Early Impressions: Rise of the Tomb Raider

Slowly but surely, I’m working my way through games that I’ve missed in the last couple years. The backlog problem is a very real thing. One of those titles is Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the 2013 reboot that many of us here thoroughly enjoyed.

Of course, part of the blame for this falls squarely on Square Enix’s shoulders. It’s easy to forget now that some time has passed, but Rise was a timed exclusive for the Xbox. Taking a franchise that was originally on Playstation and locking it onto a different platform was…um, how do I put this…tremendously unpopular?

In news that will not shock you, sales struggled in the beginning because of that decision. Even with the benefit of a year’s head start, Rise of the Tomb Raider has now sold more copies on PS4 than it did on Xbox One. A lot of that has to do with versions and the PS4’s much larger console base, but still.

It’s a shame that the game’s release was marred by bad choices, because it improves on its predecessor in almost every meaningful way. Most of the elements that we enjoyed from the reboot are back and even better. If you approached the first game as a Lara Croft who was sneaky and devastating and methodical, there are more stealth options in Rise to help you do just that. If you preferred a more direct approach, that’s viable here too.

Having played Horizon: Zero Dawn in between the two Tomb Raider games, it’s interesting how similar yet dissimilar they are. You can check off several boxes with relative ease: female protagonist, exploration, beautiful graphics, somewhat similar gameplay. The TR games are a bit more linear compared to Horizon’s open-world approach, and they each scratch a different itch.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Rise now that I’ve finally gotten around to it. Just like in the original, Lara is a complex, layered character who is still trying to figure out her place in the world — and getting more badass in the process. She can alternate between being heroic and vulnerable in ways that are believable. As long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief on some of the crazier, Uncharted-esque action sequences, Rise of the Tomb Raider will give you a good time.

(Okay, look: I’m not the toughest guy on the planet by any means, but the first time buildings start collapsing while I’m running across them and it takes me 14 jumps and three ledge grabs with one arm, I’m probably gonna retire from raiding tombs. I’m certainly not signing up for additional trips. So props to Lara for that, I guess.)

Rise has sold a combined seven million copies across its platforms, a decent follow-up to the reboot’s 11 million – and remember, Square Enix was disappointed by those results at one point. It has been well received by critics, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit now that I’ve finally gotten around to it. I guess all of this is to say, hey, maybe don’t do timed exclusive bullshit with Shadow of the Tomb Raider when it releases later this year (if it’s called that, and if it releases this year)? That’d be awesome.

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