Tomb Raider Review

Tomb Raider – 2013

Let me preface this first review by saying that I don’t often actually finish games. I pick up many games, blast through a chunk of the story in one sitting, play it once or twice more, then leave it half-finished. This is because most games introduce all the key and engaging gameplay and narrative elements in the first act and start to seriously drag from the middle onwards (in contrast to most other forms of media).

At least I finished Tomb Raider. For all the hate I’m about to dump on the game, it was engaging and paced well-enough for me to at least want to see the damn thing through.

Well then, Tomb Raider. Where to begin? Ah yes, the characters.

The “characters” are hardly even that. They are lifeless, soulless human voids of personality which exist as fodder to presumably give Lara (and in turn, the player) the impression that she isn’t completely invincible. The entire plot is an awfully uncreative, safe rehash of Indiana-Jones-like films and previous Croft games. It is immediately evident that a specific character exists solely to betray Lara and provide plot-twists, while others are there to be generally useless and let Lara do all the work until it comes time for them to get off their backsides and die. In terms of character development and action, the narrative plays out with the quality of a very poor horror movie.

The game seems to take itself fairly seriously at first, but when you’re eventually confronted with Lara spewing forth various quips and war cries while destroying an army of zombie samurais, it makes for a rather jarring experience. These zombie samurai are apparently protecting a dead Sun Queen they’re trying to resurrect who still holds enough power to conveniently zap helicopters down by conjuring storms out of thin air. Really? REALLY?

What am I doing in this game? How did I get here? I no good with computer!

I wouldn’t mind if the game could just bloody well make up it’s mind. The narrative has a serious identity crisis about a quarter in, which continues throughout the remainder of the story. Does it want to be a serious character study, and immerse the character in bleak, isolating environments? Or a stock-standard Indiana-Jones, light-hearted adventure romp? Or a completely ridiculous, over-the-top thrill-ride, requiring the player to suspend disbelief in order to become engaged? The game is some of, or all of these things at times.

Gameplay mechanics are contrived and messy. Lara starts off with a bow, desperately hunting animals in order to survive. Eventually she acquires the most versatile pick-axe of all time which wouldn’t have felt out of place in MacGyver. Weapons and upgrades are drip-fed to the player after completing sections of the island which serve to unlock further areas (oh NOW Lara can rock-climb slightly rougher sections of conveniently placed craggy rock! Or, now you can zip-line across rope bridges you just constructed with your bow!).

Again, the game couldn’t make up it’s mind if it wanted to be a Tomb Raider game, Zelda/Darksiders (which a lot of the adventure style game elements are reminiscent of), or a generic third-person shooter.  And don’t even get me started on the horrible Quick-Time Events. Bleh.

Which leads me to the biggest fuck-up of the game. The actual act of raiding tombs is optional. That’s right, you can play Tomb Raider without ever actually having to raid a tomb. The game is linear the whole way through, the only exception being that you can traverse areas you have been through before and raid “optional” tombs and engage in a dull, boring, meandering collect-a-thon of items which seem added as an afterthought. The puzzles are incredibly simple, both in the Tombs and throughout the bulk of the game.

Optional tombs? WHYYYYYYYYY?

If the developers decided they wanted to include optional tombs, the very least they could have done is put some effort into constructing challenging, deep and complex puzzles for the player to solve. Instead, we got one-dimensional puzzles with such simple solutions requiring little thought or logical reasoning. Is the average gamer really that stupid? It’s beyond insulting.

While I -obviously- dislike many aspects of the gameplay, narrative and character development, the game is undeniably visually spectacular. The environment is rich and detailed, and the action set-pieces are often absolutely gorgeous.

Likewise, the soundtrack, environment sounds and SFX are rather immersive and well produced. While the voice-acting was lacklustre, I’m not sure whether this is due to poor vocal talent or just the abysmal script. I’ll give the actors the benefit of the doubt.

While I disliked the forced gameplay mechanics which linearised player action and exploration, animations and controls feel remarkably smooth and responsive. Lara is a joy to control and move around the world, and begins to feel like a real extension of the player.

Hunting Bow – Best Railgun of all time.

