Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
A very good game wearing the skin of not a very good game. Peel that skin away, or at least try to ignore it, and find the golden bones underneath. Alternatively, just play the survival mode DLC and experience Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s best bits without the flab with a new sense of urgency.
The nu-Raiders are absolutely well-intentioned in terms of making Lara Croft both grounded and a serious hero of great competency in the face of great adversity, as opposed to the triangularly-norked pin-up she unfortunately mutated into back into the 90s.
I’m just not convinced by the execution, which is partly down to an over-earnest vocal performance and, in ROTR’s case, a baggy storyline that was too hung up on following in daddy’s convoluted conspiracy’n’magic footsteps rather than entirely making Lara a force of her own agency. I hope the next one features a Lara who loves what she’s doing and has a verve to her beyond Gettin’ Real Good At Not Dying.
But! Underneath that, I really dug the blend of exploration, high-stakes combat, environmental puzzling and hunting for upgrades. This really came together in that survival DLC which, though it perhaps doesn’t offer as long-lived an experience as the campaign, focuses hard on what works best.
Which is to say, staying alive in a hostile great outdoors, dogged by the elements just as much as by enemies. My own blood temperature drops a few degrees just hearing the howl of the wind, while small accomplishments feel like huge victories in such a stark place. But I dig the puzzle-tombs too, which are in shorter supply there.
What I want, clearly, is a sandbox survival Tomb Raider with only the loosest of stories and all manner of cannily lethal dungeons to uncover. I don’t need The Saga Of Lara Croft’s Self-Discovery. I just want a Lara who’s really, really good at her job, knows it, and loves the hell out of it.