I have never played a Tomb Raider game before, nor is it a franchise I’ve had a particular amount of interest in despite all my years of hearing about it. That honestly might have been what prompted me to start up Tomb Raider (2013) a few weeks ago. I was scrolling through my Steam library looking for something new to start with my new summer break free time when I saw the game there, which like many of my Steam games, I had forgotten how exactly I obtained. At that moment I thought “Maybe I should play a Tomb Raider game”.
Now, I am not particularly known to finish video games longer than 10 hours, mostly because I either don’t have time or weird depression episodes kick in and I don’t have the energy to finish them. Given that this is the first game I was able to finish on my summer break, I thought I could do a little celebrating by, what else, writing an article!
I was told by my fellow Story Arc-ers that the reboot Tomb Raider games are not very representative of the originals, and so I obviously have more work to do if I would like to get a better idea of the series as a whole. But, as far as Tomb Raider (2013) goes, I found it to be a rather solid installment in the adventure game genre with fun mechanics and plenty of extra components to keep you from putting that controller down.
I know it’s kind of redundant to immediately jump in with saying that the plot is the weakest point of the game, especially after just saying that the game was engaging for me. But honestly, I didn’t think the plot would be anything special off the bat, considering that, in my experience, expedition stories tend to follow one of three or four plot line types. Lara Croft and her team go in search of this ancient Japanese island civilization called Yamatai, they end up stranded on said island, they can’t get off the island because they think the ancient Sun Queen is keeping them there, you get the idea. There was one part I did think was pretty metal, but I don’t want to spoil it since it’s one of the coolest parts of the game and takes place towards the end.
Honestly, I found the plot to be negligible. It’s interesting to a point, especially when you read and find the notes from various people who have been on the island. But really, I don’t think the devs ever aimed for a compelling story and rather wanted to focus on the gameplay. Overall, the plot doesn’t have much bearing on the game’s quality, despite reminding me of every expedition story I have experienced ever.
I think my favorite thing about this game is how rewarding the gameplay is. Aside from having platformer and occasionally Zelda-type dungeon elements, Tomb Raider (2013) is a third-person shooter, and a very good one at that. Lara gradually obtains new types of weapons throughout the story, allowing for more advanced (and satisfying) combat. You start off with finding a flimsy bow and arrow and then end up with a freaking grenade launcher by the time you finish the game. The moment you obtain the latter is so great, even Lara begins screaming like she’s on top of the world using the thing.
If that wasn’t enough, you can also upgrade the weapons with parts you find around the island to have stabler firing, more ammo capacity, and even incendiary bullets and bomb arrows. In addition, whenever you level up you get a skill point, which you can use to upgrade Lara herself. She can learn a new combat skill or gain the ability to scout out extra treasures hidden around the landscape. It’s so fulfilling getting these abilities; their effects are very noticeable and very helpful in making already polished gameplay go even smoother for you. All of this in tandem with the adventure elements and atmosphere really make for an enjoyable and intense experience.
It was very, very hard for me to resist 100%ing this game. I’m a completionist at heart, and as I said before, there are skills you can obtain to help you find the extra stuff lying around on the island. One of these skills even tells you where the maps are. These maps give the locations of all the relics and documents in the area, and so the game is, in practice, relatively an easy game to 100% without a guide. Oh boy, did I want to so badly. But I resisted, mostly because I couldn’t really figure out what the GPS cache sets that you collect in every area did (pretty sure Lara explained it but I zoned out on that voice clip unfortunately), and there actually are another set of things you need to find in each area and perform an action on that you cannot find even with the maps. For instance, in one area you have to find and light a fire in front of 10 statues. In almost every area I had all but one of the tasks done, and by the time I was done with the game, even I didn’t see the appeal in going back for them. I also found backtracking inconvenient: you don’t notice it when you’re progressing through the story, but it really takes a lot just to get around, despite having the ability to transport between campsites. So for those reasons, I rebelled against my instincts and decided to forgo obtaining everything. Still, I would say it’s not a hard game to 100% generally.
For my first experience of the Tomb Raider franchise, Tomb Raider (2013) made a good impression on me. When it comes to games with a gritty, realistic look to them, I usually get a little worried about not liking them. If you were to look at all of my favorite games, the majority of them have a cartoony or at least a non-realistic appearance to them, so I know myself as someone who values charm and aesthetic greatly in video games. This was part of the reason I never really tried Tomb Raider; It simply didn’t look overly appealing to me personally.
That being said, I enjoy most adventure games that I play, and so by default the game did have some reason for me to enjoy it. Combining this with very smooth, entertaining third-person shooter elements, Tomb Raider (2013) makes for a compelling, fun, and relatively short and sweet game. I wouldn’t call it anything overly special, but I’d certainly recommend it if you’re looking for a good little adventure, or if you’re looking to try Tomb Raider for the first time yourself.
Thank you so much for reading my article! If you would like to see my in-depth review of games from another series, please look here for my evaluation of two installments in the 3D Super Mario franchise, both of which I 100%ed back to back!