Tomb Raider 2013: the near-perfect gaming experience
Tomb Raider - 1996
Tomb Raider started out with humble beginnings in 1996. Released for the Playstation, Sega Saturn and PC, its success was impressive. Lara Croft was not like other heroes before her. For starters, she was a girl. Her confident attitude along with challenging puzzles and amazing gameplay came together for a memorable series and had fans begging for more. Developers willingly (and tirelessly) obliged.
Tomb Raider – 1996 – Core Design
Tomb Raider II: Starring Lara Croft – 1997 – Core Design
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft – 1998 – Core Design
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – 1999 – Core Design
Tomb Raider: Chronicles – 2000 – Core Design
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness – 2003 – Core Design
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend – 2006 – Crystal Dynamics
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Anniversary – 2007 – Crystal Dynamics
Tomb Raider: Underworld – 2008 – Crystal Dynamics
Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft
With almost yearly releases (nine total in a mere 12 years), it seemed that Tomb Raider was in desperate need of an overhaul. There was even a spin-off game released in 2010 entitled Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (by Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix), the first game that was separated from the Tomb Raider branding. In the midst of all this, fans saw two major motion pictures released in 2001 and 2003, both starring Angelina Jolie as the incomparable Lara Croft. After the release of The Angel of Darkness in 2003, the tired franchise moved to Crystal Dynamics and became a hit once more. Yet even with a complete redo of the game and immediate success, nothing lasts forever, and fans drifted apart from their beloved Lara once more.
To make fans fall in love with Lara all over again, drastic measures needed to be taken. In 2009, Eidos merged with Square Enix and a new installment was soon announced, with a targeted release date of 2012. Though the game did not hit the shelves until 2013, the long wait was very much worth it. Not only did we see a completely new and improved franchise, the game gave us reason to raid tombs once more.
Tomb Raider screenshot
The first thing one will notice when playing Tomb Raider (2013) are the mind-blowing graphics. The sheer beauty of what was done in game development and design is incredible. Someone definitely took their cue from the always gorgeous Uncharted series and took it up about three notches. Truly, not enough can be said about the graphics. Almost every scene is breathtaking and astonishing, making the player never want to stop exploring.
The new and improved Lara Croft
Lara Croft herself has received a makeover, as a younger, less-confident girl. As a prequel to the other games, it was important for developers to make the player feel as if she truly was becoming the Lara we all know and love. They succeeded ten times over. Nothing about the character felt forced in the least, and it was easy to get swept away by her charming innocence. Placed in compromising situations where she must learn to shoot-to-kill, Lara hones her craft as she makes her way through mysterious locations on an island that doesn’t seem to want her to leave.
Weapons throughout the game are gamer-friendly, with upgrades available at just about every turn. The bow and arrows are intensely fun, as opposed to other games that utilize these same weapons. The arrows can upgrade into flaming arrows, as well as gaining more strength capability to open up additional doors. Shotgun, rifle and handgun are all well-developed and easy to use in the smooth gameplay, with the changing of weapons easier than ever before.
The gameplay is wonderful; there’s not much more that one can ask for. Once again, it is highly reminiscent of the Uncharted series with climbing on ledges that are conveniently colored and Lara’s ability to scale walls without much effort. Lara moves swiftly with an incredible agility throughout the environment.
Where some games make gameplay so simple that it is not challenging, Tomb Raider ensures that the game is difficult enough to make it fun. In the world of the modern gamer where it’s expected to be stress-free, it is important for developers to not go to those lengths. Games need to be a trial and test of one’s skills; otherwise there is no point in gaming. To the credit of developers, there is no easy ride in this reboot of the series. Levels are challenging as well as the hordes of enemies trying to kill Lara.
Tomb Raider screenshot
As promised in the title, there are tombs to be raided. These puzzles are perfectly suited to stimulate the gamer’s intellect while providing a nice reprieve from killing enemies. In addition to the tombs, there are mini-games throughout the levels, such as find 10 GPS devices or burn five enemy banners. These mini-games encourage the player to interact on a deeper level with their environment.
The only criticism of Tomb Raider is that developers oddly left out the New Game + option. When the player is done with the game, they are done with the game. They can continue to explore the island to finish mini-games with random enemies popping out here and there, yet once those enemies are killed, they will appear no more. The player can start a new game, but they cannot take their upgraded weapons with them. If developers include the all-important New Game + option in the next installment and keep all the positives moving in a forward direction, they will have succeeded in creating the perfect game.
All in all, Tomb Raider has exceeded all expectations, anticipating everything that gamers could want from a game and then some (minus, of course, the New Game + option). As it stands for 2013, Tomb Raider is not just a game to run out and play; it is the game to beat for Game of the Year. Here’s hoping developers keep it up – and that other franchises take some lessons from Square Enix.
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