Tomb Raider (2013, Xbox One)

Lara Croft, One of the most recognisable names in gaming history. Mentioning her name or the games she is famous for, being Tomb Raider, stirs up feelings of adventure, danger, mystery and the need to explore. Ever since Lara Croft made her debut in 1996 with the original Tomb Raider, she has been an absolute powerhouse in the gaming industry. So, back in 2013 Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics decided to reboot our heroine and what a job they done.

Don’t lock the butler in the freezer!

Tomb Raider as I have said is known for its exploration and adventure and the reboot is no different. The game takes place on an island called Yamatai, off the coast of Japan. Yamatai and the surrounding area is known for being battered by storms, so exploration was never really an option before. This didn’t stop Lara and her crew. Saying that, during the game you will run into evidence of Portuguese traders, United States Marines and Imperial Japanese Army all being on this island at some point in history, though how they got there is a mystery you will have to uncover! The island was once ruled by a woman named Himiko. The tribe of people she ruled called her the Sun Queen because apparently she could control the weather. Himiko ended up dying which started a lot of crazy events on the island of Yamatai.

Lara sets out for Yamatai with her crew aboard a ship but along the way the ship is hit by a deadly storm which ends up capsizing and destroying the ship. Lara eventually washes up on a mysterious beach. Lara sees her crew on top of a hill and calls out for them before being punched and knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant. Lara awakens in a cave dangling in the air though she eventually escapes the cave to the outside, where the storm has calmed.

Lara eventually starts to wander around the harsh landscape of the island and finds a walkie talkie and a camcorder that shows Lara and her crew talking about the upcoming expedition on board the ship. After some more gameplay and scavenging, Lara finds her friend, Sam and a new person who calls himself Mathias. Mathias is injured and he uses a crutch to walk around. Sam, Lara and Mathias all sit around a campfire while Sam tells the story of the legend of Himiko. During this Lara goes to sleep, probably from exhaustion.

Sam and Lara: Best Friends Forever!

Lara wakes up to see that both Sam and Mathias are gone, but she eventually meets up with the rest of her crew but not before Lara nearly gets her foot amputated by a bear trap and eaten by a pack of wolves. Lara explains about Sam going missing and the group come to a decision that Lara and another crew member, Whitman, will go looking for yet another missing crew member called Roth while the rest of them go looking for Sam and Mathias.

While Whitman and Lara are searching they find a temple of sorts devoted to the worship of Himiko which confirms that they are indeed on the island of Yamatai. Inside they encounter what looks to be mercenary type men, and while Whitman has his gun pointed at them, he eventually drops his gun saying that he only wants peace, which ends up with Lara and Whitman becoming hostages to the mercenaries.

They don’t look too welcoming!

The group attempts an escape which forces the mercenaries to go after them, though Lara still has ropes around her hands which make her effectively useless. Lara has to sneak around all the mercenaries who are on the hunt for her and her group until she eventually gets caught by the head leader of this mercenary group. Lara and the leader have a bit of back and forth blows, the attacker drops a gun which Lara has to use to kill him. After trying to escape and killing some more mercenaries, Lara eventually finds her friend and mentor, Roth who is wounded.

Lara had to put this dog down!

Lara helps Roth to a safe location and Roth tells her that she needs to go and contact the outside world to get help. After some more camcorder watching to give more a background on the crew, Lara sets off on her travels. She eventually finds an old bunker that she hopes still has a way of communicating to the outside world. Lara, after killing a few more mercenaries makes it to the control room of the bunker, but nothing is working. Roth tells her she will have to climb the mast and manually communicate with the outside world through a radio on top of the mast. The mast is two things, extremely tall and extremely rusty, but Lara makes the climb anyway nearly killing herself once or twice. She eventually contacts the outside world and a plane comes to rescue them. But just as the plane gets close to the island, a storm brews up and lightning hits the plane, making it crash almost killing Lara in the process.

