Story is full of the right kind of danger and intrigue, its tombs are dastardly
Its story is full of the right kind of danger and intrigue, its tombs are dastardly, and I was as struck by its huge, romantic environments as I was as a kid playing the original. Although I could have done with a few more puzzles and fewer firefights overall, I enjoyed every rollicking, big-hearted second of it.
Over the course of the game we see this intelligent, resourceful young woman become something closer to the Lara Croft we know, fearless in the face of danger. It is a greatly successful origin story, a series reboot that feels both authentic and hugely exciting.
Lara herself is so well-realised that her friends and enemies feel two-dimensional by comparison. Lara is shipwrecked alongside a crew of friends, and her guilt over bringing them along on this expedition provides much of the plot’s emotional thrust, but it’s difficult to feel as much for them as you do for Lara. Thankfully, this doesn't rob the plot of impact. There are a few jaw-dropping moments in this story, which develops quickly from survival-struggle into action epic.
Lara periodically discovers new weapons, injecting the combat with fresh novelty every few hours. I gravitated towards the bow – there’s something vastly more satisfying about being a hidden assassin than leaping into the fray with a shotgun or hiding behind a wall with an assault rifle, though the game necessitates all these approaches and more in different situations.
Building Lara’s skills and upgrading her weapons with salvage proves unexpectedly gratifying. By the later stages of Tomb Raider’s story her arsenal rivals that of a small guerrilla army, and she’s equally deadly in hand-to-hand combat. But for most of the game, Lara has to work with what she’s got. Though survivalism is one of the plot’s dominant themes, if anything it’s under-used in the gameplay; hunting and foraging are introduced in the first twenty minutes, but then quickly abandoned.
Climbing, meanwhile, is masterful. Lara moves naturally and confidently in her environment, but it still feels excitingly dangerous. Leaping across cliffsides with a climbing axe never quite loses that heart-in-throat feeling. Croft has been to some really impressive places in her day, and happily this island is among them.