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Tomb Raider (2013)

First, a disclaimer before I get into my thoughts on this game: I never played any of the original Tomb Raider games. I own them on Steam, and I know I at least gave the first a shot, but I think the controls were wonky or I just didn't have the patience at the time to adjust and gave it up pretty quickly. I must have seen the Tomb Raider movie, but I don't really remember it very well. Beyond that my knowledge of the Tomb Raider franchise was limited to the main character's name, so I went into this game pretty blind only thinking it was a more modern and gritty spin on a classic.

All that being said, for those who don't know, in Tomb Raider you play as Lara Croft, an archeologist seeking an ancient civilization. I will skip over summarizing the plot here too much to avoid spoilers, but the vague premise is that Lara and her crewmates become stranded on an island after their ship gets caught up in a bad storm. As Lara, you explore a mysterious island trying to reunite everyone while slowly uncovering the secrets of those who came before you many years ago, but also the secrets of those who are still there.

My first impression of this game was that it was much more gory than I was expecting. Lara is injured pretty seriously right off the bat, and I will give credit to the developers that it is not written off right away. Evidence of this wound and subsequent major injuries remain apparent, I'm assuming, for the entirety of the game. The other thing that contributes to my initial impression was the setting. You start off hanging next to what look like dead bodies wrapped in cloth, which was really a good way to open this game because, frankly… there are dead bodies everywhere, in varying states of decay. It's to the point where I feel like at times I am playing a horror game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but my one gripe about all the bodies is that Lara doesn't really seem to bat an eye at them. There is one scene in particular where I was just thinking to myself, "if this were me, I would be freaking out and probably vomit…" but Lara simply kicks the human heads (accidentally) out of the way and keeps on moving. I guess that it sort of makes sense because Lara herself gets desensitized to killing pretty quickly.

Gore aside, the game is beautiful. You travel on this not quite deserted island through a mixture of ancient Japanese ruins and WWII era military bunkers. I really love all the architecture of the ruins, some much older than others. Again, I don't want to go into too much specific detail and spoil it for anyone who hasn't played this yet. Every area has tons of little details and lots of hidden things to collect, some of which you can't reach on your first pass through. I definitely feel that exploration is rewarded in Tomb Raider, even though the areas are not wide open like an open world game.

The gameplay itself is fine, there is really nothing new here if you have played an action game. You collect tools and weapons and resources to upgrade them. The platforming feels really solid 98% of the time, and 2% of the time I fall to my death by accident because Lara didn't walk exactly where I thought she would. Other than that, it is obvious what parts of the world you can climb around on and I had a lot of fun trying to find my way to things that were off the main path.

This is getting long and I haven't even touched on all the scripted ways in which Lara can be brutally murdered. I guess that leads me into one of my criticisms of this game: quick time events. While I don't hate QTEs as a gameplay mechanic, I always get tired of them eventually. My gripe with them in Tomb Raider is that I almost never pulled off a sequence without dying at least once, and in some cases several times. This lead to a feeling of just going through trial and error which always ended with Lara being killed, albeit in unique ways. My other criticism is simply the camera shake. The cutscenes are bad about this, but I can forgive that because cut scenes are meant as a supplement to the main game. However, there is some sort of unsteadiness about the in-game camera as well that started to bother me.

To sum it up, I really had a lot of fun with this game and probably will be finishing it sooner than later. It's definitely the type of game you can sink a good chunk of time into completing 100%. I can't say how true to the original games this reboot is, but as a stand alone game it was great!


PS - Maybe you are thinking… "Caitlyn. You love Kingdom Hearts. KH3 was 85% QTEs." Yes, I know, I know. But they are forgiving/predictable (always triangle or something) and colorful and don't end in Sora being skewered to death on failure. I'm here for the gritty KH reboot in 20 years though.

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