggested going to the Dragon’s Teeth spot (presented as some Bermuda Triangle) and continues to be a massive bitch throughout the game until the final act, when she comes around and becomes nice and trusty. If she’s going to be a bitch, at least give her a good reason to be vile, instead of temporary setbacks. Also, she has a daughter, so that makes her near invincible, because of the sentimental value. Sam, on the other hand is just completely worthless. I get that she’s Lara’s friend, so Lara wants to save her, but she’s just such an idiot. Always getting stuck and kidnapped by the antagonist and then being horribly one-dimensional. In one of the few exposition-pieces she gets, she talks about taking Lara to bars and meeting cute guys. Yay.

Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty good. Besides the QTEs, there’s a lot of free-running and jumping around. I would have wanted it to bee more free, though, as there are usually only one way up to certain areas. My main anger is that there is a huge emphasis on action. You rarely get to go anywhere without stumbling into a ton of enemies, who are lying in ambush pretty much all over the island. I’d have rather seen more of an emphasis on exploration, as well as being given alternate paths to deal with eventual problems. Some are given, but it’s almost never an option to avoid direct combat, which is a bit sad. Also, this makes the tone of the game suffer a bit as well, as you get dulled by the amount of deaths.

Speaking of tone, (segue-master 9000) this game is gritty as fuck. Lara is a pretty girl, but she gets abused, dragged through the mud, falls of cliffs and all sorts of violence. She’s dirty, bloody and bruised throughout the game, which makes her a more interesting and real character and helps the game produce its dark atmosphere.

Regarding Lara, she’s obviously the best character of the game as it’s all about her. Strong-willed, smart, beautiful and the list goes on. Lara’s the star of the show, and you get a lot of time getting to know her.

To wrap up: Tomb Raider is a very good game and fun experience. It should have been better but lack of focus on writing and things that aren’t Lara stops it from being a possible contender for GOTY. If you have the dough, pick it up. Recommended.

Points and stuff:

Pros:

  1. Kinda interesting story
  2. Beautiful scenery
  3. Fantastic soundtrack
  4. Lara Croft
  5. Voice Acting
  6. Gritty as fuck

In between:

  1. Roller-coaster writing (swings wildly from horrible to very good)

Cons:

  1. Dreadful side-characters
  2. Too much action
  3. SO MANY QTEs
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