I have a very rocky relationship with a woman named Lara Croft. I’ve been a huge fan of the Tomb Raider franchise ever since I first entered the depths of those snowy caves high atop the mountains of Peru on my PS1 back in 1996. Over half my lifetime ago. Jesus. That’s depressing…
Anyway, I’ve followed Lara on all of her console adventures, and they all line my game shelves right now. Even Angel of Darkness (yuck). That’s how committed I am. But it’s not always easy being a fan of Tomb Raider. This franchise probably more than any other in video game history has seen such incredible highs and shocking lows. The Tomb Raider legacy is a muddy one, and it’s left me in a place where I’m not sure how to feel about where we’re at with Lara today.
I was recently reading an article in Game Informer magazine about the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider for Xbox One when it kind of hit me. I wasn’t really getting excited about anything that I was reading. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The easiest culprit to point to would of course be the controversial move to make Rise an XBOX holiday exclusive. But that doesn’t bother me too much. I know it’s going to reach the Playstation platform eventually and I can be patient. I wanted to know what exactly it was that was leaving me feeling underwhelmed. It was something that also hung over me during my play through of the revamped Tomb Raider that came out in 2013. The Tomb Raider that we have today is drastically different than the Tomb Raider that I’ve always loved. It’s both a good and a bad thing, and that’s really confusing.
When Tomb Raider came out in 2013 I loved it. I really did. It’s a fantastic game with great action, much improved controls, a great leveling system, and a plot that centers on a really cool and creepy Japanese legend. When I played through Tomb Raider I had a blast. But there was also a shadow that it never quite came out of either.
This new and younger Lara was not nearly as interesting or as fun as she’s been in the past. The sense of adventure and pulp action was replaced with blood, mud and grit. And worst of all… where the f*ck were the TOMBS?! Tomb Raider had changed just like Crystal Dynamics promised, and the game that was born from it really was a fantastic experience. But maybe it was a little too different.
I find myself really torn about this because how can something be both incredibly cool and a disappointment at the same time? Well, that’s Tomb Raider. TR went from a AAA action game at it’s inception, to a yearly churned out Assassin’s Creed/Call of Duty-style sequel factory, to a crummy reboot (AoD), to an AWESOME reboot (Legend), to a boring sequel (Underworld) to another reboot (TR 2013). It’s kind of exhausting.
I don’t blame Crystal Dynamics for needing to explode the franchise and do something totally different. I’m just not sure if I’ve fallen in love again like I was hoping to. I’m hoping this new sequel gets us a little closer to the feel of the old Tomb Raider, with the promise of more exploration, more globe-trotting, and a more thrill-seeking Lara. I’m not counting her down yet. After all, if she could survive a sh*t-fest like Angel of Darkness and come out alright, she can make it through anything.
This week’s speed painting comes from the PS2 series by Sucker Punch studios. Sly Cooper