Lara Croft is possibly the most well-known female videogame protagonist in the world, having appeared onto the action-adventure scene a full decade before Nathan Drake. With appearances in multiple games across various platforms, her characterization and the quality of the games has always been a bit erratic and of varying quality, but here developer Crystal Dynamics looks to reboot her, showing us Lady Lara before she had the confidence and grace she’s known for.


The set up isn’t entirely unfamiliar or original, particularly for fans of the Far Cry and Uncharted games. During an expedition, Lara ends up stranded on an island full of psychopathic killers with mysterious motives out to get her and her friends, and thus must try to escape while uncovering the dark secrets the island holds. The plot isn’t particularly compelling, with forgettable characters and a story that feels more like an excuse to have Lara moving into different parts of the island and into more exciting set pieces, but it sets the tone well, just don’t expect her character arc to reel you in. It suffers a bit from a plodding pace, but mostly because the story and characters simply fall to the wayside with gameplay as the primary focus. Even with the story being mostly forgettable, the island does have its share of notes, audio logs and treasures that all tell small stories of their own, and are worth listening to so you can get a sense of what is happening.



Tomb Raider fans are used to platforming and exploration, and while there’s plenty of that here, Lara is also considerably more blood thirsty this time around. Enemies will prioritize her death over their own safety and attack in droves, forcing Lara into using the various weapons and abilities at her disposal to survive. Here the gameplay excels, with a natural progression of skill, gear and abilities that allow Lara more opportunities in combat, as well as more options for travel and exploration. The cover based shooting isn’t perfect, but the additional focus on moving around and using your wits allows the combat to feel more exciting, particularly when Lara can die so easily and the various enemy types are quick to mobilize an attack. The use of regenerating health seems to betray the sense of survival the game wants to instill, and causes a dissonance between gameplay and narrative that can be hard to ignore when Lara survive multiple bullet wounds in gameplay, but bears giant scars from earlier encounters. With the ability to hunt animals and rest in campfires, the game almost feels like it was supposed to have a survival gameplay focus early on that got switched to a more action centric approach, especially when stealth is only a tease that almost always turns into a full blown gunfight.


Lara Croft certainly gets beaten up quite a bit in this game, from the very outset she suffers terrible injuries around every corner, only to be given the hardest tasks from her friends. The game even goes the extra length in giving Dead Space styled death animations should you die at certain points, some of which are rather cringe worthy, but even with all this effort in making Lara seem vulnerable she’s still very much powerhouse in combat. Of course combat is only one aspect of the gameplay, with exploration, platforming and the usual tomb raiding taking up a major part of the experience as well.


The island is full of optional tombs and locations to explore that can yield additional experience points and crafting materials. Some of the collectable side missions aren’t very interesting, but the actual tombs you can explore break up the combat and let you try to solve a puzzle for access to a large reward. The puzzles are usually simple, but have that “aha” feeling that you get once you figure out how the pieces fit together. Weapon crafting and skill improvement are also a major factor, as Lara changes so too does her array of abilities. Different weapons, weapon attachments, player abilities and items such as a rope arrow give reason to go back to earlier areas you couldn’t completely explore, for the purpose of improving said gear. It allows for a nice cycle of improvement and exploration that feed into each other.


Multiplayer also makes an appearance here, and fans of the Uncharted series might find some familiar ground to play with. Unfortunately, unlike the surprisingly successful multiplayer of the Uncharted games, the multiplayer here has some unfortunate lag issues and lacks interesting map design or game modes to make it a primary mode of interest. It isn’t terrible, it ticks the boxes for basic multiplayer features allowing you to rank up and play different modes on different maps, but it’s uninspired, and the game’s lengthy campaign is well worth the price of admission alone.


Overall, Tomb Raider is a fitting new start for the series. The storyline doesn’t have the sort of importance you might expect from a reimagining of a popular series, but it gives older Tomb Raider fans a look at a younger Lara while providing a good entry point for newcomers. Like a good summer blockbuster, Tomb Raider might not be something you dwell on for weeks after because of innovative gameplay or a mind blowing storyline, but it’s an expertly polished game that should be worth the time of any action-adventure fan. Much like how Christopher Nolan reimagined Batman for the movie theaters, Tomb Raider is rebooted here for a new generation, hopefully with an equally strong future of successful installments ahead.