Yes, I insist on using Rise’s naming style for my articles. It’s a terrible name for a game.
In the past few weeks I’ve ranted quite extensively on the Tomb Raider series, both on my low expectations when it comes to the upcoming title Rise of the Tomb Raider and about the reboot series overall.
I even considered ranting a bit more just on the very sore subject of the timed exclusivity, but that topic’s been run to the ground and as a very wise friend said on twitter, enough is enough.
But I still feel there’s a lot to say about this 20 year-old series.
In past articles I’ve been quite negative and resistant to change, but I’ve made it clear that I want to be wrong! I want Rise to make me eat my words. I want the Tomb Raider not only to rise but also to stand tall and keep going.
I know I’ve made it seem as if I wish this Lara never existed, and it might be partially true, but it’s just because I know how strong a character the original was, even in all the silliness of her series. She was confident, strong, capable and brilliant. She faced everything head on, even if she had doubts, remorse or reservations. But she also enjoyed herself. She saw the wonder and beauty in every place she visited and she pulled you in so you could see things from her point of view. Everything was an adventure to her and she took as much joy as she could from whatever she did, something I wish I could do more often.
As a character I admire the original Lara and I found her more inspirational and captivating than most male video game characters. As gaming changed and we entered the dude-bro era, Lara remained herself, with all her charm, wit and copious amounts of sarcasm. And of course backflipping, diving and shooting animals!
At least until they moved on from her to Nu-Lara.
I don’t want this new younger Lara to be exactly the same as the original, as much as it may seem like it. But I do want her to inherit some of her traits. Tomb Raider 2013 was a misery fest, and so far, between all TR media, it seems they want to take her into the “angst-filled hard-ass” archetype and I hope it doesn’t happen. The world doesn’t need any more of those. We need someone who sees the beauty and wonder in everything, someone who reminds us that even the worst circumstances have some good in them. Nu Lara is strong, we know that, but so far the only growth has been on the scabs covering her many wounds. Even the comics—bridging the games—have too much pain and misery and very little happiness.
I’ve said it before. When you’re telling a story, if there aren’t good moments, then the bad ones lose effectiveness. And so far, Lara has had too many bad moments and very few good ones. Her close circle of friends is less there to offer comfort and support but to be victims and hostages.
If Tomb Raider were a novel, I wouldn’t worry about the character because she would be in Rhianna Pratchett’s hands and she is an outstanding writer. But the creative vision for the character belongs to the developers and so far, they seem to prefer grit and misery to adventure and excitement and joy. For Rise, they tell us she’s having issues dealing with the events of the first game (or possibly the events of the 2nd, as we don’t know if the therapy is before her trip to Siberia or after), and she’s going to a therapist. I fear this is just to make Lara much more vulnerable, and that the therapy is just a “plot gimmick” for this game instead being instrumental in the character’s development.
But there I go again being negative. Sorry about that.
I want Lara and the new Tomb Raider series to learn the lessons of its predecessor and combined with its own stories evolve into something new and better. I want this Nu Lara to be better than the original. I want her to inspire people as much as the original did—including me. I want her to find the joy of exploration, the awe and wonder and the adventure in life, instead of just wading through pockets of misery.
For the games, yes I want to see more puzzles. I know, I sound like a broken record on this, but it’s part of the adventure genre. It’s part of that sense of wonder I mention, to find ancient ruins with incredibly complex mechanisms you need to piece together or use in some way to progress. Sure, we can get away from box pushing, I’ll be the first behind that idea, but we need that awe, that joy of discovery and that’s what I want the series to bring in the future. I hope Rise’s tombs will be as good as they promise or even better. I want them to be complex, and combine items and physics and platforming.
In terms of platforming and acrobatics, I want Rise to take it into a bolder direction and future games to go even further. From the classic pits with a rope over them to ditching the climbing gear and just do it by hand. My good friend, Kelly from the Archaeology of Tomb Raider, said that a lot of the challenge of platforming went away with the auto-grab and that is generally true, but there was still a great chance of failure. If you don’t believe me, just check out my Tomb Raider Underworld and Anniversary videos, you’ll see me dying often enough. And that’s where I hope we’ll move, not into the same platforming elements from the past, but the same challenge and risk, to those moments where if you don’t jump at the exact edge, you won’t make it across the gap. I know I’m sounding nostalgic and wishing this series was like the past one, but again, I just want it to learn and use the past series to evolve into something better.
Finally, combat. They’re already going in a very good direction by letting you sneak past enemies instead of just shooting and killing.
However, the one thing I want the most for Tomb Raider—as a game—is for it to be sillier. Gameplay and events grounded on reality are good but sometimes you can squeeze a bit more fun out of a sequence if you allow for some nonsense. Perhaps it’s physics not working exactly as they should, or the character being more agile than she should in a given situation, such as five back-flips in a row while firing two guns at incoming raptors. The Oni were a good first step, but I hope they step further away from ‘reality’ and more into the silly bits!
And all that together is what I want and what I hope from the Tomb Raider series in the future. I don’t want Lara and her games to mimic the classic series, but I do want them to acknowledge their existence and use them to improve upon, to evolve into a series that will have cynical fans like me jumping for joy and enjoying adventures with this Lara as much as we did with the Classic.
But until I play Rise, I can’t do anything but that: hope.