Lara Croft will be returning later this year in Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the 2013 reboot which acted as a sort of origins story and evolution of the franchise to the gritty action adventure we all know and love. However, Lara will be making her appearance on Microsoft consoles first with a November 10th release on Xbox 360 and Xbox One while the PS4 version releases a year later (the PC version releases in early 2016). Exclusivity arrangements aside, what can fans look forward to in the next big Tomb Raider?
GamingBolt sat down with game director Brian Horton to discuss various aspects of the game’s development as well to inquire about upcoming DLC. Please note that this conversation took place during E3 2015.
"Siberia is the primary location for Rise of the Tomb Raider, but we've also announced at E3 that Lara is going to Syria so that's a desert location and it shows a really nice contrast between the two."
Leonid Meikhov: First things first, is Rise of the Tomb Raider a “direct” sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot story-wise?
Brian Horton: Yes, that is absolutely correct.
Leonid Meikhov: I saw the demo yesterday and it seemed that Lara’s story is really important and she talks a lot about her parents and things like that. Can you tell us anything about that, how is that affecting her or is there something she’s trying to find out or why does she keep bringing up her parents?
Brian Horton: Before I go into those details, what Rise of the Tomb Raider is about is Lara’s first great tomb raiding expedition. On the last game she had to survive the situation. She was thrust into survival mode, in this game she’s seeking out the truth that she saw a hint of in the first game.
She obviously has a family history of archaeology and she’s embracing that and going forth, so I would definitely say there is a connection to her family and the roots. Lara’s continuing to pursue the lost secrets of the world in the most harsh remote places on earth.
Leonid Meikhov: I see. What kind of environments are we going to see other than Siberia? Can we expect waterfall caves, or maybe even pirates? What kind of variety of environments are we going through?
Brian Horton: Siberia is the primary location for Rise of the Tomb Raider, but we’ve also announced at E3 that Lara is going to Syria so that’s a desert location and it shows a really nice contrast between the two.
Leonid Meikhov: So you’ve got the hot and the cold?
Brian Horton: The hot and the cold.
Leonid Meikhov: What was the biggest challenge in developing the new Tomb Raider?
Brian Horton: We were working during a generational shift where we were able to learn about the power of next generation consoles when we made the definitive edition of Tomb Raider but we really wanted to make Rise of the Tomb Raider from the ground up. Everything has been rewritten, the lighting engine has been rewritten, the animation engine for Lara’s facial expression has been completely redone. All of our material processing, lighting engine and everything has been overhauled to utilize the full power of the Xbox One.
"We're really thrilled to talk about the new scale that we have for Rise of the Tomb Raider. Our exploration spaces are 3 times larger than they were in the last game and our tombs are much bigger."
Leonid Meikhov: Speaking about the power of Xbox One, did you guys have any problems developing on it? Cause I know some developers were talking about eSRAM problems?
Brian Horton: We have a fantastic relationship with Microsoft. We got work directly with them and were able to understand how to get most out of the system and it has been a flawless experience so far.
Leonid Meikhov: Are you guys targeting 1080p?
Brian Horton: We are targeting 1080p and 30 FPS. [now confirmed]
Leonid Meikhov: Can you talk about multi-player?
Brian Horton: No, all we’re talking about today is the single player story.
Leonid Meikhov: What do you like the most about single-player? What do you want the fans to see in this Tomb Raider?
Brian Horton: Besides Lara’s story which is really exciting, we’re really thrilled to talk about the new scale that we have for Rise of the Tomb Raider. Our exploration spaces are 3 times larger than they were in the last game and our tombs are much bigger. And we’re employing what we call “A Nested Puzzle Approach” that means there are multiple puzzles that all work together to solve 1 big puzzle. We also introduced new traversal mechanics, like Lara can climb trees and can swim underwater and can use that not only for traversal but as a way too subtly approach an enemy and take them out from above or from below.
The other things we’ve introduced is our new crafting system. We’ve made our crafting system much more robust from the last game. So there are 16 unique items that the player can pick up all throughout the game either by hunting or traversal and collection and those things can be used in different combinations to upgrade the weapons and craft new ammunition types.
Leonid Meikhov: How long has the game been in development for?
Brian Horton: When we’ve wrapped up the Definitive Edition that’s when we really started.
