Rise of the Tomb Raider shows Lara Croft as an intellectual as well as an …

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ is more of the same, and that’s okay.

When we last left Lara Croft, she was on an island of shipwrecks, having lost her innocence as a young woman. Here’s a video of 15 minutes of gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider, developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix as an exclusive on the Microsoft Xbox One game console.

Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 Tomb Raider reboot pulled off a tough task: It successfully brought life back to an aging, muddled franchise and provided heroine Lara Croft with an excellent origin story. Now that Croft has made her transition from a terrified shipwreck survivor to adventuring (but still vulnerable) badass, what does she do for an encore?

I’ve seen the first couple of hours of the game in a preview for the press arranged by Microsoft and Square Enix, which are taking the game to the Xbox One and Xbox 360 game consoles first. It’s easy for players to jump right in whether they’re familiar with the previous game or not; the controls remain mostly intuitive and the story stands up well on its own. Lara is still in her formative years, and while she develops as a physical hero, she also grows her intellectual strength and ability to solve puzzles. It’s a story that’s a bit of a cliche: Croft is continuing her father’s research into reincarnation and “tangible evidence of the immortal soul.” The search for immortality is hardly new, but fortunately the ensuing fight for survival and world exploration aren’t dulled by the reason behind Lara’s mission. The great thing about the new game is that it continues the development of Lara Croft as a character, it has a deep story that takes you on a grand adventure, and it has plenty of beautiful places to explore.

Above all, it explores Lara as a full human being, rather than just a swaggering and cocky female hero. “We were excited to tell the next chapter in Lara’s story,” said Noah Hughes, creative director at developer Crystal Dynamics, in an interview with GamesBeat. “A lot of that was about taking what she learned on the island in the last game and applying it to a great tomb-raiding expedition. Creative director Noah Hughes says that focusing on “virtual tourism” is always a part of location design in Tomb Raider games. “You go to these exotic destinations and feel like you’ve been there on some level,” Hughes said. “That leads to a natural focusing on environment as part of the concepting phase, thinking ‘where are the cool places we can take her’ that are ultimately different than we’ve been in the past.” A good chunk of the game’s first hour flashes back two weeks and takes you out of Siberia to a more “standard” Tomb Raider environment (the sun-baked deserts of Syria). But despite the consistent, snow-covered aesthetic, the details of each location continue to be quite varied — Hughes noted that they focused on making sure each location had a wide diversity of terrain to keep any one environment from getting stale. In this case, it’s a fulfillment of beginning to realize her identity as the hero.” That’s a long leap from the Lara Croft that was little more than a male sexual fantasy at the beginning.

You’ll be able to spend plenty of time getting lost in the world, searching for the many collectible artifacts spread throughout that fill in the game’s back story. Lara Croft has become much more of a universal hero because the storytellers have recast her as a symbol of female empowerment, self-reliance, and independence. You can still find the generic salvage around the world, but some puzzles will require you to scour the environment for specific materials you’ll need to survive. And she always has to overcome incredible odds and tap her inner reservoirs of courage that she doesn’t know she has. “One of our goals with the reboot was the characterization of Lara, celebrating her aspirational nature,” Hughes said. “We talked about someone who is athletic and brilliant and driven. GamesBeat: What was interesting to me about the last one is, you had tomb-raiding in various places, but you also had this theme of a woman’s empowerment or self-reliance.

The game helpfully informed me that poison might be a way to get around the beast, and so I was sent off to search the snowy forest for mushrooms and other supplies I could use to craft a poison arrow — something that made felling the bear much easier. Fortunately, the requirements for crafting these special items weren’t too onerous; I never felt like I was being forced into unnecessarily long fetch quests to pad the game’s running time. This time around, there are collectibles that offer more background and insight to the game’s main lore about a remarkable prophet who reportedly found the secret to eternal life. I moved on to keep the story going because of my limited demo time — but if I were playing at my own pace, I would have been happy to spend more time exploring. Rise may not break any new ground for the series, but the 2013 reboot successfully reinvented the game’s formula well enough that I’m not at all disappointed to have another chapter to enjoy.

SETTING UP HER FIRST CAMP: When Lara is settled in at her first camp fire in the Siberian wilderness, players are introduced to a skill tree with three seprate branches: brawler, hunter and survivor. We tried to capture some of that human spirit you find in those classic stories of discovery and expedition and infuse that aspect of Lara’s character in this game. You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you.

We wanted to make sure there were — Lara lives in our world, so most of us aren’t aware, necessarily, of the secrets that truly exist in these dark corners of the world. I had to use ropes and pulleys to climb the masts, but I eventually made it and discovered that Crystal Dynamics improved the rewards for this optional area. It’s less about doing what her father did exactly, but we see where she caught the bug, where she found that first inspiration in archaeology — ultimately, where she finds that determination to make a difference. We try to take a lot of the sensibilities of a more player-driven sandbox experience and merge them with the pacing and story-driven backbone of a narrative-focused game.

As I explored more and more of Siberia, I could see how designers constructed the environment to block off passages so that Lara would need the right tool. There are allies who offer aid such as the Trinity turncoat running the Supply Shack or the native who gives Lara sidequests with a promise of a reward. We almost get the best of both worlds in that sense, where you can have the fast-paced roller coaster ride, but you can also just get lost in a world and feel alone and discover things that no one else discovers.” The next level took me to the northwestern border of Syria, among some mountains in the desert.

Although some of it seems very similar to the Uncharted series, the circumstances and characters are different enough that it feels like just another story in a huge genre of adventure games. Things like the language system that celebrate her growth as not just a survivor, but also an explorer of ancient secrets.” He added, “Also, we’re trying to get at what makes someone like her tick.

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