I was getting a bit tired of Assassin’s Creed Revelations, so I took a short break and finally played Tomb Raider, which I had gotten in a Steam sale. There’s no doubt it’s one of the best games of 2013.
For the record, I’ve never been a fan of the Tomb Raider games. Originally, they were largely nothing more than jumping puzzles, but honestly I haven’t played any of the hundreds of TR games since the original few, so I’m not sure what they’ve evolved into. All I know is that 2013 Tomb Raider bears no resemblance to the Tomb Raiders I remember.
The new Tomb Raider plays almost exactly like Uncharted, which is not surprising since Uncharted was clearly a derivative of earlier versions of Tomb Raider. (Both of which are descended in some way from the Indiana Jones franchise.)
There are basically three elements to the game: The evolving story, solving jumping and logic puzzles, and shooting bad guys. Oh, and some exploration to find hidden things if you want, but that’s optional. There aren’t really any “tombs” involved, per se, unless you do some optional side quests.
The game delivers on those main three elements almost perfectly. The story was great, the puzzles were great, and the shooting was great. The puzzles were not exactly difficult, but I expect that is by design. Unlike Bioshock Infinite, when I was always anxious to get past the “game part” to get back to the “story part,” I almost never felt like the gameplay was a chore. (With one exception noted below.)
There was only one part of the game that annoyed me, which I have to get off my chest. Toward the end, when the pace of the story was picking up, and everything was clearly driving toward the final confrontation at an accelerating pace, you come into this room where you had to figure out how to work a combination of levers and jump on things to get through a hole in the wall. Up to this point, most of the puzzles had been fairly straightforward. I struggled a bit until Lara herself gave me a hint (she does that now and then), then I smacked myself in the head and moved the big thingy down into the right position so I could jump through the hole up there … except I couldn’t jump that far. Then I realized you had to get the big thingy swinging, jump onto it, then jump over to the wall, scramble up and through the hole. I knew in my head exactly how it should go. But getting Lara to actually do those steps took many, many tries. You have to time the jumps just right, execute the scrambles just right, and grab the ledges just right. It drives me absolutely crazy when a game forces you to executes moves just right before you can proceed. I am not 12 years old anymore. I do not have nearly enough patience to sit and do the same tasks over and over and over again until I get it right. (Honestly I don’t think I liked it much when I was 12, either.) And all the while, in the unfolding story, Lara is supposed to be getting into this place to stop something from happening before it’s too late. And she’s stuck in this stupid room, running and jumping and climbing over and over again. “Hold on, evil bad guy, just wait, let me get through this door, just a minute, almost there, almost got it.” Arg! I get why they would save the harder puzzles for the end, but it killed the pace of the story.
Other than that, the game was awesome. It’s a pretty brutal story though. It’s not a light-hearted adventure romp like you might expect from a Tomb Raider game. It’s more of a survival horror type of game to be honest. There’s blood and guts and corpses everywhere.