I recently finished playing through the new Tomb Raider. When I first heard that Square Enix were commissioning a reboot of the series, I was quietly cautious. The series had definitely run its course, but sometimes reboots just serve to spoil the good memories of the original. Exploring Lara’s origins was an intriguing concept, and apart from a really predictable story, the experience was very enjoyable.
At first I was a little concerned about the level design. Areas were tight and felt very contained. Finding the first few secret items and collectables was trivial and the whole experience felt very linear. As the story began to unfold, the level concepts played out rather well, with Lara returning to previously visited places but with new equipment that allowed her to enter otherwise inaccessible areas. It gave the island a more familiar feel that rewarded exploration and attention to detail.
One major gripe, besides the thoroughly predictable plot, was the “survival instincts” mechanic wherein Lara could see the answer to almost any puzzle simply by pressing the Q key. Even if you refrain from using the mechanic directly, Lara will start issuing verbal hints within just a few minutes. Hearing things like “perhaps I need to open both valves and then turn the crank” detracts a bit from the problem-solving experience.
The graphics are absolutely amazing, some of the best I’ve ever seen. The textures, lighting, and environmental effects looked absolutely spot on. I’d often stop to just look around with the camera and take in all of the details. It really adds to the feeling that you’re exploring an exotic island that was lost in time. Each of the areas have a very distinct theme and the artwork feels so consistent. The art team must have lived and breathed the environment they had created. Every detail felt polished and thoughtful. It creates a special feeling of a world created just for your enjoyment. That alone makes up for the lackluster story and odd side missions.
The whole experience lasted a little over twenty hours. I still have a few collectible items to clean up and I might revisit some areas just to look around some more, but for the most part it’s over. That’s still a short game in my mind, but seems to be the norm these days. On the whole though, this is one I’ll remember. I’d highly recommend getting and playing Tomb Raider if you have a spare weekend and want to enjoy a fairly easy but very pretty game.
I’ve heard that SqEnix are considering a sequel. If they do I’d definitely put it on my list. If they can bring the same attention to detail a second time around, then perhaps the existing engine and media assets will allow more time for content creation. Even another twenty hours in the same formula would be worth it to me. I wouldn’t mind some trickier puzzles and I’d love a way to disable Lara’s verbal hinting. A stronger reward system for finding hidden items would be welcome too. Either way I’d play it.