Chapter 12
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Epilogue: More Than Just a Pretty Face

Designers talk what Lara meant to them way back when, what she means now, and what's next for the Tomb Raider.

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Over twenty years and dozens of adventures on multiple platforms, Lara Croft has been an explorer, a heroine, a sex symbol, and a pop culture icon. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, she conquers her worst impulses to embrace her destiny as the tomb raider—flawed, but able to own up to her mistakes.

Where Lara will head next remains a mystery to everyone except the brain trust at Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal. The studios have rolled out a post-release plan spanning seven DLC expansion packs. Each will add more challenge tombs, weapons, and customization items for players looking to get their fix of combat, traversal, puzzle solving, and exploration.

Tomb Raider 2013 brought Lara into the modern age, complete with all its trimmings (image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics).

It may be that Lara has traveled back to her future, at the point where players met her over twenty years ago in Core Design’s original Tomb Raider. There may be other stories to tell between the events of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider ’96.

No matter what crucibles and discoveries await, Lara Croft and her stewards will rise to meet them.

 “The thing I love about this trilogy, because I was a big fan of the originals, was that we were looking at these new games and trying to deliver what we promised to ourselves was to create a human being,” explained Daniel Chayer-Bisson, creative director on Shadow of the Tomb Raider and co-director on Tomb Raider 2013 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. “To create someone who I can look up to, to say, ‘That could be me. I could be this person and do these things.’ When I think about this new trilogy, the thing that strikes me the most is the goal that we set for ourselves at the beginning of this journey to tell an origin story. We wanted to create the most believable, most relatable character. From my standpoint, I can look at Lara Croft today and say, ‘She's human.’ I'm very proud of her when I look at her. I spent eight years, from coming out of college to now at the end of Shadow. It's a bittersweet feeling, looking at it from the point where I'm proud of where she is, saying, ‘Yeah, she went through a lot,’ while at the same time saying, ‘It's the end of our origin story.’ It leaves me with a bittersweet feeling.”

Classic Lara: tough enough to survive, experienced enough to have fun surviving (image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics).
Classic Lara: tough enough to survive, experienced enough to have fun surviving (image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics).

Crystal Dynamics senior community manager Meagan Marie discovered Lara at a young age, when female characters were few and far between in games. She played the inaugural game with her brothers, passing the controller back and forth and cheering each other on. When the credits rolled, they moved on to other games. Marie held on and hasn't let go.

"Having Lara out there as this beacon, representing femininity and having all these aspirational qualities kind of made her such a perfect character for inspiring someone of my age," Marie recalled. "She had all those qualities: intelligent, adventurous, brave. She also had this unique duality of being an aristocrat but loving to play in the dirt and get her hands dirty; she could pick up and go wherever she wanted in the world."

Lara Croft circa 2013's reboot resonated even more deeply with Marie. "What I love about the reboot of Lara is that she's not perfect. She doubts herself at times and doesn't always have the answers. I feel like that's so relatable. To have a character who is so relatable but still so inspirational in so many ways, and so competent and capable and honest, is great."

Rich Briggs likewise gravitated to Lara, and wasn't surprised to find out he was hardly the only one who held her in such high regard when he tapped into fan feedback. "People told us they went on adventures with Lara Croft," he remembered. "That's exactly how I felt playing those games: I was on this adventure with this brilliant archaeologist, and couldn't wait to see where the adventure went next."

Getting to pore over anecdotes written on forums and email was one thing. What Briggs loves most about being involved in Tomb Raider is getting to meet fans face to face. "We put a lot of those people in our announcement trailer because they inspired her to go after something they didn't think they could get, or they'd say, 'When she's stuck in a tough situation and tells herself to just keep moving, that's what I told myself,' or when people say, 'This is the way we should portray women in games now,' or 'I've had such incredible adventures with her," he said. "It's a great thing to be on the receiving end of. For me, that has deepened the feeling that Lara is a real person. We are building adventures with her, and being able to see the community responding so passionately—it's great to go events and have people thanking you, and then to say, 'No, thank you.'"

“I'm really happy to have worked with such an iconic character who's in games that people actually play,” agreed Heath Smith, lead game designer on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. “That's not always the case: You make something, but maybe nobody plays it. Lara is a character who, especially at the end of this game, people can really look up to. She's determined. At the end of Shadow, she's a very well-rounded person who's survived so many trials and tribulations. She's really come of age. It's a great tale that I think people will enjoy for many years to come, because everyone can identify with going through a crucible. They may not be shipwrecked and have to kill people and hunt for food, but everyone goes through that experience of finding themselves and finding out who they are. It's a real privilege to work on a series at that emotional level, not just a gameplay level.”

Between Crystal's reboot and spin-off games like 2014's Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, and Core Design's classic Tomb Raider titles available on a multitude of platforms, there's plenty of adventure for Lara fans of all ages (image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics).
Between Crystal's reboot and spin-off games like 2014's Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, and Core Design's classic Tomb Raider titles available on a multitude of platforms, there's plenty of adventure for Lara fans of all ages (image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics).

Getting to pore over anecdotes written on forums and email was one thing. What Briggs loves most about being involved in Tomb Raider is getting to meet fans face to face.

"We put a lot of those people in our announcement trailer because they inspired her to go after something they didn't think they could get, or they'd say, 'When she's stuck in a tough situation and tells herself to just keep moving, that's what I told myself,' or when people say, 'This is the way we should portray women in games now,' or 'I've had such incredible adventures with her," he said. "It's a great thing to be on the receiving end of. For me, that has deepened the feeling that Lara is a real person. We are building adventures with her, and being able to see the community responding so passionately—it's great to go events and have people thanking you, and then to say, 'No, thank you.'"

“I'm really happy to have worked with such an iconic character who's in games that people actually play,” agreed Heath Smith, lead game designer on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. “That's not always the case: You make something, but maybe nobody plays it. Lara is a character who, especially at the end of this game, people can really look up to. She's determined. At the end of Shadow, she's a very well-rounded person who's survived so many trials and tribulations. She's really come of age. It's a great tale that I think people will enjoy for many years to come, because everyone can identify with going through a crucible. They may not be shipwrecked and have to kill people and hunt for food, but everyone goes through that experience of finding themselves and finding out who they are. It's a real privilege to work on a series at that emotional level, not just a gameplay level.”

Image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics.
Image courtesy of Crystal Dynamics.

Will Kerslake values being in a position to recreate some of his fondest Tomb Raider memories. He played Core's original game before he ever touched Super Mario 64, making Lara Croft the face of 3D gaming. What he enjoyed most was seeing Lara's signatures moves, like performing a handstand as she climbed up ledges, a move he talked one of Crystal's animators into including in Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.

"Being in a position to go and ask an animator, 'Hey, can you sneak in a handstand if I hold down this button?' was brilliant," Kerslake said. "It's actually in Rise, too. If you jump off a high ledge toward water, and you happen to hit the trigger right as you jump, she'll switch from her normal jump into a swan dive. Sneaking that into the game was great for me because I just love that level of player expression in the space."

Franchise director Noah Hughes believes Lara Croft is just as recognizable as other icons such as Mario and Master Chief, and will continue making impacts for years to come.

"I've always seen her as this competent adventurer; this expression of agility, puzzle solving, and combat. I've always appreciated that you see her, and you see the adventure she goes on. She promises action-adventure at its best, and that sounds like such a blast. She's always sort of meant that to me from the moment I first played a Tomb Raider game," Hughes said. "She stands apart from other videogame characters, and even other action heroes in general. She has such a unique and immutable identity. You combine universality of premise and singularity of personality, and you have a great mix. I think that underpins the longevity of the franchise."