Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/tomb-raider-review-513eefbca7d7
+Ian Decker played Tomb Raider and reviewed it on Eight Bit #30: Genuine Russian Mail-Order Bride and I have now finally finished the game. I've actually been playing it on and off for at least five months, what with working at camp and everything.
Tomb Raider is a single-player cinematic adventure game (there's a multiplayer portion as well but I ignored it). It is so cinematic, in fact, that about two hours into the game I turned to Ian and jokingly said "Well this has been a great 3D movie."
As a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise, it follows a young Lara Croft who is fresh out of college and has never really been on an adventure where everything hits the fan. Obviously in this game it does.
Lara goes through a lot of hardships on her journey to becoming a badass, and a lot of it is pretty gruesome. The most gruesome are the many death animations for Lara, which become short scenes of their own.
The game is a third-person shooter with a lot of climbing and puzzle areas thrown into the mix. The climbing sections are very well put-together with lots of visual clues on where you need to climb next. Unfortunately there is almost always only one way to get to where you are going.
The combat is pretty challenging for a variety of reasons. The aiming isn't very tight, even with mouse and keyboard. It seems to me that this may have been an intentional decision by the designers to convey the fact that Lara is not an experienced shot through gameplay. Lara also does not run around with her weapons drawn all the time. She only pulls them out when you right-click to take aim. The game is not a proper stealth game, but I enjoyed trying to go for as long as possible without being detected and getting stealth kills with the bow.
As you progress through the game you acquire more gear to upgrade your weapons and tools with. That is the most tangible reward for exploration, but even if you don't explore at all there are still fixed points in the story where you will receive new gear. I was squealing like a little school girl when I got that compound bow.
Also optional are the tombs scattered just off the beaten path. Each tomb features an environmental puzzle and no enemies. The only reward that I noticed was some experience and the personal satisfaction from completing them. I think there might be an achievement in store if you finish all of them.
I felt that the story was well-developed and it was refreshing playing a game that wasn't afraid of killing off a few characters for the sake of Lara's growth as a character.
As far as graphics go, this was a gorgeous game. It was built with 3D in mind, and despite the fact that Crystal Dynamics partnered with AMD for things like Lara's "fancy hair" technology, Nvidia's drivers caught up by the time I started playing the game. I experienced very few performance issues, and I didn't find any other technical issues with the game.
I'm always happy when my favorite moment in the game is the ending. An even better sign is when I am shouting "YES! YESSS!!!" During the final battle.
I would definitely recommend this game to anyone with a system that can handle it. It took me 14 hours to get through the story, but I didn't explore quite as much as I could have. It costs $50 currently, but it shouldn't be too hard to find it on sale; I remember it being $12.50 during the Steam summer sale.
Check out the rest of my screenshots.