Tomb Raider is an iconic franchise for one reason: Its highly recognizable protagonist, Lara Croft. I still remember back in the 90s, when everyone was falling in love with this busty, brave, agile heroine that explored caves, killed very large animals, and sported a ridiculous combination of athleticism and sexual appeal. Of course, all male heroes in video games did the very same thing (and still do), but I digress. The point is that if you’re going to do a reboot of Tomb Raider in this day and age, it’s probably a good idea to revamp Lara’s old-fashioned design. It's time for a more authentic heroine!
And that’s precisely what developer Crystal Dynamics has done with their new project. This time around, we’ll be exploring how Lara became Lara; i.e., how she grew into the sexy, cocky bad-ass who is afraid of nothing. So as a prequel, we’ll trace the heroine back to her adventuresome roots, where a plane crash has left her stranded on an island where the wildlife is the least of her problems. She’s young and in decent shape so she should be able to survive, but the process of becoming more than just a fit individual will have to include a series of difficult, harrowing situations. Among them, the first time she kills an enemy (in apparent self-defense).
As a result, this quest should be more emotional than any you’ve ever experienced with Lara. Furthermore, the developers may be implementing some survival elements, such as the ones we’ve seen in trailers (like when Lara hunts a deer for sustenance). However, don’t expect this game to feel anything like a survival-based adventure; beneath the more realistic, grittier style, Tomb Raider will still be Tomb Raider . There will be foes to eliminate, puzzles to solve, and a variety of challenging platforming exercises that will test the young Lara’s resolve and blossoming ability. QTEs will play some role, as will a standard third-person shooter mechanic.
In addition, however, Crystal Dynamics is implementing extra depth that we haven’t seen before. A lot of action-oriented franchises have started to add RPG-like gameplay aspects this generation, so it should come as no surprise. We’ll be able to make Lara stronger and give her more abilities via earned experience points, and this is incentive to explore and do as much as possible. After all, one of the reasons RPGs can be so immersive is because the more you do, the more you’re rewarded; an experience system should open up the Tomb Raider quest and give it a wider, longer-lasting appeal.
Upping Lara’s skills with weapons, general combat and survival will be essential, as will the presentation of a frightening, intimidating environment. The island on which Lara is stranded holds a twisted secret (or two) and there will be ample opportunity for the designers to show off the heroine’s vulnerability. She’ll have to push past what she perceives to be her limitations, come to grips with killing for the sake of self-preservation, and grow into the highly capable Lara Croft we all know and love. Provided the control is solid and reliable and we really do get a more personal adventure, Tomb Raider could end up being one of the best titles of 2013.