Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tomb Raider Review

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Release Date: 3/5/13
Review Date: 3/20/13
Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Length: 15+ hr
Reviewed by: Roger Havens

Developer Crystal Dynamics has returned once more to bring us another entry in the Tomb Raider franchise. The last time we followed Lara Croft on an adventure was more than 4 years ago. The developer has come a long way since then and brings us the origin story of Lara. The story has her on her first voyage as a young woman, looking for adventure. She is on the ship Endurance with her fellow friends and deck hands searching for the lost Japanese kingdom of Yamatai. It is said to be once guarded by a queen who held mystical powers. Well one thing leads to another and Lara and crew find themselves shipwrecked on an island and then separated from each other. This quickly thrusts young Lara into a character arc as she must come to terms with her situation and choose how to survive. The sense of dread she experiences as she kills her first attacker or hunts her first deer are quickly dismissed as she continues on her quest to rescue her friends and discover the islands secrets. The island has a Burmuda Triangle feel to it. Once stranded, it seems almost impossible to leave, and by the looks of things, they aren't the only ones stuck there.

I was surprised about how this game made me feel. It in some ways did not feel like a Tomb Raider game and in other ways it did. I would say that there is a lot less of a focus on platforming as in past titles. There is plenty of it for sure, but it was paced nicely with the games combat. Some of the best times I had were trying to figure out how to get up to a higher ledge to find hidden collectibles. Climbing and shimming along walls has never felt more polished. The days of leaping to your death by accident are gone because the controls are so smooth and responsive. The game features several action set pieces much like in Uncharted 3, but they are all unique and don't feel forced. The set pieces are based on the events that are happening around you and they are thrilling.

 Now, the combat in this game is superb. Not only is shooting enemies and countering their melee attacks way better than they have ever been, but they rival games like Uncharted. The guns all feel accurate and powerful and performing a head shot with the bow feels so rewarding. All of your weapons can be upgraded a few times as you collect salvage. This gives them new abilities and alternate fire modes to give more spice to the combat. But to be honest, the bow is so darn fun and effective, that I had to keep reminding myself to try out other weapons. As you find some of the game's many collectibles and get kills you earn XP which you use to upgrade your abilities. You learn new dodging moves and melee counters which keeps the combat fresh and enjoyable all of the way through. Playing the game on normal difficulty was just right. The enemies were not too easy, nor was it too difficult and I feel that playing the game on the hardest setting will give quite a challenge.

I beat Tomb Raider in about 15 hours. That may seem short at first, but the game is rich in content. The story is designed to guide you down a path of separate areas. Each new environment is large in size and offers it's own challenge to engage the player. Tomb Raider is jam packed with collectibles. You can find relics, GPS caches, old letters, journals and even plants. Most areas have optional tombs which you can explore for extra rewards. These are the games "dungeons" as they represent a puzzle for you to overcome and then reward you with a treasure map. This map will highlight some collectibles in that area so they are easier to find. While most of the puzzles were clever and unique, you won't find anything too challenging. I never spent more then 10 minutes on a puzzle and that was it. Once it's solved there is no more exploring as the treasure is right around the corner. So the tombs are nothing too special, but offer a nice distraction for the rest of the game. Each area also has its own unique challenge like finding hidden posters or destroying land mines along a beach. Having a lot of collectibles is very good in this game because it never feels tedious. It felt as if I was always finding something new, and you get rewarded with XP when you do so it is a win-win. The game encourages you to go back to old areas to fully explore them and gather all of the collectibles. Without having the story pressing you forward, you can really enjoy the massive levels and enjoy the beauty of the game. Many collectibles are left inaccessible to you until later on when you have upgraded weapons and new abilities. This helps to add more depth to each area as well.

Some people were disappointed with Tomb Raiders multiplayer, blaming it for being generic and bringing nothing to the table. It's hard for me to be disappointed with something that was not expected nor needed. The multiplayer has 4 game modes which are pretty generic. There are options to customize loadouts and unlock new weapons. There is definitely nothing wrong with Tomb Raider's Multiplayer, nor is there anything that makes it stick out above the rest. If the campaign had suffered as a result of adding multiplayer, then I would feel much differently. Heads up trophy lovers: you have to prestige 3 times in order to platinum this game. At least we can be greatful that there was some thought put into the player loadouts and upgrade system. You might as well enjoy your journey since it will be a long one.

Tomb Raider is an excellent game, with brilliant story telling, jaw dropping beauty and heart racing combat. If you're a fan of Lara Croft or just want to play a high quality action adventure game, look no farther than Tomb Raider. This game doesn't need multiplayer to keep gamers from trading it in, the rich campaign and enjoyable replay-ability is more then enough to hold onto this gem for months to come.

Review Score: $55 out of $60.

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Roger Havens- Tech Fixation Editor


  1. Thanks for posting, Great review Roger.

    I'm aiming to pick this up when the price drops, but your review has made me think I won't need to wait too long for it to be worth the money.

  2. Dont give into the 60 dollar price point #60dollarpricepointisbroken

    Great Review Roger yo.
    I'm happy you touched on the multiplayer, I hate when reviewers just skip it.

    1. Thanks! Btw, hashtags dont work on here :-) #fail

  3. Thanks all, glad you liked it! [UPDATE] Meagan Marie, the CrystalD Community Manager posted in the official Eidos forums saying, "I've talked to the team about this and I think they are actually going to make The General free so that he doesn't count toward the Shopaholic achievement! Hopefully the next patch." This was posted on the 15th so hopefully this game will be much easier to platinum.

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  5. Good review Roger, totally agree with your verdict. Only question I've got is how do you feel comparing it to Uncharted at points considering Uncharted originally was compared to Tomb Raider?

    And Cam, you'll never convince me on your price point argument. Without high end games the quality of story, characterisation, graphical advances and overall pushing of boundaries will be lost. There would be no Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, CoD, Assassins Creed, etc.

    1. Well it looks like the comparison between the two has come full circle. I let each of the franchises stand on their own since they are unique enough. But this combat system reminded me mostly of Uncharted 3, but more substantial. One thing I forgot to mention in the review was the automatic cover system. Genious idea.