Rise of the Tomb Raider Review (Xbox One)

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Rise of the Tomb Raider – “Make Your Mark” Launch Trailer

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix

Main Review

Review Context: I have played my fair share of third person shooter and action adventure games. I have been lucky enough to play the first Tomb Raider reboot, The Last Of Us, the entire Uncharted trilogy, Spec Ops: The Line, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition.
Date of Playthrough: November 10, 2015

I absolutely loved the first Tomb Raider reboot; what it lacked in story, characters, and character development, it more than made up for in the gameplay department. Tomb Raider took me on an incredible unforgettable journey and left me begging for a sequel. Fast forward to November 2015, I was very fortunate to buy Rise of The Tomb Raider and play it for an extensive amount of time. So was it everything I was hoping for, or did it fall a wee bit short?

Rise of The Tomb Raider continues the story of our protagonist, Lara Croft, who has her eyes set a special artifact known as the divine source, which her father was also after. She makes it her mission to go after said artifact, and uncover the mystery behind it and what makes it so valuable. Lara Croft is not alone however… A militarized sect known as Trinity is also behind this divine source, and they will do whatever it takes to obtain it. So begins the next chapter in our hero’s journey, which is sure to hold many spectacles and really test her wits along the way.

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The first thing that really popped out at me as I played Rise of the Tomb Raider is how absolutely gorgeous it looks. This is easily one of the best looking games I have played this generation, right next to The Order 1886 and Infamous: Second Son. Everything from the environments to Lara herself are nicely detailed. The weather effects, such as falling snow and the beaming sun are absolutely breathtaking. The hub world is twice as large this time around, and has far more interesting locales to explore.  The game runs at a 1080p resolution and a steady thirty frames per second, which sometimes drops in the mid-twenties when the action gets very hectic. While these frame drops are noticeable, I overlooked them since the game was still very playable because I was just having too much fun.

I was also impressed with the attention to detail; whenever Lara would walk through a blizzard for example, she would cross her arms, and whatever damage she sustained would be made apparent by the visible scars and blood on her body. The sounds in this game are top notch; everything from the voice acting, sound effects, and accompanying soundtrack are superb. An adequate headset is highly recommended, as they further enhance the experience.  All in all, I was highly impressed with the presentation, graphics, performance, and the overall sound of the game.

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Some of the best improvements from the previous game come in the form of characters and story. In the first game the story was decent, but the characters, aside from Lara Croft herself and her mentor, were very forgettable. This time around I felt the story was amazing, thanks largely to the smooth pacing and memorable characters. Lara is no longer that vulnerable frightened girl she started out as. She is very fearless now, and I really enjoy witnessing her transformation into this badass treasure hunter she will no doubt become. The main antagonist, Konstantin, is a seemingly cold-hearted individual with personal motives that influence his actions. Ana has her own set of redeeming qualities which she uses to her advantage. Jacob is a very skilled fighter with a dark secret. Even the characters who take less screen time, such as Jonah and Sofia pull their own weight.

Now let’s get to the most important part of any video game; the gameplay. Rise of the Tomb Raider has a semi-open world structure, in which the player can choose to just tackle the story, or actually do the various activities in the hub world, all while moving along with the story. I chose the latter. By the time I finished the game I completed all nine tombs, upgrade most of my weapons, crafted a lot of gear, tackled all the side missions, and salvaged all types of materials needed to craft gear. There is a noticeably larger emphasis on salvaging materials now, since you need them to upgrade your weaponry, craft weapon ammo, and make herbs for healing, since you no longer have regenerative health when playing on the harder difficulty settings. Rise of the Tomb Raider rewards you experience points for just about about everything, so you will want to explore every cave/tomb, collect documents, and take on the side missions etc.

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Speaking of side missions, they are not the best out there, but they serve as a decent past time and yield cool rewards, such as new outfits and gear. As you level up you gain skill points, which you can use to obtain new skills in three different categories: Brawler, Survivor, and Hunter. These skills are very useful, and I love how they allow you to play the game your way. In fact, there are so many creative ways to kill an enemy that it almost seems like you need a higher enemy count. For example, you can kill an enemy silently from above, or you can distract him with an object, thus shooting a well aimed arrow at his head, or you could just go in guns blazing. These are just a few of the options you have in combat because it’s your playground and you can do as you please. My two favorite activities involved completing all the tombs and crafting on the go. The tombs this time around have far more lore to them, and actually require some brain power without being too difficult to solve. I really appreciated the detail that went into these tombs, and the sense of accomplishment I felt after solving them. Being able to craft on the go is one of this game’s many new feats. While in combat, provided you have the necessary salvage materials, you can craft ammo for your weapons and also use bottles and cans found in the environment to make different types of grenades. This adds a fresh new dynamic to the already solid gameplay mechanics and I simply love it.

The controls in the game are very tight and responsive. Moving, climbing, jumping, and swimming feel right at home. My only gripe is with the gun controls. When aiming your gun, it feels finicky and a little too loose. Granted, after some time with it you’ll eventually get it down, but I would definitely like to see this issue fixed for the inevitable sequel. Just like it’s predecessor, this game is not too difficult, so if you are looking for a challenge, I suggest playing on the seasoned raider and survivor difficulties. The enemies are far more aggressive and healing is very limited. There is no ‘new game plus,’ but you can still go back and tackle anything you may have missed. I would have really loved a ‘new game plus’ option, which lets me carry over all my skills and upgrades, but we can’t always get what we want.

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Multiplayer comes in the form of leaderboards and an expedition mode. As you advance in the game you score points, which you can see next to your name by pressing the start button. If any of your online friends also have the game they will appear on the list. In expedition mode, you traverse stages as fast as you can to set a record time. This mode also allows you and your friends to attempt to beat each others’ times. I did not try expedition mode because I simply did not care for it. I would have much preferred a competitive or cooperative multiplayer component. With Twitch.tv becoming more mainstream, special features are integrated into the Xbox One, which allow your viewers to be further immersed in their viewing experience as you are live streaming.

Lara Croft will face many perils during her journey. Luckily, she has a wide array of weaponry at her disposal; a combat axe, which serves as both a melee weapon and climbing tool, a bow and arrow, and a nice selection of guns. All the weapons can be upgraded to give you an edge against your adversaries. My go-to weapon is the bow; it’s fast, quiet, deadly, and has poison, fire, and explosive arrows. It’s a good thing shes well equipped too, because ferocious wild animals, armored foes, and mystical foes await. I was really impressed with the variety of foes I faced, and by the end of the game I felt like a force to be reckoned with.

I did not think the first reboot could be outdone, but Crystal Dynamics really outdid themselves with this one. The story and characters are richer, the set pieces are breathtaking, the gameplay is much more dynamic, the rpg elements are very robust, and the amount of extra stuff to tackle really add some welcomed variety to the game. Besides the loose gun controls and a missing multiplayer component, I have no other qualms with this game, which is why it’s easily my game of the year for 2015. From start to finish I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I will be talking about this game for years down the line. Good job Crystal dynamics!

Similar Games Liked: 
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)
The Last Of Us (PS3)
Gears Of War – Ultimate Edition (Xbox One)
Tomb Raider (PS3)

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