Lara tries to make her way to the crash site where she finds the pilot battling with mercenaries. Lara makes it just in time to see a mercenary stab and kill the pilot. Another pilot contacts Lara through the walkie talkie but he can’t hear Lara on his end. The pilot deploys smoke which Lara can see and she makes her way towards the pilot, though it ends up being a trap by the mercenaries, who are lead by Mathias, also they’re not mercenaries at all, they are a devout cult who worship Himiko and they call themselves, the Solarii Brotherhood. As Lara gets punched and almost knocked out, she witnesses what looks to be samurai slaughtering Lara’s attackers while the men scream about the Oni being there.

The Samurai called Oni

Lara wakes up hanging from the ceiling by her hands and surrounded by dead, rotting corpses all around her. Lara gets out of the ropes and falls on the ground and realises that the Oni are the ones who brought her here, and they are still here. Lara has to sneak around to escape the Oni, which she does. Lara makes it to a room with a few murals on the wall detailing how Himiko has to use a ritual called the Ascension to transfer her power from one vessel to another. While this is going on, the Solarii brotherhood catch up to Lara and chase her before alerting the Oni which ends up chasing all of them.

Lara eventually escapes from all the danger and is contacted through her walkie talkie by Sam who explains to her that she stole her walkie talkie off a guard and she is being held against her will and that the guards keep talking about fire rituals, when it dawns on Lara that Sam is to become the next vessel for Himiko. Sam tells Lara that she is locked in a Japanese temple which Lara says she is close to. Lara struggles to make herself towards the temple, even injuring herself on the way. Lara makes her way to the bridge of the temple but it is covered with guards. Roth tells Lara that he will cover her with a sniper rifle while she makes her way across the bridge, which she eventually does.

The journey to rescue a friend.

Inside, Lara sees that Mathias has Sam tied up with a stack of wood built around her. Mathias is about to perform the fire ritual in front of the cult. Lara attempts to free Sam but gets captured while Mathias lights the fire. The fire doesn’t hurt Sam though and a divine wind swoops down and puts out the fire. This proves to Mathias that Sam is indeed the chosen one, meant to be the new vessel for Himiko. Lara gets taken away by the guards where she sees that her crew are also captured.

Lara sees Whitman walking around the temple who explains to her that when the Solarii didn’t see him as a threat they didn’t bother with him and let him do his own thing. He said he knew the other members of the crew were captured but he couldn’t do anything for them. He told Lara to go and free Sam while he stays on lookout.

Lara rescues Sam but as they are leaving the temple, they see Whitman tied up who tells them to run as Mathias and the Solarii chase after them. The temple starts to break up in the ensuing battle and Sam and Lara get separated by a collapsed roof. Lara has to fight her way through all the guard in and outside the temple where there is a helicopter on the way to rescue the crew, to Lara’s horror. Lara sees that Roth is already on the helicopter, but she has no choice to jump from a platform onto it where she begs Roth to land the helicopter as the island won’t let anyone leave. The pilot refuses to land which leads to Lara drawing a gun on the pilot forcing him to land, before a lightning strike hits the helicopter and downs it anyway.

A leap of faith

Roth realises that Lara isn’t breathing and almost dies before reviving her. Lara is standing and hugging Roth before Mathias appears and throws an axe which Roth takes in the back to save Lara. Lara tells the rest of the crew to get to the wreckage of their former ship, the Endurance which washed up on the beach and she will meet them there. After some more exploring, Lara eventually meets up with the group who have found a boat that needs repairs. Suddenly, Whitman runs out of the forest screaming and shooting behind him, though no one is after him. Whitman says he was running for ages but Lara notices he is not even sweating.

Lara goes to the wreckage of the Endurance to find the tools needed to repair the boat. There, she is ambushed by more Solarii. She finds one of the crew members, Alex trapped under some wreckage which she can’t lift. Alex tells Lara to run while he shoots the fuel tank and kills himself and all of the Solarii attacking her, which she reluctantly does. Lara makes it back to the remaining crew with the tools but tells the crew that they can’t leave because the island won’t let them and that they need to face whatever is on the island. The crew bar Sam said they are leaving with or without Lara.

