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Rise Of The Tomb Raider’s Lara Takes Cues From Terminator’s Sarah Connor

by Mike Futter on Sep 24, 2015 at 03:05 AM

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When Rise of the Tomb Raider was first announced at E3 2014, it was done via a surprising trailer. What stands out isn’t Lara as an adventurer or hero. It’s that she was in a psychiatrist’s office as a doctor lectures her on getting past her trauma.

Positioning Lara as a victim in the sequel’s introduction was jarring, but it’s still part of Lara’s past. Crystal Dynamics hasn’t washed away the trailer, but it is positioning it in a new way. While we’ve not seen or heard anything like this about Rise of the Tomb Raider in months, it is not forgotten.

“Even in that context, there was a subtext of that conversation, which was that Lara was right,” says creative director Noah Hughes. “Lara came back having glimpsed something she can’t explain. Yes, she had been through traumatic events and had to overcome that, but ultimately she wasn’t going to let go of what she saw. People back home were not willing to believe what she saw was real. It made her an outsider in her world.”

Rise of the Tomb Raider sees Lara evolve from victim of her circumstances. She is now seeking out adventure, though in the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t share the specific context.

“Her world had been turned upside down,” Hughes continues. “That very much was Lara sitting in that chair, and what we see is where she goes from there.” He says that the moment in the trailer in that doctor’s office is the “point zero” in the story. 

“It’s important to recognize that some people misinterpret that as a pure expression of PTSD,” he explains. “We see it in something like Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor has this burden of destiny. No one believes what she’s saying is true, but something has to be done. That’s where the extra layer on that scene comes through.”

I also asked Hughes about the pushback Crystal Dynamics got from Lara’s graphic and gruesome death scenes in the 2013 reboot. While things start off tame in the opening scene, they quickly trend toward what we saw in the last outing, though not quite as brutal.

“On some level, there’s a nostalgic element. In classic Tomb Raider, I would always flinch a little bit when Lara got hit by spikes,” Hughes says. “What that did for me is not want to fail again. There’s a certain amount of understanding of the lethality of the situation she’s in. The stakes are as high as they could possibly be.”

During my three hours with the game, I saw Lara’s head bashed by pillar and her corpse mauled by a bear (twice… sorry, Lara). These are certainly graphic, but perhaps not quite as overt as in the previous title.

“We want players to be on edge and not take that misstep. Understanding the cost of a misstep is part of that,” Hughes explains. “Having said that, we always try to present that in a non-gratuitous way. It is really there to just report the facts of what happened. We are sensitive to not having those overstay their welcome.”

Rise of the Tomb Raider arrives on November 10 for Xbox One and Xbox 360. For more, you can read our impressions of the first three hours.