At the end of the day, Crystal Dynamic’s Tomb Raider is fantastic from a technological perspective – the visuals, sfx, animations and controls blend well to create an immersive tactile experience. It’s just a damn shame that the actual game itself was so contrived, forced and ultimately bland and forgettable. Tomb Raider could have been a great game if it had a better script, believable characters, rich dialogue, complex puzzles and a more rewarding conclusion. Unfortunately, the end result is so completely mediocre.

Good:

- Visuals

- Soundtrack

- Controls + Animations

- Environment design + set-pieces

Bad:

- Abysmal Script

- Horrible characters/character development

- Contrived gameplay mechanics + linearity

- Frustrating QTE’s

- Optional Tombs

- Puzzles

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12 thoughts on “Tomb Raider Review

  1. This is the most honest and well written review of this game to have ever existed. Fuck the hype. When a game sucks, we aren’t just talking about the contrived graphics. The story rips everything apart in one way or another.

    But, honestly, yes the intelligence of the average gamer is indeed this low. Where a hardcore game experience is nigh-impossible because of excessive handholding and contrived gameplay mechanics to make the gaming experience ‘easier’ rather than more challenging at later levels.

    • valiant says:

      Thanks for the feedback! I’ve finally got some more spare time to play the newer titles out now, and will put up some more similarly critical reviews soon.

  2. Tja Poeh says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I used to be a fan of the Tomb Raider series, because of the well designed puzzles and equally well designed tombs. I never cared for any of the shooting (you have shooters for that) so I always used to set the difficulty to “as simple as possible”. For my part they could have omitted the baddies altogether.
    The new Tomb Raider has lost all its puzzles, the tombs are lame, and the game has become a shooter.with extremely annoying “click this key at exactly the right moment or else you’re dead” scenes.
    Biggest disappointment ever.
    Oh, and another thing: third person perspective can be very annoying. Half the time Lara is just blocking the view. Why not add a feature so you can switch between first and third person view? (And what happened to the second person anyway?).

    • Stormwatch says:

      Second person is “you”, so a second-person game would take the point of view of the subject of the action. That is, the enemy that you fight. Remember the first boss from “Battletoads”? Something like that.

  3. Mike Moody says:

    Well I hate to be the one that pop’s your bubble, but I really liked the game. But also this is the only Tomb Raider game I have played. Everything in it was just what I was looking for. Graphics, Characters, Control and the Puzzles. I’m not a big fan of “3rd Person” but this one worked out real good for me (kind of like Hitman). This game to me had Action/Adventure/Shooter/and RPG all wrapped up into 1 game. NICE…..

    Oh and Tja Poeh the 2nd Person is the one your are shooting at. :)

    • angie says:

      That is your trouble! You never played any Tomb Raider games before this one. If you had then you would know how bad this one is compared to the past ones.

  4. Blu mann says:

    I refer you to the follow Video where we discuss the suck of tomb Raider

    • angie says:

      well i now own every Tomb Raider game made before this one i have loved them all the puzzles, the tombs, a girl that is the star of a game a very strong girl but when i read about how they were going to change her i knew it was over its like if you make a game about superman and take away his powers and his suit and still call it superman if he has no powers he is not super i knew from the start when i read about what the game was going to be like they would kill Lara (R.I.P) and they have my friend brought the game and i only watch her play it for a while but she never liked it either and just stopped so as for me i will just play my old games over and over for that is the real Lara Croft and i dont know who this new person is burt it sure is not Lara

  5. It’s enormous that you are getting ideas from this piece of writing as well as from our dialogue made at this time.

  6. colin says:

    Reblogged this on smash.the.game.state and commented:
    Smash.the.game.state readers, please enjoy the following dissenting opinion from another wordpress blog.

  7. Dark says:

    Wow m8, I was feeling left out. Recently got the game and I am struggling to finish it cause of boredom. This is the 2nd (or maybe 3rd) worst tomb raider I have played. Terrible game, so much combat, dying of boredom cause she kills 100s of people in an hour, and there is no peace for more than 3 minutes before another barrage of killing. And the amount of on rail section and her needless torture sections get boring after a bit, near the repairing boat area and can’t take no more. How the hell did you get the motivation to finish the damn game.

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