It’s been two years since Tomb Raider was revealed by Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics. In that time we’ve become increasingly intrigued by its action/adventure/RPG/survival concoction of open-world gameplay, by its harrowingly gritty origin story around the legendary Lara Croft — so much so that Tomb Raider is on the short list as one of our most anticipated games of 2013.

But even so close to its March 5 release it appears there’s still more to learn. Crystal Dynamics has announced today that multiplayer will be integrated as a component in Tomb Raider, lending a completely new, and somewhat unexpected dimension to the campaign-driven reboot.

The news comes as Official Xbox Magazine teased a reveal for Tomb Raider’s multiplayer as the cover story of their upcoming February issue. With the revelation out in full view, Crystal Dynamics Global Brand Director Karl Stewart delivered official confirmation via Twitter:

No specifics have been ventured yet by either party — we’ll likely learn more within the coming days — but the announcement also trails a posting from UK retailer Game (which has been now removed) that described the component’s basic paradigm: “Play a variety of multiplayer modes as Lara’s Shipmates or Yamatai’s Scavengers.”

Obvious? No doubt. Vague? Clearly. But a small amount of narrative justification for multiplayer may well be meaningful for gamers enthused by Tomb Raider’s single-player campaign. While the game, on the outset, has long and rightfully been seen as Lara Croft’s personal rebirth, an isolating crucible of shock and survival that forges her into the deadly, dauntless adventurer we’ve all come to know… there are other people on its remote Pacific island: Some are friendly survivors from the shipwrecked Endurance; some are nefarious mercenaries with propensities for things like murder and kidnapping and torture. The framework is simple enough — and in fact it sounds quite identical to Far Cry 3, which managed to realize one of the most engaging singleplayer game worlds we’ve seen all year while still crafting a respectable, substantial co-op/multiplayer universe on the side.

Tomb Raider Multiplayer Confirmed

But there is no denying where Tomb Raider’s strongest appeal lies; the concern will always exist among a few fans (until March, at least) that multiplayer will be an impediment — a distraction — for Crystal Dynamics’s campaign. We’re optimistic, however: Crystal and Square have been taking all the time they’ve needed to polish this game — it’s been in production since 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld — and unlike Ms. Croft seem hardly devoid of resources for their current undertaking.

Where would you like to see Crystal Dynamics take Tomb Raider’s multiplayer? What game modes or features would best suit the rugged and unbridled island setting?

Tomb Raider releases March 5, 2013, for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Sources: Karl Stewart Twitter [via IGN]