*Note Spoilers for Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider within*
When Crystal Dynamics rebooted Tomb Raider in 2013, it became one of my favorite games. Lara Croft is such an iconic character that seeing her return to the gaming world was a wonderful event. What made the reboot even better was the fact that many aspects of the series changed. Sure, the game was still a third person action game but the focus on survival, crafting and the various emotional elements made the game such a memorable experience. Lara’s (new) origin story was gripping, heartbreaking and engaging from the first scene all the way until the credits rolled.
Various Enthusiasts are not huge fans of the supernatural elements that take place in Lara’s adventures. Tomb Raider (2013) had the Stormguard, guards that were to protect Himiko, the Sun Queen who was the cause of all the happenings (the Endurance becoming shipwrecked, the storms, the villain being stranded on Yamatai, etc.) This was an endgame reveal, but something that isn’t so farfetched for the Tomb Raider franchise. The supernatural elements in Lara’s adventures are actually staples in the Tomb Raider series. While the reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider lacked boss battles, the original games all had a variety of fights that Lara needed to survive.
Enemies such as T-rexes, yetis, centaurs, ghosts and other “baddies” stood in Lara’s way. It was something that was just sort of there, but these elements screamed Tomb Raider. I understand Crystal Dynamics wanting to bring some realism to Lara’s universe, but the supernatural moments are upon some of the most memorable parts of the reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Actually, Rise of the Tomb Raider is supernatural at the very core of its story. Lara is looking for the divine source, a relic that will grant the user immortality. Throughout the campaign, Lara traverses through tombs and works alongside people who truly believe in the legacy of this source.
Towards the end of the game, we are introduced to the Deathless ones. These enemies are set to protect the lost city of kitezh from any outsider looking for the divine source. Followers of the prophet are highly protective of this device. The latter half of Rise of the Tomb Raider sees Lara uncover this prophecy as well as confronting those creatures who will stop at nothing to kill her.
As I mentioned, the story at its core is one that is filled with mythological and supernatural overtones. Lara’s determination is to prove to the world that her father wasn’t that crazy man many people took him for. She wants the truth and finding that would definitely lead to some life changing events. Just like the time on Yamatai, the supernatural has molded Lara into the adventurer we have grown to love so it’s understandable that her second story will continue down that path.
There has been some division regarding the story in Rise of the Tomb Raider amongst the Xbox Enthusiast staff. I’m on the camp that adores it completely. From the writing to the emotion, Lara is such a well thought out character that whenever something major happens to her, the player is affected too. It seems as if Crystal Dynamics is continuing this trend with the first DLC called the Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch. Here is the official description of the DLC from Xbox Wire
Deep in the wilds of Siberia, there is a forbidden forest that no man will enter, where a Soviet expedition vanished without a trace. Lara enters the Wicked Vale in search of a missing man, but what she finds is a nightmare that she cannot explain. Is the witch, Baba Yaga, truly haunting the forbidden forest? Or is there more to the legend?
Looking at the trailer, it’s easy to tell that Crystal Dynamics is embracing the horror/supernatural side of the spectrum. As a huge fan of the horror genre, I’ve been disappointed by the offering of games on the various consoles. Tomb Raider is an unexpected candidate to revive the genre, but Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch looks like it’s up for the task. I’m all for realism, but I think of Indiana Jones when I think of Tomb Raider. Indiana Jones is clearly an inspiration for the TR franchise and when watching those series of movies, it’s completely understandable why this is. All of the Indiana Jones movies saw the main character searching for an artifact, but was met with some sort of spiritual/supernatural/mythical object. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in my opinion is a wonderful horror film.
Those movies didn’t revel in realism, but instead went for a fun, over the top vibe that fans loved. Tomb Raider is a wonderful gaming franchise that I feel is at its best when it dabbles in the unknown. When I play video games, I don’t (always) look for realism. Sometimes, I really enjoy unrealistic games because for the most part, video games are escapism. They are a way for us to dive into new worlds and meet new characters. Lara Croft is one of the best and most iconic characters in the history of gaming and I always anticipate her next adventure. I just hope that Crystal Dynamics continues to take risks and expand the lore established in their rebooted series. Lara keeps searching for answers and I can’t wait be along for the ride next time around.