Lara goes to find out what is the problem on the island and sees a samurai who committed ritual suicide or seppuku. Inside the samurai’s sword hilt there is a note which tells the story of his failure to Himiko. Himiko’s vessel killed herself with Himiko’s soul still inside, so Himiko is trapped in a dead body looking for a way out. Because of this Himiko’s anger is causing the storms on the island. While Lara is making her way back to the crew, Sam contacts her that they are under attack by the Solarii. When she gets there, the crew tell her that Whitman took Sam back to Mathias.

Whitman, Why?!

When Mathias, Whitman and Sam get to the temple they see that it is guarded by samurai. Mathias tells Whitman to get and talk to the samurai and see if they will let them through, knowing full well the samurai will kill Whitman, which they do. Mathias uses this to run past the samurai with Sam. Lara sneaks her way in while having to contend with samurai and the divine wind of Himiko trying to stop her from making it to the temple. When Lara is inside she realises that Himiko is not transferring her power to vessels but transferring her soul which means she destroys the soul of the previous vessel.

Lara makes her way up to the top of the temple where the ritual is about to commence. There she in confronted by another Oni which she kills. Mathias begins the ritual and Lara gets into a fight with him which ends up with Mathias being killed by Lara repeatedly shooting him with two handguns as a tribute to the old Tomb Raider games. Lara stab Himiko through the heart which destroys Himiko and calms all the storms on the island and also, in turn saves Sam. Lara carries Sam back to the boat and the crew and Lara leave the island. END OF STORY.

The last shot of the game

Now to the game and all its qualities. This was an excellent action/adventure game. I had serious fun playing this from the moment I picked it up to when I left it down. There was so much to do from survival, hunting dangerous animals, crafting cool weapons and items, exploring captivating and interesting locations to fighting in tense and thrilling combat. The story really pulled me in and while some of it was quite obvious and done to death such as me knowing that Mathias was the bad guy from the get go and that Sam would have something to do with Himiko, the story still felt fresh and it done a really good job of pulling me in and keeping me interested.

The graphics were absolutely astounding. The landscape changes so much in this game from thick, dense jungles, to snowy mountain tops and with each place I was in, I felt like I was there. The dark, murky, water filled caves and the divine wind blasted mountain tops really came alive for me and just added to the excitement and wonder that was the locations in this game. The character models looked really excellent too with some of my favourite being Lara herself and the samurai. Graphically there is nothing bad I can say about this game.

The sounds themselves are fine, nothing to really speak about. Guns sound fine and the action scenes are top notch. The voice acting is really on par. Camilla Luddington does a great job of voicing Lara. She has a compassionate and caring voice, but can be strong and fierce at the same time. I also have to mention that Robert Craighead done a great job voicing the antagonist Mathias.

The soundtrack, composed by Jason Graves, whose work includes Dead Space, Until Dawn and the Man of Medan, really knocked it out of the park with the soundtrack. There are some very soulful pieces of music in it, to action packed and exhilarating tracks that are used at the right time to convey what is happening. The soundtrack isn’t too in your face either and it allows you to enjoy it without becoming the main thing you’re focusing on in the cutscenes or gameplay.

Tomb Raider also has a multiplayer mode which seems to stem away from the usual tropes of death match games. The multiplayer seems to rely more on exploration, traps and picking your opportunities to strike.

Overall a really remarkable game and an outstanding reboot to the series, which done so well that it lead on to two sequels which I will be covering at some point. A well though out story story, beautiful locations and graphics, tense combat and action and an absolute thrill to play from start to finish.

So after all of that I think it is finally time to get into the scoring of the game:

Graphics: Fascinating and captivating locations. Characters and other assets look great: 9/10

Sound: A very interesting soundtrack and one that knows when and where to be effective: 8/10

Game play: Good exploration, a bit of a collectathon which can go on a bit, tense action. Overall very enjoyable and appealing gameplay: 9/10

Worth: Yes! An excellent and very faithful reboot. 10/10

Story: Good story, not great though with the twists being quite obvious, but it’s still interesting. 7/10

Total: 86/100 B+

I hope you enjoyed my review and as always, thanks for reading!