Tomb Raider had paved a new direction for the Tomb Raider series that was originally released in 2013 on the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Despite a short delay, the game was praised by critics and fans for its gameplay and graphics. The reboot by developer Crystal Dynamics was a breath of fresh air for the series that brought fans closer to the humble beginnings of Lara Croft by showing her strengths and weaknesses as an aspiring adventurer. Following a timed exclusive release on Xbox One, the highly anticipated Rise of the Tomb Raider is now available on Steam for PC gaming fans to enjoy.

The story takes place after the events of Tomb Raider as Lara Croft struggles to cope with the aftermath of her supernatural experience on the Yamatai Island. After much time and research, Lara searches for the truth in her travels to locate the mystical city of Kitezh. Ignoring the cautious heed of a friend, she explores the barren and treacherous ruins of Siberia before encountering Trinity, the secret organization who will stop at nothing to pursue their own ambitions. In her deadly survival against nature and Trinity, Lara ultimately accepts her task and embraces her destiny as the legendary Tomb Raider. Much like her father, Lara risks her own life and reputation to clear her father’s name after being mocked and denounced by the historical and archaeological community. She forms alliances and makes unlikely friends along the way as she relies on her wits and combat skills to brave through her dangerous Syria expedition. 

The combat mechanics are similar to those of its predecessor Tomb Raider that proved to be a significant overhaul for the series. There are more upgrade options available with specific equipment or armor required to fully customize weapons to their full potential. Lara’s standard arsenal makes a return with her bow, pistol, shotgun, rifle and the inclusion of her trusty ice axe that saved her life on multiple occasions. Fans that thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider will be very adept and comfortable with the game’s platforming elements as Lara must jump, climb and fight her way through many perilous predicaments. The experience or leveling up system allows you to tailor Lara to your liking making her an even more deadly fighter and a true femme fatale to her enemies. Though many players will go through trial and error attempts, the ability to string together acrobatic feats to evade and kill your foes is rewarding and immensely satisfying. Stealth is encouraged as Lara can hide behind trees, bushes, grassy terrain as players can use the environment to their advantage to pick off her enemies. Be warned that once you are spotted, enemies will swarm and flank Lara from every direction causing mayhem and chaos in a bloody fight to the death. 

Taking the community feedback from Tomb Raider into consideration, the developers have obliged fans by including more tomb raiding this time around. You are able to explore various tombs to enhance Lara’s abilities to decipher ancient drawings, brave deadly traps and solve puzzles. The tombs range from the relatively easy to moderately difficult for those who wish to uncover every nook and cranny in the game. As the tombs can be solved and completed in a short period of time, it leaves players wanting for more as it serves as the foundation of Lara’s coveted Tomb Raider status. Though challenging, the tombs are a delight as players will find different solutions to solving each puzzle encountered by using their own intuition. There is much to explore and find in Rise of the Tomb Raider that is sure to keep dedicated fans busy who wish to achieve full completion of the game.

Crafting is a large component of the game as parts can be found all throughout the game to assist Lara with many upgrades available to raise weapon stats, heal wounds, create large storage containers and enhance weapon ammunition. Among the various things to be found are byzantine coins, cloth, hardwood, bear hides, magnesite and chromeite ores, feathers, herbs, exotic hides, salvage, mushrooms and oil. Lara can craft new items and equipment at base camps that are part of the main story with others that can be found in remote areas for diligent adventurers. It should be noted that several pieces of hardwood are needed to start base camps on the Survivor difficulty level. Aside from base camps and crafting, you are able to use your survival instincts to explore and search for collectibles scattered all over the map. They list of collectible items includes but is not limited to relics, strongboxes, documents, murals, survival and coin caches, tombs and sarcophagi. In addition, challenges are map-based objectives that yield rewards to boost Lara’s effectiveness via outfits, weapons, accessories and a coveted lock pick. 

The DLC content, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, is a short quest that takes place deep in the wilds of Siberia around an Soviet expedition outpost. Lara ventures through the Wicked Vale land in search of a missing man after saving a young girl’s life to unravel the mystery behind the forest witch, Baba Yaga. Facing off against an ancient evil that defies explanation, Lara’s survival skills will be tested as you fight against new adversaries that features three hours of new gameplay with a new outfit and bow as bonus items. The Baba Yaga content is a tough but rewarding challenge that fans should definitely buy to get the full Rise of the Tomb Raider experience. Veteran fans may wish to consider purchasing the Season Pass to enjoy all the game has to offer as a complete package.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is absolutely stunning as it has virtually set a new benchmark in the PC gaming community. Briefly after a final release build that addressed frame rate issues with NVIDIA cards, the game features very intricate character models and gorgeous environments that truly warrants the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 as a highly recommend graphics card. There is no doubt Rise was eye catching on the Xbox One but with the PC version, the inclusion of visual settings like the FXAA anti-aliasing and the tessellation option makes the world in Rise more lifelike and captivating. Many of the special effects and lighting and shadow textures settings placed on High requires a top-notch and recently upgraded PC gaming rig to handle smoothly.

Rise of the Tomb Raider has improved an already stellar game that previously saw release last year on the Xbox One. Whereas the Tomb Raider title in 2013 depicted a gentle and more naïve Lara Croft, Rise lives up to its name by revealing how Lara has grown stronger both physically and mentally as she takes up her role as the legendary Tomb Raider. With enhanced graphics, solid game mechanics and a deep story, Rise of the Tomb Raider has surpassed its predecessor and raised the bar for the series. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a stellar game on Steam that holds great promise for the Tomb Raider series and for further games to come. 

PROS: Gorgeous Graphics, Deep Story, Solid Gameplay

CONS: Pacing, Steep Learning Curve

SCORE – 90%

This review is based on a digital copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider on Steam provided by Square Enix.

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