Rise of the Tomb Raider preview - Lara the Explorer

Rise of the Tomb Raider seeks to retain many of the elements that made the last Tomb Raider game so enjoyable, but after going hands-on with the first few hours, it's apparent that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have some new tricks in store, as well.

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It's been a couple of years since Lara Croft's origin story was reimagined for a new generation. Tomb Raider told a gritty tale of a young archaeologist forced to fend for her survival, growing from a frightened young person in an extremely dangerous situation into a capable survivor, able to do what it takes to overcome the perils put in front of her. That's all well and good, but when does the time come to start exploring some tombs?

Rise of the Tomb Raider says that time is now. Shacknews recently had the opportunity to play through the game's first couple of hours and noticed much of the intuitive combat from Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics' last effort. However, that's also mixed in with some honest-to-goodness exploration. It even goes so far as to utilize some actual archaeological mechanics.

Lara Croft's next adventure looks to continue where the previous one left off. Lara has some unfinished business, in regards to her father's research, which has taken her to the snowy mountaintops of Everest. Her journey is actually a race against time, as the quarry she's seeking is also being pursued by a shadowy organization known as the Order of Trinity, who are seeking to remake human civilization in their own image.

First off, let's point to what still works. The combat mechanics of Tomb Raider are intact, whether it's using firearms or crafted weaponry. In fact, Lara will be facing off against nature almost as much as against her human antagonists. Crafting will be an essential element to this game, as Lara will have to craft bows, bandages, and different arrow types. One scenario required a poison-tipped bow to help turn the tide against a massive bear, who was blocking the path to the next area. Crafting materials can be found throughout the open areas, though when they start to become scarce, players might find themselves running in circles for quite a while. Resources are not to be wasted here, even after weapons are upgraded through base camps.

When Lara isn't fighting for her life against wild animals and gun-toting maniacs, she's piecing together the puzzles that will get her closer to her ultimate goal. A new mechanic called Language Proficiency allows Lara to investigate certain artifacts, but if her level is too low, she'll be unable to translate the native markings. As her Language Proficiency increases by discovering more artifacts, murals, markers, and scrolls, Lara will gradually learn to translate more advanced messages and open new paths.

Of course, tombs are just as dangerous as they've ever been. The tombs this writer attempted were laden with traps, including spike pits, poison arrows, and unstable floors. It's easy to die if you're not careful and, this being a Tomb Raider game, death always looks very painful. Fortunately, the actual platforming feels responsive, making all of these sequences feel very doable.

That's especially helpful with optional tombs, which make their return in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Optional tombs felt cleverly laid out, with some obtuse (yet practical) puzzles and solutions. Running through the Tomb of the Cistern took no more than 20 minutes and while it felt a little difficult, the reward was worthwhile, offering Lara a brand new passive skill. Similarly, optional missions will be sprinkled across the world. One example saw Lara tasked with taking out five radio towers, which saw her get rewarded with lock picks to help open locked chests.

The one major mechanic that Tomb Raider players will want to learn and get used to is Survival Instinct. With Rise of the Tomb Raider's worlds more open than before, it's easy to get lost, but Survival Instinct will point out the next objective and direct players the right way. This comes in very handy, even if it is easy to overly rely on this mechanic.

Rise of the Tomb Raider looks to continue building on what made the last Tomb Raider game so enjoyable. None of the first game's elements appear to be compromised and there are more additions to help make this truly feel like a "Tomb Raider" game, bringing out the best in Lara Croft's physical and mental abilities. The journey is almost set to begin, as Rise of the Tomb Raider comes to Xbox One on November 10.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

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    September 24, 2015 6:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Rise of the Tomb Raider preview - Lara the Explorer

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      September 24, 2015 6:11 AM

      The first one got me into Tomb Raider in a way the previous iterations never could. Hopefully this one continues the trend.

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      September 24, 2015 9:35 AM

      Tomb Raider (2013) is next on my backlog to replay before the new game comes out. Such a fantastic game. IMO also the best use of a bow (as a weapon, and tool) in a game ever.

      I've even got the first graphic novel, "Season Of The Witch".

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        September 24, 2015 9:46 AM

        Good time to remember that Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is up for Games with Gold right now.