20 years ago, Tomb Raider was the game who set a trend that has started a whole genre of its own. 20 years later, the game has fallen from grace but is making a big return. Two decades is quite the history, and the franchise has gone through many ups and downs to get to where it is today. However, the point of the article is not to reminisce the past, but to celebrate the future. The gaming industry is booming, and many games with a long history behind them, must keep up with the trends in order to expand their audience, but nonetheless, keep their identity.
Thus, from an action-adventure game, with overall linear maps and turns, with the reboot, Tomb Raider had to choose a new path. It was getting stale, and with an industry this big, games must follow what people are into. This is how Tomb Raider became an action-adventure RPG, however, some hardcore fans were not really fond of this idea. That’s where the topic of copying Uncharted came about. I promise, however, I will address it some other time.
Nonetheless, how is Tomb Raider becoming an RPG bad? Let me reiterate. You still play as Lara, however, you have a vast open world in which you can explore tombs, search for secrets, artefacts, achieve goals. Isn’t that what an archaeologist does? Personally, people who stay behind their feelings of what Tomb Raider brought them at the time, are way too much living in it. But as Lara said, you dig up the past -to understand it-. Tomb Raider would have been an RPG styled game with its’ first release, had there been the technology for it. But if we look back at the 1996s title with our modern understanding, we can actually see that the game aims for a choice of exploration, weapon choices, secrets to find, change in outfits, and even a number of acrobatic skills, and locations. Yes, I said the maps were generally linear above, but the technology of the computers themselves must be strongly taken into account. Going back to my point, doesn’t that look like a game catering towards what RPG games strive for? The gist of it is to look at the Classic Tomb Raider games as their best version for the time. A primitive iteration of games today! It’s the fact that games back then were technologically tough to execute in the grandiose way Rise of the Tomb Raider can be today! Times change, and so must franchises. The difficult part is finding the balance between the new and the old. The trends, and the identity.
In fact, back in 2003, Tomb Raider Angel of Darkness had tried to introduce of similar elements of RPGs. The most noticeable ones were NPC interaction, mini side-quests/missions/tasks(call them however you see fit for the game), choice of conversation lines, and a second playable character. The game was a grand project in itself, but due to industry demands, delays and constraints, it failed and what made it as the final product, was probably barely 50% of the originally intended story and content.
Due to that fall, when developers Crystal Dynamics took the wheel after Core Design, they had the difficult task to wash away the shame off the franchise. They introduced boss fights, world interaction with objects that weren’t part of the main goal, new devices Lara to use, but still retaining the Tomb Raider for what it made its name for – exploration, tombs, and an exciting story. What fans disliked back then was how was portrayed – overly emotional, and concerned. The Classics’ Lara was just playing for the sport, not second-guessing her actions. For me, if we analyze her from back then, she could be made out to be more of an anti-hero, than a hero character, but she was always put up against a worse antagonist, which made her “not so bad”. Hence why I believe, since Lara remains who she is even under the wing of Crystal Dynamics – a grave-robbing, shooting-anyone-getting-in-her-way woman, they wanted to make her more “human” by showing her on the more sensitive side around her family story. And why not? Even every antagonist, is the way they are due to some injustice in their lives.
The sole criticism of the long-term fans, such as me as well, that I won’t argue against is that Tomb Raider is in need of its’ tombs. But I digress with Rise of the Tomb Raider, because I believe that the developers have done a great job in showcasing that the franchise is in good hands.
Story-wise the reboot has the goal to show Lara’s story and growth, from her first steps in archaeology to developing in what she was known for in the Classics. A good AARPG needs a good story, so I hope they keep up the same spirits with where the devs are going with this.