Saturday, November 14, 2015

Popcorn Jane: Tomb Raider

Title: Tomb Raider
Publisher: Square Enix

Pairs Well With: A Beer

PC box art from

Tomb Raider (2013) is an origin story/reboot of the original Tomb Raider series that started back in 1996. You play as Lara Croft in this game - a young woman explorer who is raw and untested, but full of guts and wit.  

The game takes place on the fictional island of Yamatai, somewhere off the coast of Japan. Lara is part of a crew on a ship looking for the mythical “sun goddess,” Himiko. This voyage is being funded by a washed-out TV personality looking for a break that will get him back to a life of fame and fortune.

After crash landing on Yamatai, thanks to a freak storm, Lara finds herself physically separated from the rest of the crew. After finding a radio, she manages to get guidance and advice from her mentor, the captain of the ship, and various other crew members as they chime in. The longer Lara is on the island, the stranger the it seems to be. The weather is strange - as if it’s being commanded, or possibly has a life of its own. There are native peoples and obvious thugs or mercenaries - the latter of these are clearly trying to kill Lara and her friends. Somewhat quickly it becomes obvious to the player that Lara’s task is not only to survive in order to get off the island, but she will also need to discover what the secret of the island - and Himiko - is.

This game is incredibly absorbing and beautifully written. Not only are the graphics and controls superb, but the voice actors are very believable. At times, I forgot I was playing a game and was absorbed in the story alone. One of my favorite mechanics or quirks about the game is the journal entry that appears once Lara finds a new camp site for the first time. This reveals personalities and character developments for many of Lara’s crewmates as well as bits of Lara’s history.

Lara, herself, is a wonderful character. In this game, she is young, naive, and full of optimism that is tempered by pragmatism. She’s a very intelligent young woman who ably adapts to the situations she is constantly thrown into. For instance, she finds an old bow from a set of bones in the forest, restrings it, and creates her own arrows in order to hunt for food. It’s a game mechanic, but it’s also totally believable that she is able to finagle upgrades for her various weapons - a scope or silencer for her guns, durability and various types of arrows for her bow (i.e. fire or explosive arrows), a stronger pick to help her get up mountains.  

For those of us who like to solve puzzles, there are plenty of those in the game as well - the best way to get across a chasm, or climb up the side of a fortress, or how to get to an elusive chest. These are all presented as different types of puzzles, which are very satisfying to solve.

This game, also, is a coming-of-age story for Lara. When she arrives on the island, she is raw and untested.  However, by the time she leaves, she is a completely different woman - enduring your first kill and the death of your mentor/father-figure will do that to one, I would expect.  
Why I Like This Game: Lara is a very relatable character and, having grown up on the original Tomb Raider games, it was only natural I wanted to play this one. Not only was it a fun shoot-em up, but I got to stealth around. Whatever play-style suits you is totally acceptable - and encouraged! - in this game.

Why You Should Give This Game a Shot: As an origin story, you don’t need to know anything of the original games in the series to play or enjoy it. And, if you’re in the mood for a game with puzzles, a decent amount of action, and a completely engaging story, this is one you absolutely must give a try.

Interested? You can find it on the Steam store for the PC, or at Amazon for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.  :)


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