Rise of the Tomb Raider Xbox One Review
Rise of the Tomb Raider Xbox One Review
The overall presentation is fantastic -- the game is absolutely worth the asking price
Posted: 02/09/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal | Publisher: Square Enix, Microsoft Studios | Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox one, Playstation 4, Windows

Genre: Action-Adventure
Release date: November 10, 2015

The first I'd ever heard of Lara Croft, the heroine of the long running Tomb Raider series of video games, was from the much derided film adaptation starring Angelina Jolie. I remember that my peers in middle school commented on her physical features, and then we all moved on.

At the time, I was more a fan of real time strategy games so I didn’t even know her true origins until much later. Imagine my surprise when I picked up the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot for my Mac, and immediately fell in love with its fantastic mix of intense gunfights, dizzying platforming, clever puzzles set in ancient ruins, and a believable story about the growth of a strong, independent person who braves incredible odds to save her friends, and who just so happens to be a woman (rather than her gender being the focus). The only thing the game shares with its previous stereotype I had is the name. When I went on to play the remastered Definitive Edition on my Xbox One in September 2015 as a free Game with Gold, I largely shared the thoughts of fellow Just Adventure writer Ray Ivey who says in his review of the PS4 version, “[This] is the rare game that fires on all cylinders.”

Needless to say, I was incredibly excited when I got a copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider over the holiday season. I did have some reservations due to the pre-release controversy over the much-anticipated sequel’s status as a timed exclusive for Xbox One and Xbox 360. I also had concerns about where and how the story and gameplay could be improved from its predecessor, and whether it would be worth the wait for my friends on PC and PS4. Yesterday I finally completed the campaign, and what a ride it's been.

Story
 

Rise of the Tomb Raider starts off with the young archaeologist Lara Croft on an expedition in the glaciers of Siberia. She’s on a quest to find the lost city of Kitezh, which legend says contains an item called the Divine Source -- a relic that can grant immortality. Her often absent father, Dr. Richard Croft, became a laughing stock for believing it existed and died a broken man. The central conflict of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s story is Lara Croft’s quest to not only find the Divine Source before a sinister organization named Trinity does, but also discover who she is independent of her father’s legacy.

Anyone expecting the main storyline to be full of unpredictable twists and turns will come away disappointed, but it still does a decent job in further developing Lara Croft’s character and expounding on the themes mentioned earlier. Rise of the Tomb Raider is also very quick in setting aside supporting characters and plot threads from the original game, which was a little odd to me. But the upside is that players who haven’t played through that game will be able to understand the plot with no problems.

The side stories prove to be much stronger, much as they do in the first game. On Lara’s journey you’ll encounter people native to the region and explore the beautifully detailed remnants of long gone civilizations, uncovering historical documents, relics, murals, and other artifacts. As in the first game, this allows anyone to feel like an archaeologist, slowly piecing together a world that's been long forgotten but once had plenty of life and vitality. Even when the supernatural is involved, the environment feels real and so does the player’s connection to it.

Atmosphere and Aesthetics
 

The overall presentation is fantastic. Rise of the Tomb Raider is by far the best looking game I’ve ever seen on my Xbox One, with jaw-dropping details such as footprints in the snow having realistic depth to them, even filling up behind you. I really had to stop myself from taking screenshots all the time. The ones accompanying the review are ones I took very early on in order to avoid spoilers. At the same time, the excellent sound design is on full display from the guns to the animals to the great score.

Screenshot 3

Gameplay
 

It’s the gameplay that’s seen the most changes, and all of them are welcome. Lara once again uses axes to climb up ice and rock walls, uses ziplines to descend on ropes from great heights and leaps across chasms. All of it still feels terrific. Sometimes this occurs in cinematic moments while entire buildings are collapsing behind you, and in others you’re climbing around desolate environments looking for your next artifact. This time around, however, you can also swim, climb trees, fire arrows into walls that you can climb, and overall have more athletic abilities at your disposal.

The focus on making the game more varied and open-ended extends to the combat. The bow-and-arrow, pistol, rifle and shotgun you get at first may seem lacking, and the loop of earning XP to unlock skills that make you stronger doesn’t seem original at first blush either. However, there are multiple varieties of each weapon category for which you can pick up parts around the world or buy with rare coins, and each has its own upgrades.

Plus, there are more than a dozen resources you can scavenge around the world; you can also collect them from animals you hunt. These allow you to craft upgrades as well as special ammo for every weapon, outfits which grant bonuses, and other items that can improve your personal play style. This is important as you’ll need every tool at your disposal to fight gradually more difficult enemies who, for instance, frequently flank you, make smart use of cover, and throw grenades like they’re going out of style. At the same time, you can do everything from stealthily drowning enemies underwater to jumping on them from above, making you feel as though you’ve outsmarted your deadly foes rather than just shooting them.

Anyone who didn’t like the first game’s emphasis on combat may find the improvements to be a weakness, but while the main story does still focus on fighting, there are many more puzzles along the way. The main puzzles consist of nine new optional challenge tombs (which, for those who don’t know, are physics based puzzles that can often stump you but give you that “aha!” moment when you finally figure them out), all of which are excellent and provide plenty of rewards for solving. There are also many crypts and caves, each with its own secrets, which lend the same feeling of satisfaction when successfully navigated.

Conclusion
 

In all, I sunk about thirty hours into Rise of the Tomb Raider, and that’s just for the campaign after completing all the story missions, side missions, and challenge tombs. By contrast, an average playthrough of the first Tomb Raider lasts ten hours and is much more linear. The competitive multiplayer from the first game has also been removed in favor of an Expedition mode where users can create and play other community-created custom missions, replay levels with modifiers, and more. Plus, new content already has or will come in the Season Pass including an Endurance Mode focused more on survival, a Baba Yaga story DLC and the Cold Darkness Awakened wave survival mode. I plan on playing all of the side content included in the main game and the Season Pass before I give an updated conclusion on the staying power of Rise of the Tomb Raider past playing the story once.

Even though it’s well done, I do wish the plot had taken a few more creative risks. And if you weren’t sold on the reboot series the first time around, there might not be enough new to convince you to try again. But if you’re a huge Tomb Raider fan or just want a quality new action-adventure game, Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of my favorite games of the generation so far.

After all of that, I can definitely say to my friends who either are wondering whether or not to pick up Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One or get it now that it’s on PC, that the game is absolutely worth the asking price, let alone the sale prices that have often been offered on both platforms. For PS4 players, when the game releases in the 2016 holiday season, it’s definitely worth your patience. That patience will most likely be rewarded by a Game of the Year Edition that includes all the DLC.

 

Grade: A+
Amazing graphics and sound
Wonderful sense of place
Extremely fun combat, puzzles, and platforming
 
 
Story is predictable at times
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 
 
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7 64 bit 
Processor: Intel Core i3 2100 or AMD equivalent
Memory: 6 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650 2GB or AMD HD7770 2GB
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 25 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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