Crystal Dynamics are still keeping Tomb Raider close to the chest. From last year’s E3 presentation to this year’s, we haven’t been given too much in terms of what we can expect beyond mostly early-on in-game moments. This year’s E3 trailer was quite stunning but didn’t offer-up too much in the way of fresh gameplay.

Now, one month after E3 2012, Crystal Dynamics have opened the floodgates, providing a hands-on demo to the public at this year’s Comic-Con.

Presented in the opening moments of the demo, we find Lara Croft atop a mountain right after she has escaped from the cave of cocooned bodies — which can be seen in E3 2011’s hands-off demo. Despite having seen this demo gameplay from the hands-off preview at E3 2012, allowing us to go hands on with the game provided newer insight as to how it will feel.

From early on, the scenery is quite stunning. The environments are gorgeous, but some of the close up foliage seemed a bit rough still. Which brings us to another point, when we see Lara shivering in the cold, it doesn’t look like she is shivering as much as the whole character model is gyrating uncontrollably. It didn’t look good, but we can assume, just as a demo, there is still a lot of kinks Crystal Dynamics needs to improve upon.

Early on, there aren’t any action buttons and, aside from a dodge/quick maneuver button, there isn’t much to work with at this point. When you look through the skills Lara can master, it appears that she will learn plenty of combat techniques in time — after all this is a new origin story and we are learning with the character. When the game is paused players can check out the map, what survival skills Lara has learned, as well as what gear, historical documents, and relics she has obtained.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 3

Croft is also equipped with a built-in “Radar” similar to Rocksteady’s Arkham games. Her “survival instinct” is temporary, but it can be turned back on quickly after it turns off. Similarities to other games include, of course, Uncharted — which Crystal Dynamics has directly addressed – and some of the action mechanics will be a bit familiar to fans of that franchise. Additionally, hunting for food is definitely akin to a similar experience in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The demo was unfortunately very short and was only one-third of what was shown in the hands-off demo at E3. But, after learning the basic mechanics of movement and action from climbing the downed plane, the feel of the game becomes pretty second nature – given the inspiration it draws from similar titles.

After acquiring the bow and hunting down a fresh meal, Lara has earned enough experience to master a new skill – which she chooses from a nice 3D modeled “skills menu.” As the game processes, Lara will have three tiers worth of skills to learn. In order to obtain new skills, Lara must spend survivor experience points, which can be earned from simple tasks like landing falls or completing objectives. The skills she can learn range from retrieval, survivalist, and hunter. Each with their own unique upgradable skill sets, it appears there is much to learn for this young Croft. This will definitely help build a relationship between gamers and the new Lara.

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

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