Looking Back to 2013 and the Tomb Raider Reboot

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Despite being commonplace today, a reboot is not an easy project to get right. Ideally it will bring a cherished game or character bang up to date, but at the same time respecting the source material and acknowledging what came before. Then if you chuck one of gaming’s most famous characters into the mix, it’s certainly quite an ask. Thankfully, in 2013, the reboot of Tomb Raider got so much right. 

Now, if you are somehow unfamiliar with Ms Croft then you should immediately give yourself a good telling off. The British archaeologist is famous the world over for her wit, intelligence and quick footed combat manoeuvres. However, it’s the dual pistols that are synonymous with her character, despite taking something of a backseat in the “Survivor” trilogy, which this game kicks off.

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This is because Tomb Raider is not only a reboot, but an origin story. The game comprehensively retells and chronicles how Lara becomes the fearsome artefact hunter and survivor against seemingly insurmountable odds. Her journey began on Yamatai, an eerie and dangerous island filled with threats and secrets.

This time around we were treated to a deeper narrative driven story with a supporting cast to bolster it. Lara was far from the battle-scarred explorer we know and love, instead facing deadly situations at almost every turn, struggling to survive each one. Whether it was the weather, enemies or other forces, Tomb Raider was a relentlessly tense adventure that had brilliant pacing. In fact it was so good, a few years later a live action film was made based on the game that turned out to be a good watch. See? Miracles do happen.

Despite all that, it was the gameplay which really defined the reboot. The exploring, foraging and combat was split by ridiculously fun action sequences that were utterly unbelievable, but looked fantastic. The radio tower segment springs to mind straight away. 

Before too long, the once jittery and anxious Lara amassed something of an arsenal in terms of weapons, which were great fun to use. It also didn’t take long for her to become quite proficient in executing her enemies stealthily, and quite brutally too. The free-aim was fantastic for combat, and many other firearms could be crafted at campfires, which doubled as save points. The world felt more open and bigger than ever, offering the opportunity to backtrack and hunt for secrets and treasures, all made possible by newer generation technology.

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By contrast, careful exploration would be rewarded by the discovery of secret tombs that flaunted the puzzle elements of the game, and contained all sorts of riches. Whether it be weapons, crafting materials or other treasures, finding the big chest was always a thrill. You could also collect intel throughout the game, and I remember the satisfaction of tracking down every single shred of it, helped by the excellent map system and Lara’s “Survival Instinct” ability. The result was finding out the name of the shady organisation involved with the strange goings on. Something so simple as this reveal felt so significant, and a fitting reward for all the sleuthing.

This 2013 iteration of Tomb Raider kept the traditional third-person perspective, and I remember being very impressed with how it looked. The graphics were lush, and brought the excitement of exploration to the fore. Yet, at the same time some segments of the game were quite chilling, especially towards the end. 

The weak link was the multiplayer, which felt like an afterthought bolted on to a substantial single player experience. It was standard stuff, such as deathmatches that could be played online, but it never really captured my imagination like the main campaign did. Maybe I’m just being resistant to change, but Tomb Raider never had a place in the multiplayer sphere in my mind.

For a game which is ten years old, Tomb Raider still feels very “new” to me. Quite possibly the strongest entry in the trilogy which later included Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it walked the fine line between the past, present and future for the franchise. And with the future left wide open for Lara, along with another potential reboot in the works, one does wonder if lightning really can strike twice. 

You can find Tomb Raider in Definitive Edition form over on the Xbox Store, playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It’s on PlayStation and PC too. Let us know your memories down in the comments.

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