Value of new Tomb Raider game to be decided in first 15 minutes
By the time you read this, the game Rise of the Tomb Raider, and its first reviews, will already be out. I'm writing this before all that, sort of a preview to the game.
I have some ingrained expectations for the game. This game has to have Lara becoming a stronger character. The first game concentrated on all the stuff that Lara had to go through in order to transition from the happy-go-lucky, well-off young woman to the bad-ass broad who can raid tombs and is very brilliant.
The first game had to set up the start of that transition. What this game has to do is to fulfill that process.
This is the second game in the rebooted experience. The first game was 2012's Tomb Raider. The series started with the original Tomb Raider in 1996, which was rebooted in 2006, then rebooted again in 2012, a game which concentrated on the origin of Lara Croft as the Tomb Raider.
I played almost all of the original Tomb Raider games. I started with 2 — I didn’t play the first Tomb Raider game because I didn’t have a computer that could run computer games. And I played most of my Tomb Raider games on the PlayStation before switching over to the Xbox.
I became a big fan with Underworld. I thought it was a solid Tomb Raider game. It was one of the first overhauls of Lara's physique — it was less about her boobs and being in the booty shorts. You had the option of wearing pants for the entire game. It wasn’t a clothes party for the sake of being a clothes party.
As we have learned just in the last few weeks, there will be a third game coming after this one. This jibes with my feeling on the subject. You don’t commit to a second game if you’re not committing to a third one as well. You don’t do a franchise with just two titles and then walk away from it. After the first game, there had to have been a plan to do more games.
I, of course, have been anticipating the game since it was unveiled at E3.
The only thing for Rise of the Tomb Raider that I have looked at was at E3. I’ve been specifically not looking at any other videos or reading anyone’s previews of the game, because I don’t want them to sway me one way or another. And I don’t want to get too deep into the story before actually getting hands-on with the game.
The only question for me was which version to buy. There were only two I considered: the digital download or the collector's edition.
I went with the digital version to keep myself from going with the collector’s edition. In all honesty, it’s pretty much where I’m living now. The only reason I will get a game on disc is because I want the stuff in the collector’s edition -- a figurine, skins or additional content, things like that. The problem with the new Tomb Raider was that there was a lot in the collector’s edition that I wanted. Primarily, a 9-inch Lara figure. I don’t have any place to put that statue in my house right now.
All of the on-disc and season pass content that is available in the collector’s edition is available on the digital edition that I got. So I went with the digital edition that has the season pass because, if I’m going to buy a digital game, there’s absolutely no reason for me not to buy whatever season pass is available.
I’m going to play the game longer than its initial story unless it’s really horrible. So, for me, what I want is whatever DLC is planned for a game, I want to experience it. So I’m always going to buy a season pass when it’s available for any game I purchase -- it’s the full game experience. Developers always call it downloadable content, but I feel it’s an expansion — a planned expansion. If I’m buying into the $60 game, I might as well buy into the $70 or $80 version and get the full, expanded experience.
In the 2012 game, you were exploring Yamatai, which was kind of like Shangrila, and there was the spirit of Yamatai, a princess who was vengeful and all-powerful. There were people in Yamatai who worshipped her and because of that, they were able to keep her living. The people believed that one of Lara’s friends could have been the next incarnation of this spirit, so they wanted to sacrifice her. When you completed the game, the story ended with Lara defeating the spirit, saving her friend and clearing the skies of Yamatai, having a moment of reconciliation within herself that even though she’s been through a lot and lost some of her friends, she didn’t die — she made it through that. She survived, she’s stronger than she thinks. And it ends with Lara wondering, “What do I do now?”
I don’t think you necessarily have to top your previous game by being bigger or badder, you need to be as good. And if you can find a way to be better in some way, that’s great, that’s icing on the cake. But you should be as good as your previous game.
The first game didn’t end with a cliffhanger, but it did end with a setup for the next game.
The first game told a really good story. It was very believable how they told the story of Lara being an average girl-next-door and put her in unbelievably difficult situations that I found myself asking if I would be able to step up if this same thing happened to me.
It’s that whole process of wanting to survive that made me realize that this was how you turn somebody who could have easily been a Paris Hilton into an archaeologist interested in history, good with weapons, good with acrobatics and have a curiosity for exploration. In the first game, she had to explore to survive. And so as you start playing through a game with that mentality, you do that enough you will become a badass, you have no choice. It’s either do that or die.
It told a really good story of a young woman facing all of that, transitioning into that. It didn’t take any cheap, easy outs to do that.
There was ammo everywhere, there were guns everywhere, but you didn’t get a gun and was automatically good with it. You had to go practice and train, you had to go shoot and forage and hunt things over and over in order to build up that skill so you could get good with the gun, so that your hand didn’t waver or didn’t shake. If you didn’t do those things and just did the story, it became more difficult later on to be successful shooting things. The mechanics in the game would have your arm stray from the right position initially. With practice, you would deadlock and stay straight on your target.
A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end, and even if you don’t like the end or don’t understand the end, it’s still supposed to have an end. And that end is supposed to tie up some of the journey you went through. If it doesn’t, it’s poorly constructed and it’s a bad story -- it’s a bad experience.
So as long as Rise of the Tomb Raider ends its story or sets up the next one, that’s OK. Just as long as there’s not questions asked with no answers and a narrative that just kind of meanders on...that, to me, is completely unenjoyable. Lead me someplace, even if it’s a place I don’t want to go. When we get to where it ends, it ends.
If that ending sets up something new, that's cool. If something completely different starts, that’s also cool.
Although I'm a long-time player of the Tomb Raider series, I don’t think I’ll have any problem if they diverge completely from the old canon.
It was only recently that they established a canon at all. Early on in the Tomb Raider games, they were just dungeon-crawlers: There’s an amazing relic and you have to go through all these crazy puzzle dungeons to find it. So they didn’t start getting into Lara’s background and family until later on in the games.
There wasn’t a set canon in the early days. One of the things this new franchise is doing is creating a comprehensive story. They’re picking some of the pieces from the preceding games to pay homage to and to flavor it so that it doesn’t feel like a completely different Lara.
But in my mind, it is. They haven’t mentioned anything about Lara’s mom and they’ve only mentioned a few things about Lara’s dad. We know he met a tragic end, but we don’t know what that was. I’m OK if it’s not 100 percent aligned with the previous games. It has already diverged from it — this game has a younger Lara than the previous games. So I’m looking at it to establish the canon for Tomb Raider.
All that's left for me is to actually play the game. I know in action-adventure games within the first 45 minutes of playing whether I’m going to finish this game or play it only long enough to form a decent thought about it to talk about it on the podcast and then let it go.
Sometimes I know within the first 10. I knew within the first 10 minutes that I was going to finish the first game of the reboot.
The story has to be good and the mechanics have to be solid from the get-go. If I struggle in the tutorial, knowing this is going to be the easiest point in the game, that’ll kill an experience for me faster than anything. I’ll play it just long enough to review it. Rise of the Tomb Raider would have to be really piss-poor in the first 45 for me not to complete it because I had such a great experience playing the first one. I would be surprised if I did not finish Rise of the Tomb Raider.
[Editor's note: As of this writing, Ninja has been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider for about six hours.]