Every gamer under the sun knows (or at least bloody well should know) the Tomb Raider series and its globe trotting protagonist, Lara Croft. Once one of the pioneering adventure titles of the early 3D generation, the Tomb Raider series has suffered a mild fall from grace as of late. Though recent TR titles like Anniversary and Underworld have garnered fairly reasonable criticism, the games still seem to lack the presence of their predecessors. Meanwhile, Nathan Drake and the Uncharted series seem to have taken Lara’s place. Cue new information on a Tomb Raider reboot in the form of an origin story, with the recent screens shown for it possessing a whiff of Uncharted’s art style about them. If Lara is intending on kicking Drake off the top spot, how is she planning to go about it?
The first thing that may separate the two series is the new Lara that will star in the TR reboot. Being an origin story, the game is set to show a weaker and less experienced Croft that could breath new life into the game’s narrative. Leaked lines from the games script reveal such a direction that will hopefully show gamers another side to the Lara they thought they had completely sussed. Crystal Dynamics argued that a prequel was necessary as Croft had already been fully explored in terms of character. Comparatively we don’t see such a multi-faceted personality in Drake. As witty and charming as he is, we only see him in his experienced demeanour in the two current Uncharted games, and Uncharted 3 seems as if it will be no different. We all love Nathan Drake as he is, but a little bit of character variety can go a long way.
Other new gameplay elements seem set to rouse new life from the Tomb Raider engine we know and love. Mention has been made of a new “free shooting system.” Whether this means the game will more closely resemble 3rd person shooters, (such as Uncharted ironically) or if it is just a flashy name for a new control scheme is uncertain. You can count on the lock on systems used in Legend, Anniversary and Underworld getting a miss.
A new survivalist aspect will also be added, with players needing to scavenge for food and water in order to keep Lara alive. This could be a mixed blessing though. Gameplay elements such as this will certainly add an element of immersion to the proceedings, that even Uncharted may not be able to compete with. That said, survival based gameplay could also ruin the game’s pace and slow things down to a crawl. Once again, it seems that trust is the order of the day. We can speculate about the impact of this idea until the cows some home but, ultimately, if Crystal Dynamics make it work then there’s no problem.
The game’s setting also offers up some interesting new directions. For a start, the game sees the young Lara shipwrecked on an island, rather than exploring tombs of her own volition. As a result, you can expect a more refreshing and varied narrative than what we’ve seen before in a Tomb Raider game. What’s more interesting is the fact that the island locales will offer an open-world structure, rather than the level based progression in previous TR titles.
Leading on from this is the fact that Lara will evolve over the course of the game, allowing her to tame parts of the island that may have been previously out of her reach. Base camps throughout the game will allow Lara to upgrade her abilities with the game’s new (but sadly as of yet undisclosed) skill system. You can also combine items in your inventory to create new tools and weapons. The base camps offers contact with human NPCs as well, a first for the series outside of the horrendous Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. It sounds like the Tomb Raider reboot is set to absorb a lot of new material from other genres. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is still uncertain, but it will definitely lend the TR reboot a diversity that the Uncharted games have yet to acquire.
A variety of tune ups also seem to be gracing the new Tomb Raider. The base camps you find on the island can be used to fast travel to various points of importance on the island that you’ve previously explored. This certainly sounds like a boon in terms of keeping a swift gameplay pace. Crystal Dynamics have also confirmed that they will be using performance capture for the game’s animations. With motion capture technology at the helm, the Tomb Raider reboot will see a smoother presentation than ever before. It will certainly need it if it is to compete with the graphical finesse that was so highly praised in Uncharted 2.
With a grittier, darker tone and aesthetic the Tomb Raider franchise looks set to re-invent itself. It certainly seems like it will include gameplay innovations to match. We won’t know how well these ideas work until more things come to light, but one thing’s for sure: The Uncharted series will no longer completely rule the third person action adventure roost uncontested when the Tomb Raider reboot gets a release.