Lara Croft. A truly iconic British gaming character. I remember, whilst out drinking in Derby many years ago, demanding to visit “Lara Croft Way” in order to get a photo with the road sign. This, of course, is because developer Core worked hard creating the original series there. And no, you can’t see the photo.
Back at the beginning, in 1996, it’s easy to forget the original Tomb Raider actually launched first on the Sega Saturn. Yep, it’s true. Around a month later, the game was released for the PlayStation and from there it really took off. The blend of exploration and combat, strung together with well-known myths and legends, made for a gripping adventure. Not to mention the brave, and sometimes sassy, female lead.
Lara has been on so many adventures over the years but they haven’t all been great – remember Angel of Darkness anyone? However, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a true contender for her best trip out to date. Despite the excellent Tomb Raider remake that was released before it, Rise manages to do the rarest of things. That is, provide a sequel that manages to build upon what the original got right, improving it in pretty much every way.
After the horrific ordeal Lara survived in Tomb Raider, she found herself struggling to come to terms with her experience. If you hunted down all of the collectibles in the original, you will have earned a “reveal”. This was essentially the name of the shady organisation who had taken an interest in the same mysterious island as Lara. Trinity.
Happily, Rise of the Tomb Raider was bold enough to reveal much more about Trinity and their aims, and provided Lara with an arch enemy in Konstantin. What followed was a cat and mouse race to acquire “the Divine Source”. In the process, Lara discovered much more about her past and her father’s fate.
The explorable “hub” areas made a comeback, and were bigger than in the first game. They were stuffed with more hidden collectibles, materials and wildlife to hunt. The game was brilliantly designed and looked really pretty, especially on Xbox One X.
There were also more challenge tombs and side missions to beat, often containing valuable rewards at the end. Overall, tombs were bigger and more complex than in the first game, offering satisfying puzzle platforming elements aside from the main adventure.
However, the high octane “on-rails” chase sequences were my personal highlight. They were back with a bigger bang than before. Whether it was hopping across burning buildings collapsing around Lara, or dodging helicopter missiles, she was a tough cookie that wouldn’t go down without a fight.
She also acquired an even more impressive amount of weaponry and equipment throughout Rise of the Tomb Raider, learning to craft more materials to make certain items and ammunition. As before, you’ll have needed to head back to base camp to change your equipment. These camps also doubled up as fast travel locations, as in the first game. As I say, everything that made the first game work so well was present, albeit being bigger and better than before.
Lara has come an awful long way since appearing on Lucozade bottles and having her cleavage compared for realism across the early years (yes, this was a regular magazine feature back in the day). Rise of the Tomb Raider charted her coming of age, growing from a nervous explorer into a one woman, artifact hunting, mercenary killing machine. And we loved it.
Frustratingly, we have little to no information as to what is next for her. We are due something however, so fingers crossed we will be “tomb raiding” again before long.
If you haven’t yet played Rise of the Tomb Raider, make sure you do so. The Xbox Store will provide you with a download of the game.