I mostly liked Crystal Dynamic’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. If you haven’t read my review yet you can check it out right here. However, as I was playing the game I continually compared it more and more to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a great game and this editorial isn’t here to tell you otherwise. On the contrary, I do believe Crystal Dynamics can further distinguish the Tomb Raider franchise from that of the Uncharted series.
If you’re unaware of the narrative behind the conflict found in Rise of the Tomb Raider – without spoiling too much, Lara and a corporation called Trinity are both trying to find the “Divine Source.” Lara wants to prove her father’s work true, the two main antagonists in the game need it to save a life, and the third player wants to harness its power. Naturally, the inhabitants of the land are there to protect the Divine Source, and aside from that…I can’t say much more without spoiling the main plot.
Both Uncharted and Tomb Raider take players on a journey across the world through gorgeous locations as they find hidden collectible treasurers and take on evil corporations. Uncharted is more akin to an Indiana Jones action-adventure movie, while the Tomb Raider series has traditionally taken up a more balanced act between exploration and action.
However, with Rise of the Tomb Raider the action segments have been significantly ramped up as you’re literally taking part in a small-scale conflict between the inhabitants of Kitezh, who are the sworn protectors of the Divine Source, and Trinity.
This was where Rise of the Tomb Raider became a bit too much like Uncharted for me. Not to say it’s entirely a bad thing, or that Uncharted isn’t a good game. The action sequences are cool to play through and give the game a cinematic action movie feel. Where Rise of the Tomb Raider is at its best though is when your exploring the environment for hidden tombs and solving puzzles.
My favorite moments within Rise of the Tomb Raider were when I was climbing an icy mountainside and avoiding falling chunks of ice, or exploring an ancient crypt that was host to a long forgotten battle, or traversing a Nordic ship that sunk below an ice sheet. Those are the segments of Rise of the Tomb Raider I remember fondly and the kinds of things I look forward to in the inevitable sequel.
Crystal Dynamics have made sure that the future of the Tomb Raider franchise will put a focus on action over exploration, which is rather disappointing in my opinion as the series could do a whole lot more than be “just another Uncharted”, with an added emphasis on exploration. It is called Tomb Raider, after all, not Uncharted: Lara’s Fortune, and that is how the series has always distinguished itself: with exotic locales and the exploration of mysterious tombs.
I’m not suggesting that the franchise omit action segments all together, but it would be nice if it focused less on murdering hundreds of paramilitary soldiers and go back to the days of adventure and finding ancient relics that the series is known for. Combat should still be an element of the franchise, but it could be used much more sparingly or in more interesting situations.
Crystal Dynamics have done a wonderful job with both of the recent Tomb Raider games. Fans have very much enjoyed the first two entries in their take on the franchise. I personally think fans would enjoy them even more, though, if it offered something unique and different rather than trying to replicate the cinematic action-heavy adventures of Nathan Drake.