Shut up! I know this game came out a while ago but I never got the chance to play it. I was debating whether or not I should do a review but while I wait for another Steam game to finish downloading it's not a bad little time waster. Actually one of the main reasons I bought this game is because I heard Square Enix (the developer) didn't make what they needed back on their game. They're such a good company I decided why not buy the game. My 50 bucks is little more than a drop in the bucket compared to what they expected but it's the principal that counts.
This isn't a reboot game but more of a prequel. We see Laura Croft not as a polygon boobed badass but now as a newbie adventurer on her first real adventure. The game is set on a mysterious island where wolves aren't your biggest problem.
Dear lord the graphics are amazing! And this is me playing at the lowest settings I could (not sure if that's a good thing or not considering I pushed the settings down). From the forests, to old shipyards, to shantytowns to a wreck riddled coast, this game has some of the most impressive visuals out there. Laura gets pretty banged up through the game and it actually shows. From her first stab wound never fully going away on her dirty tank top, which seems to get more ripped as the game progresses, to the grime on her face and scars she's accumulated. This is the first game I've ever seen make the character visually progress realistically through the story. The wounds and muck that accumulate reminds me of a few times when we got into scrapes, sort of being like reminders rather than visuals.
The very first Tomb Raider's were very lacking in character progression... unless you count drowning Laura in her pool or locking her perverted creepy butler in the freezer... which I don't. This game, however, was the perfect opportunity to show how Laura got to be the badass she is or how it actually felt when she first killed someone, and these moments aren't taken lightly. From a story stand point, this is done very well. Laura is constantly making decisions based on a person who hasn't seen the ugly side of the world. As it progresses, too often will you see moments where she is almost conflicted and disgusted. More than once in the game will you find grotesque images and displays. Laura will react accordingly at first but nearing the end, she'll become less phased buy it. She sees a dead body on display and almost freaks out, yet later on she readily jumps into a pit filled with blood and doesn't even flinch. The gameplay perspective does it well too. People commented on how Laura would make moaning sounds and voice their distaste for it. However, as the game progresses, she becomes less vocal. Still reacting but now it's less her being green to the situation and just being a proper response. Laura isn't a chatty person and that's a good thing. She rarely chimes in to say something we already know or don't need to know, and if we're having trouble on a puzzle, she'll offer some insight. In game, every so often there will be button prompts but these are few in number. Whether to remind you that to press "A" (I used a controller this entire time) to jump on ziplines or the first time you need to know something it pops up. It doesn't constantly remind you either. It's there and it's gone. Forgot it? You can look it up in the key bindings.
The combat is really something amazing as well. There is cover from fire fights, however, Laura does this by herself. When in combat or nearing it, she usually crouches down to avoid fire. You can put her in front of cover, whether it's a chest high "insert object here" or a wall near her, she ducks just enough to stay out of fire and when you are, she is just up enough to fire. I don't know why more games don't do this. Cover is a vastly overrated concept in gaming. We need more of this and less of Gears of War style (not that I have anything against Gears of War). You have a dodge mechanic which actually works quite well. Certain enemies need to be dodged like enemies with shields in order to get a quick few shots in. Pressing the dodge twice allows you to roll away and perhaps to cover.
Too often, most games avoid leveling up and I have to ask, why? First off it's a sense of progression. As I get further and further into the game, not only I as a person have found better ways to avoid or traverse combat or the terrain, but I've also got something to show for it. Whether it's hunting animals, killing wolves/enemies, finding secrets or treasures, you'll gain experience points to put towards three different skill trees (two at the beginning). You'll get better at finding treasures, hunting or killing enemies and lasting in combat. You don't have to go through Elder Scrolls level of leveling up, but a small system works great and gives me an incentive to actually go and find treasures. I do also like how you can turn certain objects around to examine them like a real archaeologist. Some items have things to look at like a small detail you wouldn't have noticed on first glance. I've found not every item has one, showing even more realism to the game. You can find these items just but searching around or by upgrading certain skills to find them. This game really reminds me of that old saying: it's the journey, not the destination.
There is a lot of realism to the game which is somewhat of a bad thing for games but actually is a good thing for this one. I briefly touched on how Laura actually shows her scars and grime and I wonder, why don't other games do this? Apart from the obvious "It would take too much money/time" it's something most games could do with. Apart from that, the people act like real people. I know that sounds weird but how many times have you seen a carbon copy enemy in games? "I am evil because evil is fun! Muhahahah!" That gets old hat after a while. While the enemies are a bit copy and paste, the minor characters aren't. We see they're intertwined together in such a way that they aren't just actors and scripts but they act just like a real person should. I think I have the writing staff to thank for this. Good writing in games is very under appreciated.
The fast travel map is just... bleh. You have like 8 different places to choose from when you're at a campsite. You can see small things like artifacts you may have missed but it's all on this small field and (as far as I know) you can't move around freely at the very least to admire it. The map does it's job but... it was kind of a major difference to the overall game.
The game is in a sort of Zelda/Metroid where you can go back and find stuff you may have missed. However, in this, it's not needed. Just for small things like Xp and scavenging materials to upgrade your weapons. I personally don't find this bad and actually to be a good thing. However, most people apparently don't because they're weirdos. The good thing is you don't have to go back so it's up to you how you feel.
I never really used the map, nor the online multiplayer. The map is kind of unusual considering it's there but I have no desire to use it. You already know how I feel about multiplayer but beside from that I've heard that it was a meh experience in itself.
All in all, it's a good game. Hell, I'm actually putting this as my favorite game of the year right now.
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