ManicTime tells me I have just under 5 hours in Rise of the Tomb Raider — the 2015 sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot — what struck me immediately though was how different Crystal Dynamics had made the game while maintaining the integrity of the core experience they’d established with the 2013 release.
There is a mix of both streamlining of some and deepening of other game systems.
For example, the rope arrows used to connect certain puzzle elements or make-shift bridges used to require a separate key input to differentiate it from firing a standard arrow. Now it is context sensitive to what you’re aiming at.
Button-overloading (more than one potential action on a singular button press) with context like this is not always appreciated, because it isn’t always done well, leading to accidentally triggering unintended actions. In Rise of the Tomb Raider’s case though, it is done well. There are no situations where you’re aiming at a rope-arrow enabled ‘thing’ and want to fire a standard arrow.
There are some less successful changes too, though. The first entry in this Tomb Raider series had a rudimentary crafting system with a single resource, ‘Scrap’. Rise of the Tomb Raider expands this out to wood, hides, berries, cloth, metal and more.
The introduction of this system is powerfully done, reflecting Lara’s growth in willpower to survive no matter the odds. You are thrust into the freezing Siberian winter, and need to put together the base essentials of a camp fire, makeshift bow and arrows.
Unfortunately it’s a system that quickly outstays its welcome. It becomes a distraction from the other, far more enjoyable, aspects of the game. Unlike Tomb Raider’s ‘scrap’ which was acquired quickly and easily as you progressed through the game — you will often need to go out of your way and do things other than what you would have otherwise wanted to, in order to upgrade your weapons and equipment.
The most egregious example of this being hunting for hides. While there are some wolves you’ll need to do battle with in the course of normal play… The sheer volume of hides required means you’ll need to depopulate the region of many herds worth of deer.
Overall though, I’ve still been enjoying the experience. The extension to the play area sizes and world building in general are much better. The skill system is excellent, and the story so far a massive step forward giving Lara more agency and a more direct involvement with the previously quite mysterious ‘Trinity’.
I still have a long way yet to go with Rise, and things may yet change. Already though I am extremely curious to see where Crystal Dynamics took things with 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider.