Rebooting a franchise, whether it be a video game series, a comic book character or anything else for that matter, is risky business.
Changing too many aspects of the original property invokes outrage and can turn your own fan base against you whereas too little change begs asking why the project is considered a reboot to begin with.
January of this year brought us DmC, a reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise that has garnered impressive reviews coupled with ire from many fans for radically changing the iconic appearance of series protagonist, Dante. Thankfully, Tomb Raider manages to nail the perilous juggling act between renew and reuse to deliver an excellent first instalment in the newest adventures of the illustrious Lara Croft.
…you have to literally set yourself on fire to break free and in doing so you pierce yourself on a spike…
Taking a page from the rough-and-ready Uncharted play-book, Tomb Raider starts off with our heroine’s ship getting battered around in a storm, before she finds herself shipwrecked on an island and captured before she can find her friends. Your first playable moments as Lara find her tied upside down in a cave, wherein you have to literally set yourself on fire to break free and in doing so you pierce yourself on a spike. Even with this, the game doesn’t drop you in per se, as the first section of the game is largely linear. You control Lara recovering from her capture as she escapes the cave and the occasional quick time event is thrown in to make things more eventful, but after she finds the open island terrain you are finally free to explore and enjoy Lara’s luscious surroundings.
High definition gaming may be close to hitting a ceiling when it comes to improving graphics, but Tomb Raider is firmly at the top of the current generation ranks as the landscape turns from beautiful in the sun to gritty in storms and dangerous at night. All of this is helped with a dynamic camera that swings around to always give you the best view, whether you are climbing a cliff-face or hang-gliding through trees.
…a heartbreaking scene forces her to kill an animal for the first time…
This being an origin story, the Lara we see at the start of Tomb Raider is a different one to that which we have become accustomed. As you help Lara survive the perils of the island while looking for her friends, you really start to care for her, especially early on when a heartbreaking scene forces her to kill an animal for the first time. It’s a tremendously emotional that not many games can pull off but is slightly mired by the fact that Lara quickly gets used to killing people to a variety of brutal ways. The game does even out this jarring character change over time, but the initial moment loses some magic.
When not battling the storyline, you can also take Lara to raid some actual tombs spread across the island. More puzzle orientated (not to say the story is devoid of this, as it equally paces out puzzles, exploration and action set pieces) this is what grounds the new Tomb Raider series with the old one. There are seven of these tombs, enough to keep you both satisfied with the work once done as well as hopeful that future DLC may bring more devious puzzles to crack for those not wanting to replay the story mode.
…a game brimming with action and exploration…
Online multilayer is available but largely not worth investing time in. Taking the solid combat and gun controls from the story mode and giving them to multiple people at the same time is messy, but it’s good to see the franchise is willing to try new things. The multilayer hang-ups and Lara’s quick acclimatisation to killing do not stand in the way of a reboot that fires on all cylinders and provides a great story for how Lara Croft began her legend. Stunning visuals, a well paced story and rewarding tombs provide a game brimming with action and exploration. The future of Tomb Raider is truly a promising one.