LONG seen as another gaming franchise that had gone off the boil, or jumped the shark, or otherwise completely lost track of what made it a hit to begin with (yes, yes, sit down, Resident Evil),
Tomb Raider has returned to shops now with a desperately-needed reboot.
Rather cheaply marketed too often on the basis of its “sultry” lead character (rather than, y’know, on the actual game), the globe-trotting adventures of rich archaeologist Lara Croft floundered in the past decade, as the likes of Nathan Drake (in the hit PlayStation Uncharted franchise) bounded into the limelight and easily stole her crown.
Bar a couple of competently made smaller-scale games, Tomb Raider seemed to be so over …
Following the recent trend of cinema “reimaginings”, Tomb Raider has been redesigned, working in a number of currently popular gaming themes to create a game that feels more, well, relevant, while also feeling fresher, too.
Gone is the cool and collected Croft of old, replaced with a young and rich Lara, embarking upon her first archaeological adventure.
However, it’s not long before Lara, and friends, are marooned on a mysterious island – a place littered with wrecks and hulls from throughout the ages, with a mish-mash of pan-Asian/Oceanic civilisations represented on the island – not to mention plenty of dangerous locals, not keen to have what Enid Blyton might have called “meddling kids” running about.
Actually, that makes it sound as though Lara’s free to roam around, and happy enough to – but this is where the “reboot” comes to the fore, as her character is explored, rather than just her abilities.
At the start of the game, Lara – via narration, character interactions and cutscenes – is presented as a frightened young woman (as, indeed, pretty much anybody would be, shipwrecked and in danger on a lost island full of thugs).
However, as the game progresses, Lara’s character changes, as she adapts to the island’s challenges and locals, pushed to her physical and mental limits – and then overcoming them, to triumph against the relentless adversity she faces, realising that she has inner strengths.
As such, Tomb Raider almost presents the game as an exploration of Lara’s character as much as of the physical landscape of the island itself, stripping away the casually blase confidence of old to create, as our Hollywood friends would say, “a more relatable character”.
As Lara explores the island, desperately attempting to engineer both a rescue, and survival, for her and her friends, she gradually learns or unlocks new abilities, gradually empowering her to access previously locked-off areas of the island, and thus undertake or complete various missions.
While not quite a truly open sandbox to explore, it’s an interesting and modern-enough nod at accessibility, further removing her from her strictly level-based exploits of old.
And what of tomb raiding? Well, there is some, though not as much as some fans may wish for, while puzzles, too, aren’t exactly the most taxing to undertake.
However, while being another title for mature gamers – Little Jimmy doesn’t really need to be playing games where young women face menacing male thugs, after all – the multi-platform title is a welcome return to form.
With such a confident and decent step back into the gaming world, it’ll be interesting to see Lara’s next adventure …