Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration
Developed by Crystal Dynamics
Published by Square Enix
*Please Note: This Review is of the PlayStation 4 Version*
Rise of the Tomb Raider takes place one year after the events of Tomb Raider and continues the adventure of a Young Lara Croft who after killing to survive on Yamatai is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Looking for answers to her past, Lara turns to her late father’s research into the lost city of Kitezh and the promise of immortality. The further Lara delves into the mystery that is Kitezh, she discovers an evil organization called Trinity who were an ancient order of knights now posing as a paramilitary organization trying to use the secrets of Kitezh to their own personal gain. While trying to stop Trinity, Lara meets a mysterious stranger called Jacob who is the leader of the remnants; A group who are the descendants of the followers of the prophet of Constantinople. When things get worse and Lara discovers connections between the mysterious city and her past (other than her father); she must fight for her survival and prevent Trinity from using the secret for world domination.
In terms of the story, I did enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider since it did have a nice combination of action-adventure and supernatural elements however I can’t help but feel that the story is in fact the weakest point of Rise of the Tomb Raider since it just failed to capture the same spirit as the reboot. The characters didn’t seem as interesting to me and it just didn’t have the same sense of discovery that the first game did. If I’m actually being candidly honest, at times I actually completely forgot what the story even was.
Personally this game did have a good story but it just wasn’t nearly as memorable as the story of Tomb Raider (2013) and while the flashbacks to Lara’s father were interesting, it just wasn’t enough to add intrigue to the story.
Rise of the Tomb Raider has incredible gameplay and is truly where the game stands out. The gameplay in Rise brings back a lot of the gameplay from the previous entry with the realistic feel to the gameplay similar to Uncharted rather than the clunky controls of the original Tomb Raider games. The game once again retains the open world (Sandbox) style of the first game in which you can explore all the huge areas and discover optional tombs aswell as complete optional challenges in each of the games areas. While I originally praised Tomb Raider (2013) for it’s gameplay in my definitive edition review; with Rise I have to give it double the praise in terms of the gameplay because Rise did expand on a lot of the features from the first game and even improved upon pointless tasks from the first title. For a start, Hunting animals in this game actually serves a purpose with the hides of the different animals being used to craft multiple upgrades for Lara’s clothing gear such as Holsters, Pouches, Ammo Cases and even some of the outfits that are available for Lara to dress in. While it wasn’t used as often as it could’ve been; I did like the idea of the translations where Lara would have to discover items and ancient pillars in order to learn the languages needed to translate ancient markings in the game. This was a very interesting feature that I could see being a pretty big part of future titles and would also add to the culture behind the artifacts.
Another thing that I thoroughly enjoyed in Rise was the added element to the stealth in the game with the series taking the route of many games from Square Enix like Deus Ex & Hitman were you can choose to just enter an area guns a blazing or work your way around the areas and take out enemies stealthily or even bypass enemies altogether. This is achieved through the use of bigger environments covered with plenty of cover and tall grass that can be used to hide Lara completely which can help you to plan out your attacks with precision.
All in all, the gameplay here is fantastic and feels very reminiscent to the previous entry which was one of the few things which made the reboot so good.
In terms of the sound; Rise of the Tomb Raider has a fantastic score beautifully composed by Bobby Tahouri who really captures each moment perfectly with his music with some really memorable pieces of music occurring during the scene in London along with the final boss sequence. The sound effects used in the game for both the weapons and the animals are superb and sound accurate to that of the real life equivalents (Shotgun blast, Bear Roars, Etc…). The final thing I would like to mention on the topic of the sound section of this game is of course the voice acting which has some great performances from Phillip Anthony-Rodriguez (Sturges in Fallout 4) who plays Jacob, Earl Baylon who reprises his role from the reboot as Jonah and Kay Bess who gives a great performance as Ana. It is obvious though that the standout performance in this game is of course Camilla Luddington who once again does a fantastic job as Lara Croft. I’d probably say my biggest criticism with the characters is that at times they could be forgettable (with the exception of Lara, Jonah and Jacob) which is bad in comparison to the fantastic characters of Tomb Raider (2013). In addition to this, I also feel that for Jonah being the only returning supporting character from the first game, He was horribly underused which is a shame given that Jonah was among my favorites in the reboot.
Other than the very few problems I have in terms of the characters, the sound section is spot on.
In terms of the visuals in Rise of the Tomb Raider, I have to say that I am definitely impressed since the game looks just as good as the first entry in the series and given that this sequel was only released on the next gen consoles (PlayStation 4/Xbox One) you can tell the visual upgrades from it’s predecessors which was only ported to the consoles mentioned. The environments in Rise of the Tomb Raider look astounding and really add depth to the Siberian Wilderness. The weather dynamics which added Snow to the environments really helped to bring out the beauty of such a hostile location while other things such as the fire and water in the game look accurate to how they would in reality. The real standout feature in terms of the visuals is the character models in particular; the facial designs which add an extra layer of realism to the already stunning visuals and add more character and emotion to the cast. The design in the game of some of the extra features included in this version of the game brought about incredible memories from walking through Croft Manor to seeing the classic pixelated skins for Lara.
All in all, I am very pleased with the visuals on Rise of the Tomb Raider and from the looks of it, the visuals can only get better from here.
In terms of Replay Value, Rise of the Tomb Raider has plenty of things to do with the main campaign itself being pretty lengthy without all the side quests and collectibles to find adding time on top. The game also has multiple different modes aswell as a wide variety of extra content to explore from the downloadable content included in the 20 Year Celebration edition such as the Baba Yaga missions and Lara’s Nightmare to name a few. The game also features trophies/achievements for hunters to sink their teeth into which as always adds extra time to the game.
All in all, the replay value time in Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is incredible and definitely worth the money.
Overall, I definitely feel that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a worthy sequel to the reboot and is spectacular in many ways however at sometimes it can fall a little bit short in capturing the same experience that the reboot gave. The gameplay is phenomenal and improves upon everything that the reboot introduced while the visuals and sound are incredible. My biggest problem with the game was the story which while good on it’s own merit just wasn’t nearly as captivating or memorable as the reboot. All in all, despite it having some problems, I would still definitely recommend this game to anybody and it is an indication that the future is definitely looking bright for Miss Croft.
Score = 8.5/10
- Gameplay improves upon predecessors mechanics
- Killing Animals is useful (Crafting)
- Stealth Mechanics are improved
- Translations are a great idea
- Beautifully composed music score
- Fantastic Voice Performances (Particularly; Camilla Luddington)
- Outstanding Visuals and Character Facial Design
- Plenty of Replay Value
- Nostalgic Memories (Croft Manor, Pixelated Skins)
- Story is okay but not as memorable as the reboot
- Characters at times were forgettable (Apart from Lara, Jacob & Jonah)
- Jonah was underused
Rise of the Tomb Raider is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC. Thanks go out to Square Enix for supplying the game and assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know what you thought of the review in the comments section below and be sure to stay tuned to UGNN for all your gaming news and reviews and remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Review by Matthew McNamee