i played tomb raider (2013)

tomb raider was pretty good and definitely worth its steam sale price. i’m going to be liberal with spoilers here because it’s nearly 4 years old. if you haven’t picked it up and don’t want to be spoiled, yes you should pick it up next time it’s on sale, which is always.

the tomb raider reboot took me 9 hours across a single session of gameplay to beat, which leaves it on the shortish side. it’s very pretty. i found its story interesting and engaging on several levels. there are just entirely too many quick-time events. 1 is too many but this was filled with them. the characters seemed pretty good and well fleshed out. (you’ll notice i said “seemed” because we spend almost no time fleshing out those relationships.) the environmental puzzles are decent if generally not difficult, and there’s multiple ways to approach the combat this game is full of, which i always appreciate.

i wasn’t really expecting that actually, so much 3PS combat in tomb raider. maybe that’s on me. but there’s a ton of it. there are a million bullet-spongy guys ready to attack you at basically all times. the bow and arrow is a pretty nice way to deal with that, especially since you can light guys on fire eventually, but its fire rate is low, and headshots less reliable, than the pistol, which is broken. use the pistol until you’re out of ammo if your aim is even remotely decent because the enemies can take like three full body blasts with the shotgun but only one headshot (two if they wear a helmet). enemies take too many bullets to bring down but not if you go full mccree.

this got a little bit tiresome toward the end, especially when outright gunplay was inescapable. but there’s a lot of times in the game where you were able to play a more stealthy style, and that was where the combat shined for me. my favorite part of the game was around the hunting lodge, right after the helicopter crashes and roth dies. lara stays behind a while, and her friends go on back down to the beach, then when she tries to catch up it’s night and the forest is full of baddies. i had a blast sneaking around and arrowing (because it’s quiet) fools in the face, and sneaking up on other fools to choke them out. the game would have benefited from more gameplay like that and less outright shootouts, or at the very least if the cover system was more of a cover system and less “try to stand behind this rock.” i mashed spacebar trying to snap to cover like i was playing mass effect 3 a ton of times. i jumped up and down like a moron and died lol.

the parts where you run around the map doing crazy parkour stuff are almost always fun. the maps are designed to be, if a little linear in that respect, at least very fluid. it’s no mirror’s edge where there’s multiple ways to do everything, that’s for sure. but as long as you aren’t jumping between rock wall climbs it’s very fun. when you have to do that it’s painfully touchy. maybe that’s a keyboard problem, where it’s hard to hold D and press E at the same time without doing manual gymnastics. other wise that stuff feels good.

so let’s talk about control, or lack thereof, and the way this game kind of beefs it in that area. there are times when i want the game to give me control. i’d like to avoid a fight, or do it stealthy, or find an alternate route, or go more than a few minutes between cinematics. the first few hours of the game have way too many of those and it feels like you’re playing a movie. a really enjoyable movie, but not a super interactive game, you know? the whole experience in general feels cinematic which is to its benefit, but sometimes you want more control. you go accomplish one thing then it’s another cutscene. but other times you want less control. i don’t need to “repeatedly mash” a button to open a door or a chest. just let me press or hold. i don’t need three QTEs to get out of being attacked by a wolf i couldn’t shoot fast enough. let me die and reload and try to actually hit it this time.

and for the love of god, do NOT make QTE boss fights. that’s just lazy and a big reason i wasn’t a fan of arkham knight. obviously tomb raider is less “about” the fighting than batman, so that’s not gamebreaking here, but it’s so annoying and part of what makes the end of the game feel a little chunky.

so the 9-hour length is on the shortish side, and i’d say the most obvious way to boost length would be not to add story. there’s plenty of that and there’s already a lengthening formula in place that gets abused by the end. (we’re almost there! oh no the floor falls out.) what needs added is either missions or side-quests or something that deepens the relationships between characters. they clearly exist. we see some flashes of this in the camcorder cinematics, which lara has a peek at during the quickly-abandoned survival game part, and in the journal pages you can (very) randomly find. it’s obvious this game’s writers created a ton of info about its characters and their relationships. it’s too bad most of that gets left out of the game. i don’t need a full fledged loyalty mission for everyone or anything like that, but i would love to get more time with sam, or alex, or whoever grim was, before the game tries to use them to impact me. i really liked sam from the minute we met her so i was motivated to go save her already, but that’s a personal thing. build some rapport between the player and those characters, man.

in fact i’m pretty sure apart from randomly stumbling on tombs and finding shit on the ground, there were no side-quests at all. there’s quite a bit of room for growth there.

so yeah. it’s a pretty game with beautiful foliage, outstanding hair effects, and quite a lot of draw distance actually. the only negative i have graphically is in the geothermal tunnels there’s what i think is supposed to be a Descent-style pool of blood and its just hilarious red water. (of course i ran everything on max because old game.) the story is a pretty good examination of human desperation and the descent into madness, and the way you experience it is mostly cool. the game play is great as long as it stays out of its own way with the forced gunplay and QTEs. sadly it gets in its own way a lot. pretty short, and wastes some obviously deep characters with shallow presentation. it’s pretty good and i liked it and it’s on sale all the time. no real excuse to not pick it up next steam sale if you haven’t before. do it. it’ll be 5 bucks or less. how’s rise, btw?


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