Tag Archives: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration

Aria of No Soul

Whee! I’m done! Now let’s quickly get out of here!

If this wasn’t much of a week then Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Anniversary at least follows suit. Even if it was still a cautiously entertaining adventure just last weekend, its latter half stumbled on so many clichés that it would have needed to be a self-conscious parody rather than a solemn action-adventure to work. It’s a real shame, too, considering that tech-wise Rise of the Tomb Raider is still nigh on impeccable. Both the overall imagery of the game as well as the detail of its heroine’s animation are absolutely spot on. When Lara admires the exceptionally gorgeous views, or quickly dries her ponytail after a quick swim, those are the moments when the player probably feels most in sync with the character. Movement is fluent, bullets fly true, and the environment is discreetly graceful at pointing out ledges that can be grabbed, vertical surfaces that allow an additional step, or cliffsides that can be leaped onto with a couple of climbing axes.

Even if the staff of Crystal Dynamics seem to be on the level from a technical perspective, the other aspects making up a game are a bit woeful. Two religious extremities – one strong but evil, the other weak but good – vying over an ancient secret really is a piss-poor motif to begin with, but it’s ten times worse approached seriously. Sure, Indiana Jones fights Nazis and Nathan Drake has his own treasure hunts, but at least those two know how to laugh at themselves. Lara does not laugh. Even if Rise of the Tomb Raider no longer treats its heroine in such a repulsive and sadistic manner than its predecessor (Tomb Raider of 2013), there’s still not even an iota of British charm present, as much as a treasure trove that would be. No one ever smiles, except maybe by accident, and when awfully stereotypical characters constantly end up in awfully stereotypical situations while spouting lines like “You do what you must”, or when Lara is sitting at a campfire, having a personal crisis of how awful it is for the good in this world to witness death and violence… It’s just plain cringe-worthy.

As for gameplay, it has similar problems. Whenever Lara can choose a stealthy approach, picking off her adversaries one by one from the shadows, the game shines at its brightest. To counter these occasions, however, there are tons of moments when you’re swarmed by alarmed bad guys and left with no option but to survive. At times, an endless rain of nades would put even Call of Duty in shame, and when all else fails there’s always the tired old cliché of slow but heavily armored baddies to fall back to. Rise of the Tomb Raider never finds a good balance between these two extremes. It’s either an enjoyable stealth encounter or a shockingly loud and chaotic skirmish but rarely ever anything in between. Towards the end, all gauges are turned up to eleven and everything is so flashy it no longer even matters anymore. Just a ridiculous barrage of unnecessarily dramatic explosions and close calls that are there only for their own sake (incidentally something that hampered the previous game, too).

I beat the game in 20 hours, including one of its story-driven DLCs, which was pretty much more of the same but with a hugely original twist of added chaos via psychedelic hallucinations. Oh FFS, game designers, get your act together already. If this is AAA, I’m happy to stick to the sidelines.

Auspicious second-stringers

Speaking of which, even if this time of year doesn’t sport that many new releases, a couple still caught my attention. Little Nightmares is, apparently, some sort of a dark puzzle-platformer that probably would’ve flown right past my radar without plenty of positive hearsay. As for Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, it’s something I’ve briefly covered already, and really a game I’m really looking forward to. Now if only I could get that one remarkably time-consuming and, at times, aggravating DS puzzle game done and dusted… If anything, I’m thankful of not having to cover these as work.

Ms. Drake, I Presume?

The audience is a bit dead

After a couple of less impressive subjects, this actual weekend has been quite a bit more entertaining. Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration has turned out to be a rather mellow, if also pretty generic third person action-adventure. This time around the horror of all tombs worldwide, Lara Croft, is following in her late father’s footsteps to discover no more and no less than immortality itself. Back in the 10th century, a cabal led by the prophet of Constantinople kept this awfully useful sounding secret safe and sound from a military organization known as Trinity. They’ve been doing an exceptional job, considering that after an entire millennium the descendants of these two factions are still at it. Remarkably persistent little buggers!

Thanks to her father’s notes, Lara is quickly up to the game, and it only takes a brief stop at sultry Syria to get bearings for the icy tundras of Siberia that allegedly harbor the hidden city of the prophet and his chosen ones. Sadly, the psychopathic leader of a Trinity battalion, Konstantin, has reached the same conclusion, so waiting for Lara are not only ancient revelations but a merry mob of mercenaries as well. That’s especially bad when our beloved archaeologist loses all her gear due to some careless mountaineering and has to begin her adventure by displaying such basic survival skills as building a fire and constructing a flimsy bow.

Making use of the local biodiversity, namely flora, fauna, and mercenaries, is most straightforward; bow arrows can be crafted with sticks and feathers, ouchies heal with herbs and cloth, downed game is good for, say, larger ammo pouches, and empty bottles and tin cans be swiftly transformed into molotovs and grenades. If such an organic lifestyle or silent kills by a bow don’t hold allure, it doesn’t really take all that long to secure a traditional array of hand guns and assault rifles. As well as hunting-gathering, plenty of time is naturally spent admiring some pretty damn striking views, ascending mountainsides, making daring leaps, recovering long lost relics, solving relatively easy physics based puzzles, and constantly getting into explosive, Michael Bay -esque situations.

It’s a no-brainer to guess which series Rise of the Tomb Raider has been studying most fervently, and in more than one occasion it truly feels more Uncharted than Uncharted itself. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I think I’ll still want to see it through in full first. For now, though, the game isn’t half bad at all.

Space!

Has space. Is happy.

Ha! Yesterday, PlayStation 4 firmware upgraded itself to version 4.50. I usually couldn’t care less of any such release on any device, but 4.50 added support for external hard drives. The timing couldn’t have been better, as just last month I finally ran out of storage space. I got my PS4 two and a half years ago and the very first thing I did was to replace its 500GB hard drive with a 2TB one. It has served me well for all this time but just like with every console that supports upgradeable storage space, no amount is ever enough. Sure, I could just delete games of the past but as anyone belonging to the species Gamius Sapiens, that’s something you do only to subconsciously regret it five minutes later. Since storage space is cheap, I preferred to spend less than a hundred bucks on a cute little Seagate 2TB USB3 drive. The new firmware instantly recognized it, formatted it as extended storage for PS4, and it now looks like I can spend another 2-3 years without storage woes. Yay!

Either in this life or the next one…

It’s a pity that acquiring more time isn’t as straightforward as acquiring more space. While I’m still head over heels in Yakuza 0, backlog just keeps on growing. I picked up the highly acclaimed Horizon: Zero Dawn mostly to support a totally new big budget IP but as for everything else, I’m just being an annoying trash panda going through bargain bins for my kicks. The Evil Within, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, Watch Dogs 2, Darksiders: Warmastered Edition, Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration, and Dragon Quest Builders are all games that struck me as semi-interesting but way too expensive to grab at full price. Thankfully we live in such a hectic world that by the time the mainstream rushes off to devour the next Big Thing, the prices of past such experiences plummet. So, those are games that might be covered in this blog. Eventually.