As one of the most iconic gaming characters to ever exist, Lara Croft certainly has a lot going for her following 2013’s reboot of Tomb Raider. Since then, fans have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on a new story starring the titular protagonist and her various, action-packed exploits. As I quickly found out, fans will be getting exactly that in the form of Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Arriving first on Xbox platforms later this year, this timed exclusive looks every inch like a successor to the very well received Tomb Raider, with an ample amount of improvements going hand-in-hand with familiar action that excites and pushes the series forward. Rise of the Tomb Raider is looking great, and I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of additional gameplay for the anticipated title during E3 2015.
My demo picked up where the avalanche ended during Rise‘s presentation at Microsoft’s press conference. Waking up covered in snow, Lara quickly realizes that she’ll freeze to death if she’s unable to find shelter. Hobbling forward, she stumbles upon a conveniently located camp, and starts gathering supplies to make a fire and hut. For those who’ve experienced the previous iteration of the series, camp sites have returned and they’ll still be an area intended for weapon upgrades and the like.
Croft was then instructed to gather mushrooms that could be found within a hollow log, which she then used to make poisonous arrows. As that tasked was completed, the first baddie arrived and the Square Enix employee showed us the benefits of hiding in trees. Players are able to scale several pieces of landscape (in this instance a tree) to avoid detection from enemies, with the ability to lunge off a branch and throttle a foe with an ice pick being a solid reason to occupy high ground.
As the demo progressed, we were shown how poisonous arrows can take out clustered groups of baddies, but Rise of the Tomb Raider really picked up when the player came face-to-face with a massive grizzly bear. Hostile and primed for the kill, the bear immediately gave pursuit to Lara, setting up a chase scene that harkens back to the primal skill of fight or flight. After accidentally wading through knee-deep snow, the immense grizzly threw itself on Croft and immediately started mauling her, leaving us assured that the violent ends famously featured in the reboot will be making their return.
Of course, any good game needs variety in its vistas to keep players engaged, and there will be plenty of that as well. While the snow-covered mountains are well-made and pretty to look at, there are several other environments that can be traversed through. An early mission shown off featured Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s protagonist in a desert environment amongst the corpse-filled ruins of an ancient civilization. Being pursued by a helicopter, Lara took shelter in a cave and started traversing the rickety labyrinth within.
Jump scares and booby traps were scattered about, with a return of puzzle-solving elements – referred to lovingly by the developer as “puzzle nuggets” – appearing while walking, crawling, jumping, and swimming through the area. Puzzles will be returning in a big way this time around, as players wander around tombs looking at hieroglyphs in a bid to upgrade Lara’s “fluency” in an EXP-based manner that will help her translate monoliths (in the case of the demo) and unlock additional story details and upgrades.
Square Enix has managed to once again make the Tomb Raider series relevant, and Rise of the Tomb Raider appears to build off of the successful formula that made the last installment in the franchise the critical success it was. With more tombs to explore and absurd action abound, it’s looking like Xbox owners are in for a very solid game later this year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider will be arriving first for Xbox 360 and Xbox One on November 10, 2015.