A reader offers a six-point plan to rejuvenate the Tomb Raider franchise, with more tombs and dinosaurs and less murder.
I have always been a huge Tomb Raider fan. The original PlayStation 1 game wasn’t the first video game I ever played but it’s the first one I ever remembering loving. The size of the levels, the lack of handholding, the intense atmosphere and freedom of movement, Lara being a really cool female character when they were almost unknown… it’s probably the game that made me a gamer.
But things have not been so great for Lara in recent years. She had a big budget new trilogy and a new live action movie but neither really made the impact I think Square Enix was hoping for. The games are certainly not the cutting edge of 3D action adventures anymore, especially as Uncharted has basically copied everything Tomb Raider used to do and done it better. Or at least they’ve copied the old games on a superficial level.
My problem with the new Tomb Raider games is that they’re basically copying the game that copied them. And while Shadow Of The Tomb Raider did have a bit of a return to proper tomb-raiding, and less combat with humans, it was still, well… a shadow of its former self.
These then are the five things I think need to happen:
1. Proper tombs
This is the most important thing and while they started to get back to it in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider it still felt like a side feature to the more generic third person action. What was so great about the old games was that you were stuck in these huge tombs with no real clue as to what to do, but with this great atmosphere of loneliness and vulnerability. It was very much like Metroid in that sense, even though it wasn’t a Metroidvania. Levels like St Francis Folly from the first game are just great pieces of level design and yet nothing like that really exists in the modern games (or Uncharted).
2. Proper platforming
Tomb Raider came out right at the same time as Super Mario 64. It was one of the first 3D platformers of any kind and definitely the first of that complexity and freedom of movement. The amount of moves and exploration was amazing but nowadays all that is gone. There isn’t really any platforming at all anymore, as it’s almost impossible to miss jumps and everything has heavy auto-assist on it. You don’t need any skill to make the jumps and you don’t need any skill to work out where to go; there’s just one path and you’ve got to follow it. It might as well be a QTE for all the difference it makes.
3. No more open worlds
There was a lot of pandering to modern trends in the new trilogy of games but none of it added anything to the formula. Tomb Raider levels should be big but there’s no need to make them all one big open world area. None of that added anything to the new games and neither did the crafting and experience points and the other pointless busywork. It also meant that Lara did far less globetrotting. She used to be like James Bond, visiting two or three very different locations per adventure, now she’s just stuck in one place for the whole time.
4. More dinosaurs
These next two points are kind of connected, but any new games have to totally revamp the way they think about combat. By halfway through the first game in the reboot trilogy Lara had turned into a bloodthirsty murder junkie, killing everyone without an ounce of remorse or any sign that it was affecting her mentally. The original games had very little combat against people, just a certain amount against animals. Even to today the one thing everyone remembers about the first game is the dinosaur encounters and yet weirdly that was never really brought up again except for one level in Tomb Raider 3.
Fighting dinosaurs and other supernatural enemies is, I think, the way to go for combat. Dinosaurs are great, but also more monsters and zombies and that type of thing. There doesn’t need to be a lot of it, the original game kept it as a surprise that only lasted a short while, but it was all the more memorable for it. Tomb Raider needs to go back to being a bit weird, not just having you fighting generic mercenaries.
5. Decent story
Now to be fair, Tomb Raider has never really had this but it’s obvious that it’s a requirement for modern games and Tomb Raider really needs to work out how it’s going to handle things. The primary problem is that Lara’s character is all over the place. She doesn’t have any clearly defined personality anymore and while the first hour or so of the reboot started off fine, with her reacting to what was going on like a real person, that quickly stopped. Then she just became kind of… generically angry? I’m not pretending she used to be a well-rounded character but at least her sarcastic humour was something to latch on to and give her a bit of a personality. At the moment she’s just Rambo but with a bigger killer count.
6. Better music
‘Nuff said on this one really. The music of Tomb Raider used to be so iconic, and so important to the atmosphere. Now it’s just generic movie music. Like all my other points this basically boils down to making Tomb Raider distinctive and unique again. If you’re going to copy other games there’s no point, just let Lara be Lara!
By reader Wotan
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