Rise of the Tomb Raider

Phil Sav­age de­mands more than sim­ple but­ton push­ing from his women, but un­for­tu­nately that’s all the Lin­uxFor­mat team has to of­fer.

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Phil Sav­age de­mands more than sim­ple but­ton push­ing from his women, but that’s all the Lin­uxFor­mat team has to of­fer.

The open­ing min­utes of Rise

oftheTom­bRaider had us wor­ried. It starts with Lara trudg­ing slowly through the snow, the only re­quire­ment be­ing to press W as the game plays it­self for you. All of a sud­den, we’re hav­ing flash­backs to 2013’s Tom­bRaider re­boot and its in­ter­minable, set-piece heavy in­tro­duc­tion. At one point dur­ing a cutscene-laden climb­ing tu­to­rial, we miss a prompt, fall and die. Re­do­ing the sec­tion, we hit the prompt, climb a few feet higher, and watch another cutscene in which Lara falls but is fine. Here we go again? Ac­tu­ally, no.

The opener is frus­trat­ing, but ex­cit­ing and over quickly. From then on, Rise­oftheTom­bRaider sticks to a mostly con­sis­tent level of in­ter­ac­tiv­ity. There’s still plenty of set-piece spec­ta­cle, but these pace-break­ing action seg­ments trust you to read the visual clues of the en­vi­ron­ment and re­act us­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate con­trols. There’s a level of ar­ti­fice to these se­quences, but they op­er­ate within the frame­work of es­tab­lished in­ter­ac­tions. This is em­blem­atic of RotTR as a whole. It’s not that Tom­bRaider’s mis­steps have been erad­i­cated, but they’ve been dra­mat­i­cally re­duced. There are fewer slow-mo QTE se­quences, fewer awk­ward con­ver­sa­tions, fewer by-the-num­bers mini-boss fights.

Lara’s lat­est ad­ven­ture opens in Siberia, and – aside from an early so­journ in Syria – that’s where it stays. Lara is on the hunt for the Divine Source, an arte­fact that her fa­ther had ob­sessed over be­fore his death. There’s an im­por­tant dif­fer­ence in the plots of RotTR and its pre­de­ces­sor. Here, Lara has ini­ti­ated her quest. While things quickly spi­ral out of con­trol, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the ap­pear­ance of mil­i­taris­tic cult Trin­ity, she’s no longer an un­will­ing par­tic­i­pant in events. That’s cru­cial to how the game treats Lara. In Tomb

Raider, she was fre­quently bat­tered, bruised and im­paled – and that’s just if you were play­ing well. In RotTR, Lara can fall foul to a num­ber of fa­tal traps, but in reg­u­lar play she no longer feels like a vic­tim of her en­vi­ron­ment. That’s not to say the story isn’t clumsy in places. There are times when the it all goes a lit­tle bit Avatar. Lara stum­bles across a tribe called the Rem­nant, and – de­spite their hav­ing lived in this Siberian wilder­ness for gen­er­a­tions – she quickly proves to be the best at hunt­ing, climb­ing and gun­ning down an en­tire army.

Silent but deadly… if you choose to be

Other el­e­ments of the story work much bet­ter. This is still Lara’s ori­gin, but while she hasn’t yet em­braced her role as a globe-trot­ting mur­der­ess, she is at least more ac­cept­ing of it. There’s a re­solve that didn’t ex­ist be­fore, and that means there’s no clumsy dis­con­nect be­tween the story of a woman trau­ma­tised by her ac­tions and the glee­ful feel­ing of killing off a camp full of bad guys. It’s just as well, be­cause the com­bat re­mains en­joy­able. Riseof

theTom­bRaider– like its pre­de­ces­sor – deftly blends stealth and action. Most en­e­mies be­gin un­aware of Lara’s pres­ence, giv­ing you the scope to creep through bushes and be­hind cover. With pa­tience it’s pos­si­ble to sys­tem­at­i­cally and silently clear out most en­emy pa­trols. Of­ten, it’s more fun to take out a cou­ple of guys and then choose to ini­ti­ate a fire­fight.

