Rise of The Tomb Raider review

I enjoyed the last Tomb Raider game so much that I bought it for the Xbox 360 and then again for the Xbox One. Unsurprisingly then, I’ve been a little bit excited about Rise of The Tomb Raider. After just under 20 hours of climbing, crafting and exploring I can finally give you my thoughts.

Rise of the Tomb Raider starts in Siberia with Lara and her friend from the last title, Jonah. They are on another adventure looking for an ancient city hidden somewhere within the snowy mountains. In typical Tomb Raider fashion the tension is high as the blizzard around them causes them to become separated. Here you’ll get a taste of how the game plays out with some dangerous jumps as you scale the sides of a mountain.

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After the excellent intro the game goes back in time to fill you in on why Lara and Jonah are in Siberia. You’ll head off briefly to Syria where you’ll get your first look at a what the new tombs have to offer, as well as a new gameplay mechanic – translation.

In true Tomb Raider Tradition, exploration is key, whether you are filling in parts of the story by picking up tape recorders that have been dropped, or hunting for wood to be used to create more arrows to use, there is always something to discover. Different locations have ancient tomes, notes, tablets and art that Lara can read that reveals extra information such as locations on maps. Read as much as possible, some items require a certain level of language knowledge to allow Lara to translate everything.

After making your way through the different puzzles that include all the different skills expected from Lara, you’ll end up back at Croft Manor to discover just why she needs to be in Siberia and once back in the snowy wilderness, the first thing you’ll notice is the way Lara has to wade through the deep snow, it slows her down and reduces what she can do, leaving you to look for different way to move around your environment.

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Throughout the game I stuck with my trusty bow, not only was it useful for silently taking out enemies, but it helped me create new opportunities by pulling apart weak structures and was also central to certain puzzles. There are plenty of other weapons to use during the game, all of which can be upgraded as long as you have the resources available. Just like the previous Tomb Raider, the action revolves around a hub area – the campfire – each one acting as a gateway to story sequences and optional challenge tombs. It’s here you can upgrade your weapons, and Lara herself. There are three abilities to upgrade, Brawler, Hunter and Survivor. Everything you do in-game, will earn you XP and each time you level up you are rewarded with a skill point to invest into one of your abilities.

The abilities range from being more resistant to fire and explosions to being able to craft resources more efficiently. Crafting is vital to your survival in the game and it’s handled in a very efficient way. Without having to pause the game or wait to go back to camp, you can use the right trigger or button to create extra ammo, including smoke grenades, Molotovs and explosives. You can also craft different types of arrow including fire, poison and explosives. The game almost forces you to try the different types out at first, but as long as you hold a combination of them in your invenmtory, you’ll have no problem surviving.

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The combat isn’t vastly different from the last game. Enemies are easy to defeat at first before they get wise to Lara and start to use shields and extra amour, but it’s nothing she can’t handle. Lara relies on stealth far more and has some excellent takedown moves. There are plenty of places to get into cover within the environment, although it can be frustrating if you are found no matter how far away you move from the enemies – they seem to have a knack of hunting you down – it’s kill or be killed.

The different puzzles you come across are great. Clicking on the right stick will highlight everything around you that you can make use of and Lara will give you hints if you get stuck. It was rare I actually needed her advice, it would have been great to be able to turn them off within the settings. The different tombs are fantastic and are well worth taking the time to play through.

The story this time is much better than the previous game, it feels more gritty and every time I thought I was nearing the end, something else came along. The different locations are excellent, and the game looks stunning – the screenshots really don’t do the locations justice. The subtle movements Lara makes when getting out of water, or warming her hands as she stands near fire help show the attention to detail, making the game feel like a living thing. Of course some of the action sequences are a little predictable – that ledge was going to crumble as I leapt over to it – but it never reduced my enjoyment or failed to highten my anticipation of falling. The game clocked in at around 16 hours, with a completion level of 61%. After the game ends you can fast travel around the different camps to collect anything you may have missed.

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There is no multiplayer in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but there is still plenty to do away from the campaign. Expedition mode is an excellent way of playing the different chapters of the game while earning bragging rights against your friends as you score the most points.

There are four modes to play, Score Attack, where you have  finish in the quickest time possibly while chaining scores by killing enemies and collecting items. Then there is Chapter Replay and Chapter Replay Elite, the latter allowing you to carry over your upgraded skills and weapons. Finally Remnant Resistance sets you five objectives to complete in different areas. All the modes can have cards applied to them. Challenge cards set you tasks such as not dying or taking damage, or for scoring a certain amount of head shots within a certain time. There are also modifiers that increase Lara’s abilities, giving her extra weapons and there’s one card that gives everyone a massive head! Coins can be earned that can be used to purchase more card packs to use across this mode.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic game, with a much improved story, some great new mechanics and it’s set in some superb environments. Expedition mode is a great addition and I’m already excited for the next game – it’s easily the best Tomb Raider ever!

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

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