Can Tomb Raider Rise to the Challenge?
Rise of the Tomb Raider already has a tough ask ahead of it this Holiday 2015, having to go head-to-head with the enormity that is Fallout 4. A daunting competitor no doubt, but there’s a number of things that loom even larger for the game as it approaches its November 2015 release date. The gauntlet lays ahead of Lara and here I am to analyse the hurdles that lay ahead of the game.
The 2013 reboot of Lara was deservedly praised by critics and fans alike, it was phenomenal and while it took a fair amount of influence from the Uncharted franchise (a series that itself took many pages from Tomb Raider’s own book), it still did enough to separate itself from Naughty Dog’s artistry. Now Rise of the Tomb Raider releases in November 2015 while Uncharted 4 is primed for release (reportedly early) the following year, so having the first say does work in Rise of the Tomb Raider’s favour and with any luck it can pioneer new ideas that lifts the bar for the genre. Tomb Raider 2013 went to some dark places and explored themes the franchise had not yet explored, but now that we’ve been there and done that, what dark places are left for them to explore.
While on the subject of dark places, the newest Tomb Raider was much discussed for its many gruesome deaths animations and the much talked about and totally bogus “rape” scene. The scene in question was heavily discussed in the lead up to release following trailers that led people to believe some more sinister deeds were to play out than what actually eventuated. The deaths on the other hand were brutal, where in Uncharted we may hear Sully scream out to Nate as he falls to his death, in 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot Lara really went through the wars. Your punishment for failure was immense with Lara being shot in the head, skewered by long barbs, ripped apart by wolves and countless other brutal death animations. For the sake of this piece I watched them all again with some leaving me either aghast or unable to look at the screen.
I can’t help but wonder if Crystal Dynamics have pushed the consumer as far as they can go already. There’s little room to go further without coming across as sadistic, but repeating the same dose may also leave some players underwhelmed. They’ve found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. I for one though cross my fingers and hope that they take things no further than they did in the initial reboot, that was just enough for my stomach to handle.
The consumer’s perspective of originality is also something that the developers will have to tackle head on. A number of fans have been quick to point out parallels between Rise of the Tomb Raider and the multi Game of the Year award winning Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. For the most part, the games have been compared only due to their cosmetic similarities; both games are set in the Wintery tundras but for those that want to criticise Rise of the Tomb Raider for their similar settings are missing one of the major differing factors between both of the series – the minute to minute gameplay. Where Uncharted is more of a popcorn styled action affair, the newly rebooted Tomb Raider series is far darker, and much grittier than the current benchmark action franchise. Tomb Raider itself boasts skill trees and numerous RPG inspired mechanics that in many fundamental ways differentiate it from Uncharted, so a similar setting is hardly a point of contention or concern.
Exclusivity to Xbox One may serve as a major sticking point however. The Tomb Raider franchise has historically sold best on the Playstation platform with the recent reboot shifting (approximately) 25% more copies on Playstation platforms versus the Xbox systems. Now, Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming to the Xbox One, a platform that has sold significantly fewer units than the PS4. Though it has been confirmed that the game will eventually come to the Playstation nation, it won’t actually be until a year after the initial release. Another hurdle in the path of the game, it will be interesting to see if Rise of the Tomb Raider can overcome the handicap of smaller market, sell well enough, and then recapture fans when it eventually releases on PS4. There is sure to be a large number of consumers picking up Xbox One’s this holiday, as it is that time of year where consoles sales are at their highest but also the game has the ability to ride on the coattails of Halo 5 Guardians and Forza Motorsport 6 to lift its sales a little further.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is shaping up to be one of the games of 2015, but there are numerous obstacles in the path of the game. Can it overcome the many hurdles in its path to get both the critical and commercial recognition that it deserves? With the rejuvenated Crystal Dynamics on task, and the support of both Square-Enix and Microsoft at their disposal as well it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Rise of the Tomb Raider isn’t as fantastic as the game that came before it. We’ll soon see though with its November release now only a little less than three months away.