Lara has ac­cess to a small se­lec­tion of weapon types (pis­tol, ri­fle and shot­gun) with a va­ri­ety of styles avail­able in each cat­e­gory. Most feel good to fire, the pan­icked in­ac­cu­racy of the au­to­matic ri­fle be­ing the only real exception. Pis­tols feel light­weight and clin­i­cal, while the pump-action shot­gun is a chunky and grat­i­fy­ingly deadly op­tion. Once again, though, the bow is star of the show. Hav­ing to draw back and charge shots pro­vides a nice rhythm to the com­bat, es­pe­cially in con­junc­tion with some of the skill up­grades avail­able as Lara lev­els up.

New for this out­ing is Lara’s abil­ity to craft com­bat tools on-the-fly. Ar­rows and spe­cial ammo can be cre­ated

at any point, but you can also make use of things found around en­emy camps. A bot­tle can be turned into a Molo­tov cock­tail; an empty tin can an IED. Do­ing so costs re­sources, but you never find your­self so low on them you’re un­able to set light to a clus­tered group of sol­diers.

Ex­plore the great out­doors

When you’re not fight­ing for your life – be it against sol­diers or the crum­bling ru­ins of an action set piece – you’re ex­plor­ing one of a hand­ful of large, open hub ar­eas. These are sprawl­ing, in­tri­cate en­vi­ron­ments and for the most part you can leisurely pick through them. The only dis­trac­tions come from the oc­ca­sional wolf, bear or big cat that’s taken a dis­lik­ing to your con­tin­ued ex­is­tence.

Each area is packed with things to find, and the re­wards for hunt­ing out col­lectibles of­ten makes their pres­ence worth­while. An­cient doc­u­ments fill out the story of the re­gion, and level up your pro­fi­ciency in one of the three lan­guages you’ll en­counter. With a high-enough lan­guage level, Lara can de­code mono­liths that mark down the lo­ca­tion of coin caches on the map. Col­lect enough coins and you can pur­chase spe­cial up­grades. Else­where, you’ll find op­tional chal­lenge tombs that boast some of the game’s most in­tri­cate puz­zle de­sign.

If there’s a down­side to the game’s ex­plo­ration, it’s that col­lectibles feel like the end goal rather than a bonus along the way. The route Lara must take through an area is rarely in ques­tion, es­pe­cially when you’re only ever a but­ton press away from Sur­vival In­stinct. This is an op­tional view mode that highlights your next ob­jec­tive, any per­ti­nent puz­zle pieces, and any re­sources or col­lectibles for Lara to snaf­fle up.

Out­side of the cam­paign, you’ll find Ex­pe­di­tions: a se­ries of cus­tom score at­tack modes that en­able you to ap­ply mod­i­fy­ing cards to al­ter the chal­lenge. Some card packs are earned for tasks com­pleted in the cam­paign, and oth­ers can be pur­chased with points gained by play­ing Ex­pe­di­tions mode chal­lenges. There are plenty of fun mu­ta­tors that can be stacked to cre­ate un­ex­pected com­bat en­coun­ters. It’s also pos­si­ble to play cus­tom chal­lenges cre­ated by other play­ers. The Feral re­lease also comes with all ad­di­tional DLC in­cluded.

In many ways, Rise of the Tomb Raider is peak se­quel de­sign: an in­cred­i­ble sim­i­lar game with a set of ex­panded and new sys­tems. But RotTR is also bet­ter be­cause you’re able to spend more time en­gag­ing with those sys­tems. It’s an in­cred­i­bly com­pe­tent action plat­former.

Lara’s trusty bow still re­mains the weapon that brings the fun.

Lara zip-lines over cer­tain death. Just another day for Ms Croft.

An­cient ru­ins, just wait­ing to be raided.

If your hard­ware’s up to it, RotTR is a feast for the eyes.

Lara’s al­ways been able to take phys­i­cal in­juries in her stride.

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