Friday, March 8, 2013

These Tombs Aren't Going to Raid Themselves

"I hate tombs." - Lara Croft
There certainly have been a lot of bad Tomb Raider games over the years. I only really enjoyed the very first one as it was so unique and ground breaking for its time in storytelling, game play and graphics. Most of the games since have gotten lost in Lara's sexuality and/or felt more like Lara 'James Bond' Croft instead of a female Indiana Jones.

The latest edition, simply titled "Tomb Raider," goes back to the roots, actually before the roots. This is Lara on her first adventure, before she is a bad ass. She's ship wrecked on a "Lost" or "Arrow" style island full of ancient mysteries with supernatural events and bizarre human cults. The premise isn't new, but that doesn't matter. The game is just fun and is something that both fans of the original and those new to Lara's exploits should seriously consider playing.

Why? Follow me after the break...

What makes the game really work is the story telling, acting, and above all a level of cinematography I'm not sure we've ever seen in a video game before. The camera is so expertly controlled, panned and zoomed in an out you feel the claustrophobia of squeezing through a cave and the vertigo of hanging from a rope on a windy cliff face. Not just cut scenes but this kind of camera work happens during game play and creates an extremely immersive experience.
Tight fit
Because of this immersion it is easy empathize with the protagonist. I really like that Lara is not a bad ass. You can't help but feel for her as she sits there shivering by the fire narrating an audio journal entry while you try to pick the best way to upgrade your bow or where to spend your skill points. Even while performing mundane tasks like selecting new skills you always feel like you are on that island, trapped, cold, and all too often: alone. It's dark and gritty, yet still somehow has those Indiana Jones moments of "can this day get any worse?"
Lara tries to stay warm while you pick skills and upgrades

In short: I think this is a really unique game experience that repackages the essence of the very first Tomb Raider in a highly polished and refreshingly new way. I'd love to compare it to other games to give you a feel but I can't. It's too different. It's essentially a stealth, action, puzzle game, but more than all of that, it's an experience.

Great, great game. Now if you'll excuse me, these tombs aren't going to raid themselves.

1 comment:

  1. I'll probably pick this up at Game Stop once it's sufficiently cheap but, like you, I only really enjoyed the first installment.

    After all the bad games, bad movies and boobs, my interest level in this is middling, at best.

    It's getting a lot good press, though, so that's hopeful.