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Tomb Raider – E3 2012 Impressions

A Tomb Raider reboot has been needed for some time now. Thankfully, Cyrstal Dynamics has also recognized this need, and at E3 2012 I got to see Lara Croft in action as she vied for survival after crash landing on a dangerous island.

Lara has just escaped from her captors and is trying to find other survivors.  The last time this game was shown off, fire was featured as the main device  in her arsenal. However, this time it was revealed that she can use a variety of tools.  For example, she happens across a ‘prying tool’ that can be used to open locked doors, twist gears and more. But Lara can also upgrade these tools, in addition to her weapons, at base-camps using XP that she has earned by killing deer and wolves in the wild, or through other actions.

Crystal Dynamics has described this game as having a limited open world, which means that while there is definitely a path for Lara to take, similar to Tomb Raider games of old, there is also a lot open space and side missions that she can explore. Oftentimes, this “open world” also appears to hold the key to finishing the current mission. I wouldn’t say its an open world like GTA, but it is way more open for exploration than other Tomb Raiders, which is exactly how it should be for an explorer of Lara’s caliber. Take for example, the river that is present in the game.  Rather than simply being a random stream of water, it actually has a source upstream, in addition to a waterfall.  One task that is asked of you is take Lara back to one of her basecamps, which was by a waterfall.  By following the river, you will be able to find the camp.

Thematically, this game is quite adult, and it will be exploring more mature material than in past games.  While Lara looks quite badass in many trailers, in the beginning she is actually quite innocent and inexperienced as she makes her way through dangerous environments.   For example, Lara has to fight off an attempted rape by one of her captors. During this fight, the attacks and cut scenes featured  gruesome violence. After she shot the man in the face from 2 feet away, she broke down and started crying, which was quite uncharacteristic of previous Lara. Nevertheless, this entire scene was incredibly emotional , gut-wrenching and hard to watch.  It will undoubtedly be one of the most compelling games of 2013 .

In another scene, Lara gets caught in a bear trap.  Although this scene was quite graphic, I had a bit of a problem with it.  Most of the time a bear trap will, at the very least, break a human leg.  However, in this game, she was able to be extracted from it without too much repercussion, although she appeared to have a serious injury. She had to be helped away, but in real life she probably would have lost her leg.  While I recognize that this is simply a video game, I really hope that Crystal Dynamics is able to effectively toe the line between fantasy and reality in the majority of the game.

Visually, Tomb Raider is absolutely incredible.  Take for example, the rain effects.  The rain will actually affect Lara’s skin, making it shiny, while her clothes deepen in color as the rain hits her.  And that is just one example of the amazing graphics that are present in the game.  You may have seen the gritty screenshots and the hardcore trailers, but they pale in comparison to actually seeing the gameplay up-close.

While my excitement level for Tomb Raider was high before, this demo confirmed pretty much all my hopes for the game.  The graphics look amazing, the world has a real sense of danger, and the story is incredible. Although I only saw a 15 minute demo, it appears that Crystal Dynamics is making a game that will put Lara back on top of the explorer leaderboard.