By and large, the most alluring aspect of any Tomb Raider game – yes, Underworld included – was the excitement of stepping into the unknown and uncovering artifacts, defying death traps and solving some particularly pesky puzzles. There’s not many franchises that have captured that essence in the same way that Tomb Raider has. Core Design’s success back in 1996 saw the release of the first Tomb Raider, creating an iconic legend that would see several releases over twenty years from Lara’s first and original adventure back then.
The success at the time was so big, that Core Design was tasked with creating annual Tomb Raider games for the next number of years; until The Angel of Darkness – the series’ sixth entry. Naturally, this level of strained development was hard to keep up with and as a result, The Angel of Darkness suffered come launch. This is where Crystal Dynamics came into the fields of play, and have been with the series since then and up until now. Their first game, Tomb Raider Legend, aimed to revitalize the series and return it to form, which indeed it did.
Once Legend had released, Crystal Dynamics began work on Tomb Raider Anniversary, a remake of the original using the Legend engine. Sales didn’t fare too well, despite widespread acclaim, however, it was what followed on that highlighted the series’ dated concepts. Tomb Raider Underworld (in my opinion, the worst out the lot) was again well received, but criticism was aimed at its combat, its camera work and its overall buggy format. Though in truth, that wasn’t really the series’ biggest problem at its time.
With the likes of Assassin’s Creed releasing and other high-profile games that had better, more modern designs and gameplay mechanics, it was clearly time for Lara to move with the motion. That old format lived for as long as it possibly could, though if Crystal Dynamics were to stick with that structure, successive titles would feel as ancient as the relics that Lara loves to chase, ironically. This led us to the reboot trilogy, otherwise known as Lara’s origin trilogy. Tomb Raider – originally releasing in 2013 – was again another reboot of the series.
Instead of following in the story footsteps of Underworld, Crystal Dynamics decided to re-establish Lara’s origin story with updated gameplay mechanics, entirely new systems and a much more mature target audience. This evolution, spanning; Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as described in the title, has taken big steps in the right direction for the series. Sure, there’s been a few ups and downs along the way, but for the most part, Lara has never been at her brightest. That much absolutely goes without saying.
I wont talk too much about Shadow of the Tomb Raider (read our review here) due to avoiding spoilers, but what I will say is that it’s the best in the reboot trilogy – only by a small margin, though. What I appreciate the most about this trilogy is that we witness Lara slowly turning from an inexperienced, young and naive lady, to a full-on seasoned adventurer. We witness this much when moving from Tomb Raider to Rise of the Tomb Raider, and although I’m purposely avoiding spoilers for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara is at her finest and most capable.
The design choice to relay this overarching story across three games has done Lara a great deal of justice, and I can only imagine how exciting whatever game comes next will be – presumably being set a few years post-Shadow. In Tomb Raider, Lara was innocent and somewhat carefree. However, the ordeal from the events within led to a very troubled Lara in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and so on, the events in Rise of the Tomb Raider has had a significant impact on how Lara thinks, behaves and reacts throughout Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
It helps, of course, that Crystal Dynamics and Eidos have both listened and adapted to fan feedback throughout the release of each title. Tomb Raider was a great game but lacked any real Tomb Raiding. Rise of the Tomb Raider improved here, but not so much that it totally pleased the fan-base. However, Shadow of the Tomb Raider goes above and beyond in this regard. In fact, there are more challenge tombs in Shadow of the Tomb Raider than in any Tomb Raider game that precedes it, and they’re bigger, more deadlier and more challenging then ever before.
Underwater exploration is back and much like those challenge tombs, is more deadlier than ever. It’s fair to summarize Shadow of the Tomb Raider as one large package of fan service. It’s an action-packed adventure that’s stuffed with all the aspect that critics and fans alike have been demanding since the release of Tomb Raider. Though, I’m almost going off track here. The point in all of this is that Lara’s fresh three-game journey takes strides towards further emphasizing what made this franchise so epic to begin with, and believe me, you wont be disappointed with the conclusion of the origin trilogy.
Moving back to my description of Tomb Raider, this series has always been about discovery, excitement and growth. Tomb Raider was surely a game that focused on discovery, whereas Rise of the Tomb Raider was more about excitement. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, on the other hand, almost perfectly wraps up discovery, excitement and growth into one huge bundle that never loses its grip. These are all big steps towards a bright future for Lara, should the developers continue with her adventures. Are you looking forward to the latest game? Did you prefer the original formula? Hit the comments below to get involved.