When we first arrived on the floor at EGX, I felt compelled to make our first stop at the (hopefully) soon to be released Rise of the Tomb Raider. I myself have been a huge Tomb Raider fan ever since Legend, when they finally allowed Lara to walk without looking and feeling as if she had a stick up her butt preventing her from running and turning at the same time. So as you can imagine, I was really excited to see one of gamings most famous female icons run, jump and swing into the spotlight once more. Even a 2 hour queue couldn’t curb my enthusiasm!
When we finally made it into the demo, we were allowed to play the apparent prologue to the game in the Syrian Temple level. Led to Syria by her fathers research in search of something called ‘The Prophet’s Tomb’ which, of course, contains some sort of ancient magical doo-hickey that a bunch of bad guys are trying to steal. Upon being betrayed by her driver and blown up by an enemy helicopter, Lara must make her own way to the oasis which houses the lost temple through crumbling ruins and scorpion infested tunnels, whilst somehow managing not to do what I would and curl up into fetal position chanting “UNCLEAN! BAD SCORPIONS!”
As with previous games, the landscape and level design in Rise of the Tomb Raider is a huge focus and from what I can tell it’s building up to be even better than ever. Unlike the more widely shown shots from the game of snow drifts in Siberia, Syria is a desert landscape, so there’s a lot more attention to dust and shafts of light pouring from the cracks in the temple, as well as some beautiful water effects (more on that in a minute!) and ironically enough, a real sense of life within the long abandoned temple. As you make your way through the level you’ll find scorpions skittering about, vines and cobwebs billowing in the desert breeze and a myriad of skeletons which I was delighted to discover you could kick around like morbid little footballs. Needless to say, along with the considerable graphics upgrade from the previous games, the physics engine has been kicked into shape in a big way as parts of the level crumble and fall or stray skulls get knocked out of place by Lara’s antics. What’s more, the effect it has on your immersion is nothing to scoff at. Probably the only thing graphics wise that I would have pause about is Lara’s new face, which in my opinion is too drastic a change from the previous game. The timeline is only a year or so down the line from the reboot, so either Lara has had plastic surgery, or the events on Yamatai literally added years to her face.
Gameplay wise, there’s not much new, you traverse the temple while solving puzzles and once again proving that taking gymnastics as a child comes in very handy if your line of work involves crumbling ruins. The thing that struck me the most in the demo however was the use of water puzzles. At numerous points of the level you’ll find cracks in the walls which, should you smash them open with your handy dandy climbing axe, will spill forth with water, changing the levels in the room around you and allowing you to move on. It’s an interesting mechanic, and for all we know it could only appear in Syria and be mysteriously absent from all other levels (Though getting Lara drenched in Siberia would be interesting, right? I’d love to play the level as an ice cube!) but it’s a nice touch when your temple is located in an oasis.
Now, keeping in mind that the game is not finished, and we only got to play about half and hour of it at most, I have to say I’m excited to play the full release. Say what you will about Lara, but she’s a gaming icon for a reason, and with the new series of rebooted games we, the players, finally have a chance to discover the world of being a Tomb Raider alongside Lara for the first time. In all other games pre-boot, we were experiencing these ancient temples alongside a seasoned veteran of the craft, and while the sense of discovery and adventure was still there, never has our own interests been so in line with Lara’s in such a way that we can actually feel we’re discovering these places and these dangers together. Here’s hoping that feeling that began in the 2013 reboot can carry over when Rise of the Tomb Raider drops as an Xbox exclusive in early 2016. If you’re like me, however, and you don’t own an XBone, you’ll have to wait until later in the year, and trust me, the pain of that loss is killing me too.
To tide you over, you can view the full video of the Syria demo on the Tomb Raider official channel below. Once you’re done, feel free to let us know what you think in the comments below. Are you excited to see the Rise of our beloved Tomb Raider?