Whether you’re a gamer or not Lara Croft has been one of the most recognizable video game characters since her first introduction to gamers in 1996’s Tomb Raider, and movies based on the games, starring Angelina Jolie, followed in 2001. Crystal Dynamics’s 2013 game Tomb Raider, and published by Square Enix, sought to refresh the series by giving Lara an origin story, and serves as a wonderful entry point for those who may not have ever played a Tomb Raider game before.
Lara joins her first expedition aboard the vessel Endurance, captained by her long-time mentor and guardian Conrad Roth, to find the lost kingdom of Yamatai. The ship gets caught up in a treacherous storm that leaves the entire expedition and crew shipwrecked and stranded on an island they soon discover is Yamatai. Danger lurks on every corner as Lara and the remaining survivors must fight their way through violent cultists known as the Solarii Brotherhood and an ancient curse that won’t allow anyone to leave the island.
As the first ever Tomb Raider I’ve ever played, I loved every second of Crystal Dynamics’s 2013 game. It always felt like I was watching an interactive movie, and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Playing as Lara, before she became the badass adventurer with the double pistols, really grounds her character as an ordinary young woman who eventually grew into the legend she became.
I’ve always enjoyed origin stories because you get to learn the circumstances or the pivotal moments in people’s lives that shaped them into who they are now. The fact that this Lara Croft was a frightened, unsure woman who had to literally fight and claw her way out of the terrifying situations she was put in makes her more relatable as a character, rather than this larger than life person who already knew what to do and did it with a finesse and fearlessness that seemed almost effortless.
The gameplay is fun with an array of weapons to choose from to determine the best ways to approach a wave of enemies. Sometimes the bow and arrow worked best when you’re trying to reach enemies who are at a distance from you, or maybe whipping out the climbing axe might be suitable for fights where your targets are up close. I very rarely stuck to one weapon alone, finding it better to switch things around to adapt to the rapidly changing battles. The wave of enemies can be intense and overwhelming, but if you’re strategic in your approach, you’ll be able to get through them.
I played the game on Normal and there were times the waves were just annoying. The game really keeps you on your toes and pushes you to think about how to overcome them. Luckily, you gradually gain new weapon upgrades and skill points throughout the game that helps make your weapons, and finishing moves with them, stronger to withstand the challenging foes you meet later in the game.
One of my favorite parts about Tomb Raider is finding the many notes and relics scattered across different parts of the island. While I didn’t collect everything, despite utilizing the Survivor Instinct feature and the map, the ones I did find offered some interesting insight about the Endurance crew, the Solarii, the history of the island and its people, and the prior survivors of the island that never made it off Yamatai. These collectibles further enriches the larger story of the game, armed with the knowledge Lara discovers during her adventures.
The story is deeply engrossing and visceral that I often found it difficult to pull myself away from the game. From Lara’s constant threat on her life to the sacrifices people have made to ensure Lara succeeds in finding a way off the island, Tomb Raider is one of those video games you want to know what will happen next. Unsurprisingly, not everyone from the Endurance crew makes it off the island with Lara, but some of those deaths are plenty devastating because of how emotionally attached you get to some of them.
Tomb Raider is a stunning, adrenaline ride of a game from start to finish. After completing my first experience with Lara Croft I look forward to playing the subsequent games in the very near future.
Reviewer Rating: 10/10