A Tomb Raider Retrospective

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The original Tomb Raider series is a puzzle based platformer. You could go hours at a time without seeing other people or animals. You were very alone and very isolated. When you did see someone or something it usually scared you so bad you had a heart attack. And there were actual tombs filled with puzzles.


Core Design made the first six, they had an origin/prequel story in the fourth game, then more in the fifth. Then Eidos was so displeased with the sixth game that they gave development over to Crystal Dynamics from that point on. Crystal Dynamics played with the back-story in seven, eight, and nine. As each game comes and goes weapons and ammo become more important and more important, but it is still about puzzles and platforming and raiding tombs. Tomb Raider Underworld came out in November 2008. Sales are only okay, reviews are mediocre to positive.

Then, along comes Uncharted 2 in October 2009. It gets great reviews, and it sells over 1 million copies more than Underworld. On a single platform. Where Underworld is available on three. It takes the spirit of Tomb Raider, platforming, ruins, tombs, puzzles. It tones down the puzzles and platforming and adds lots of combat, and combat becomes a major part of the game. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I ran out of ammo, and had to reload a level. The Tomb Raider roots are still very recognizable, but it’s trying to be different.

Screenshot from Tomb Raider (2013)This tenth Tomb Raider comes along and is a complete reboot. They build on what Uncharted did, rather than what Tomb Raider had done in the past. It has very occasional platforming, most of which can be avoided. Most of the puzzles aren’t puzzles, it’s what weapon do I use to blow that thing in my way up. It’s more interested in being a 3rd person shooter than puzzles and platforming. Tombs are actually side missions that you can take or leave. The majority of the game has been wandering through the jungle killing mercenaries. It doesn’t even have the ammo problem, of Uncharted, ammo is so ridiculously easy to come by that you trip over it, over and again. If you leave an area and come back it magically restocks itself.

There is an RPG element to the game. When you kill people and animals you get XP. You also collect garbage, and you can upgrade your weapons, with the garbage, all very RPG. Wander around an island and you see people long before they see you, and it’s easy to simply pick them off with a head shot. And, head shots give you bonus XP, so, lots of head shots were had.

While this game is fun, it is not your traditional Tomb Raider anymore. I am interested to see where they will go with it in the future.

On a side note this game was written by Rhianna Pratchett, daughter of fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett, so, have that as you will.

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