"We're big fans of Fallout, it's such a great game. But we believe we offer something completely different from a gaming experience point of view. We feel good about the date and the quality of the game will speak for itself."
Leonid Meikhov: So what was that, like 2 years ago?
Brian Horton: Yeah.
Leonid Meikhov: So you’re looking at about 3 year cycle to release?
Brian Horton: A little less.
Leonid Meikhov: You got Fallout 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. How do you guys feel about launching with Fallout 4?
Brian Horton: We’re big fans of Fallout, it’s such a great game. But we believe we offer something completely different from a gaming experience point of view. We feel good about the date and the quality of the game will speak for itself.
Leonid Meikhov: Do you guys take anything from the Tomb Raider prior to this one? Probably like tomb raiding itself.
Brian Horton: Well tomb raiding itself is a big part of it. We’re really bringing back the promise that the tombs are back but in addition to that we’ve added the Siberian bear. The big predator animals are very important to the Tomb Raider.
Leonid Meikhov: Are we going to see anything else besides bears?
Brian Horton: Well, what we’re talking about today is the bear. It is probably one of the most exciting new enemy animal classes we’ve introduced into the game.
Leonid Meikhov: The bear that I saw in the demo, is that a boss?
Brian Horton: The bear is not something that Lara can defeat first time through. The first time she encounters the bear, the bear will chase her off and she’s going to be very badly wounded. When the player explores the world and upgrades her bows and weapons, she’ll be able too take on the bear. The bear being more than just being an animal is actually one of our guardians in the game. So our challenge tombs have these guardians that protect the tomb threshold and if you’re able to defeat or bypass that guardian you’ll be able to enter the challenge tomb.
"Just like the last Tomb Raider we've created a seamless experience. As soon as you start a new game if you never died or don't quit you will have a seamless streaming experience throughout the whole game."
Leonid Meikhov: The weapons, is the bow the only thing she’s going to have or will Lara have automatics, snipers?
Brian Horton: There will be a full suite of weapons.
Leonid Meikhov: How do you get the new weapons, through crafting or just finding them?
Brian Horton: Every time we have a new weapon it’s usually introduced through story and gameplay.
Leonid Meikhov: Is the whole world interconnected without a loading screen or is it like missions 1, mission 2 etc…
Brian Horton: Just like the last Tomb Raider we’ve created a seamless experience. As soon as you start a new game if you never died or don’t quit you will have a seamless streaming experience throughout the whole game. We want to immerse the player into the world as soon as possible and flow from mission to mission in a very seamless way.
Leonid Meikhov: Any plans for DLC?
Brian Horton: We’re not talking about that yet.
"We've focused 100% of our energy at Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal on making the highest quality game we possibly could and we weren't holding ourselves back at all."
Leonid Meikhov: No micro-transactions?
Brian Horton: We’re not talking about that right now either.
Leonid Meikhov: What would you like to say to the fans about Tomb Raider before we finish?
Brian Horton: If you’re a fan of Tomb Raider in all incarnations whether it’s the core classics, the legendary first era of Crystal Dynamics or the reboot, know that we’re going to have something a little bit for everyone in here. And we want the player to feel like they can play the game the way they want. So if you’re a fan of more stealth-based gameplay you can play it that way, if you like more action it’s there also. And of course if you love tomb we’re bringing more tombs, they’re larger and it’s gonna be enrich the whole experience of Lara becoming the Tomb Raider.
Leonid Meikhov: Some people have been kind of been confused with the whole exclusivity of the game. Is it a timed exclusive is it a permanent exclusive? What is going on with that?
Brian Horton: I think Phil Spencer made this very clear. This time we are just talking about The Rise of the Tomb Raider coming out on Xbox One and Xbox 360 this holiday.
Leonid Meikhov: Speaking of Xbox 360, do you think that’s going to pull the game back from a technical standpoint?
Brian Horton: Not at all. Nixxes have been long time partners with Crystal Dynamics and are completely focused on the Xbox 360 port of the game. We focused a 100% of our energy at Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal on making the highest quality game possible on the Xbox One. We are not holding ourselves back at all.
Leonid Meikhov: Great, I am looking forward to playing it and seeing how it is.
Brian Horton: It was great talking to you. Cheers!