It feels kind of strange writing a “first impressions” piece on a game that came out almost a year ago. I got my copy in March, at the same time that Xenoblade Chronicles X had completely taken over my life, causing it to just sit on my shelf all this. So, the game may be pretty old by now, but it’s new to me. And since the PlayStation 4 release of the game was earlier this week, it’s new to a whole bunch of other people too. So, hey, why not? Here’s my first impressions of Rise of the Tomb Raider.I am not a fan of the older Tomb Raider games. There may have been great level design and interesting mechanics, I’ll never know. For me, I could never get past the controls. Those games had Resident Evil style tank controls. Unlike Resident Evil though, the camera wasn’t stationary, making having to hold “up” to move “forward” much more confusing. But then the Tomb Raider reboot came out. Originally, I ignored it. But after seeing tons of positive buzz, I decided to give it a try. I ended up absolutely loving it, and thus was very excited to play its sequel.So far, Rise of the Tomb Raider does not disappoint.
I’ve always been more of a “gameplay is more important than graphics” kind of guy, but it’s impossible to not be immediately blown away by the visuals. You start the game in Siberia, and the level of details in the mountains is incredible. Knee high snow, that Lara makes long paths through as she walks, and unforgiving wind make a convincingly awful place to be. The character models all look great and have incredibly detailed animations. My favorite that I noticed was Lara wringing out her ponytail after getting out of the water.
From a gameplay perspective, most of the ideas from the previous game carry over to this one. At it’s core, it’s an action platformer, much like Uncharted. But, the Tomb Raider games set themselves apart from that franchise by also being an open-world game. You have a huge world to explore, and while there’s a clear critical path through the story, there are tons of optional areas to explore. Those include side quests that have you performing specific actions in the areas you’re exploring, and entire tombs with unique puzzles to figure out.
As you probably would have expected, there’s a lot of combat in the game. It’s perfectly serviceable, although the aiming can be pretty finicky. It’s worth pointing out, however, that I’m playing on the default difficulty, which has no aim assist. The easier difficulty has it, but I don’t know how much it helps. What makes combat interesting is being able to craft different weapons on the fly. If you have cloth, which you’ll find plenty of, and then stumble onto a bottle of alcohol, holding down the right trigger will create a molotov cocktail. When using your bow and arrow, if you’re running low on ammo, holding down the right trigger will craft more arrows, assuming you have the materials.
Throughout your adventure, you’ll come across campfires, which serve as fast travel points. While you’re at the campfires, you can also spend skill points you’ve earned during combat to upgrade your skills. These can include entirely new mechanics, like special takedown attacks, or enhancements to your current abilities. Being able to upgrade your character goes a long way in making you attached to Lara.
Along with Lara’s skills, you can also upgrade your weapons. This is down with the crafting materials I mentioned earlier. Those materials are found just out in the field, like trees that give you wood. When you have the right materials, an icon will display while at the campfire menu that indicates that an upgrade is available. For the most part, these seem to just upgrade the weapons different stats, like the amount of damage it does or its rate of fire. This is pretty cool, but even in the early going I’m running into a pretty big issue. Not too long after you start, you get your second bow. Well, if I’m just going to get new and better versions of past weapons, why even bother upgrading the old ones?
The story in the first game wasn’t anything special. To be honest, I have a hard time remembering what even happened in that game. But so far, Rise of the Tomb Raider has a much better story, but it’s hard to say if it will keep going strong. It primarily revolves around Lara trying to find something called the Divine Source, something that her father went nuts trying to find. Unfortunately, a group called Trinity is also looking for it. Within the first couple hours, there’s already a pretty significant plot twist, that I obviously won’t give away here, but that alone pushed the game’s story further than the last one. Another good thing to consider is that the story isn’t really a continuation of the first one. Sure, it stars Lara Croft and it takes place after the events of the first game, but none of it really leads into this game. So, if you missed the first one, don’t worry about it. Just hop right on in. Or play the old one, it’s super good too. Just don’t think that you need to in order to enjoy this one.
I’m still in the early goings of the game, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Whether you were waiting for the PlayStation 4 release or just missed it the first time around, I really think it’s a game that should be checked out. Hopefully it’ll continue as strongly as it starts, because as of right now, I’m planning on spending a lot more time exploring Siberia.