First Impressions: Tomb Raider

Boo hoo! Everything is my fault! Oh well, nothing for it but to murder almost everyone on the island...

"First Impressions?" you ask. "For a game that's over a year old?" you add. "Surely you jest!" Nope. I'm not joking. My backlog of games is that long that it's taken me awhile to get to this. While I originally thought it would be a good idea to play more recent games and review them, the problem with that approach is all the games of 2013 might not get to see the light of day. That's why I'm now playing Tomb Raider - also because I've had a couple of friends recommend I check it out.

I've only ever played the original Tomb Raider that came out in 1996 on the Playstation 1. Back then, Core Design made the Tomb Raider games, polygons were few and Lara Croft's cup size was JJ. From the little I remember playing I recall the game being quite fun, almost a precursor to puzzle FPS games thanks to its focus on solving puzzles instead of killing enemies. So here we are, almost two decades later, and I'm playing a Tomb Raider game again. Not only is this developed by another company, Crystal Dynamics (who have developed all Tomb Raider games since Tomb Raider: Legend) but this is apparently the second reboot of the game to occur.

I've played the new Tomb Raider for a few hours and this is what I think of it so far:

What I like

  • Graphics: The game's obviously got the best graphics I've seen in a Tomb Raider game (not hard considering the last one I played was in 1996!) but it's also pretty good compared to many games in general that I've played in the past couple of years. Character models seem pretty realistic which is very different to the ridiculously proportioned Lara Croft of old.
  • It's now a survival game: And also "darker and grittier" as a result. While I'm not usually a fan of franchises becoming "darker and grittier" for the sake of it, I think the game has to if you're turning what is essentially a puzzle Third-Person Shooter into a game mainly about survival. The tomb raiding elements are still there though, just that they seem more like side quests, which is appropriate considering Lara Croft hasn't yet become THE "Tomb Raider".

What I don't like

  • Minor bugs: My game has frozen and crashed once but thankfully it's only occurred once so far.
  • Not quite perfect tutorial: While the tutorials in the game are almost perfect in teaching you how to play the game there was one part where it took me several tries including a lookup of the key bindings in order to find out what exactly I was supposed to be doing. Minor quibble but if you've already gone to the trouble of having tutorials to make it unnecessary to read a manual or view a key bindings list, why not include everything in them?
  • Plot: While I commend the developers for attempting to explain how Lara Croft, an apprentice archaeologist, becomes an action hero, it's quite staggering how quickly Lara becomes comfortable in the role, and how much of a badass she really is. I'm not sure if they'll ever explain this later on but so far there have been many times I've had to suspend my disbelief.
  • Claustrophobic maps: Admittedly, exploring caves and tombs should be a claustrophobic affair, but it seems that even the open maps are like that, so the game currently feels very small and the island, very artificial. It doesn't affect gameplay too much thankfully but it doesn't help with the immersion, especially when there's hundreds of salvage boxes scattered almost everywhere


Tomb Raider does have some minor flaws but I'm finding myself enjoying the game despite them. If the game continues in the current direction it's going, I think we've got ourselves a keeper.

[ LINK: Official Tomb Raider website ]