In the wake of E3, we have Rise of the Tomb Raider game play footage coming out of our ears. As soon as I hit the ‘publish’ button on the previous post, half of my musings were out of date.
Firstly, I was wondering whether Lara would truly be on her own or whether we would have to listen to someone else constantly speaking to her. In the above video she is quickly separated from Jonah, and says to herself, ‘I need to do this alone.’ How I cheered…before realising that there is still a lot of talking – it’s Lara talking to herself. While trudging through the snow, she is constantly narrating about what she needs to do, such as collect wood for the fire, and is constantly assuring herself that she is capable of dealing with the problem at hand. Yes, we are listening to Lara repeat her affirmations back at herself. Does she spend her mornings in front of a mirror saying this shit?
Maybe it’s a change in storytelling in games I don’t like, or maybe it’s something more specific to Crystal Dynamics, but there seems to be a reluctance now to allow Lara to just fall silent. The Core Design era Lara was defined by her actions. She wasn’t interesting because she narrated her life back at the player, she was interesting because of the places she went to and the things she did.
Another thing I was curious about was whether we were still collecting random rubbish that turned into items or whether there was a bit more real-world logic to it. In the new video, we are shown what items Lara can collect and use:
The video shows her collecting wood and feathers to create arrows and a cloth to bandage up a wound. There are however some generic items, such as ‘salvage’ and ‘technical parts’ which suggest a bit of random rubbish when it comes to upgrading more complicated weapons. I can’t begin to imagine what ‘byzantine coins’ will be for – maybe we’ll run into this guy.
One of the problems I have with a lot of modern games is that they can’t decide whether they want to be real or still hold onto the old school game logic. Rise of the Tomb Raider has a mash up of both and I still am not sure if it works. In the first game play video we saw Lara take a blow that would probably put a person in a hospital. Here we see her not freeze to death thanks to a small camp fire (returning from the previous game, and allowing you to upgrade, save, etc).
Granted in one of the previous games Lara protected herself from the cold with a jacket and nothing more, but PlayStation One games didn’t have the serious, real world nature that modern games always seem to strive for. Here, the environment is the enemy, she’s in freezing cold conditions, at night, and yet a camp fire and a shelter made of twigs is meant to stop her from freezing to death?
My confusion is something I’ll just have to put to one side. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to apply to the combat, which sees Lara pulling off all kind of things someone whose been struggling to stay warm in freezing conditions couldn’t. I don’t care because it looks good and seems to be a huge improvement over the previous game. The above video emphasises stealth and seems to take its cues from Assassin’s Creed with Lara leaping up into the branches of the trees and waiting for the right moment to fire her arrow or leap down and quickly take the enemy out. The impression I’m getting from this video is that the player will have a choice in how they play the game, be it stealth, aggressive stealth or just all out fighting. In my case, it will probably be an attempt at stealth before all hell breaks loose.
Combat demonstration also includes Lara having to fight a bear, which may be a bit of a nod to the original game. There is a real sense of danger here as the bear comes across as a credible threat, though elements of the encounter do feel more like they are for watching than interacting. There was also a – brief – shot of a quick-time-event, an element of modern game play I’ve never been fond of. Gamers are meant to become immersed in what they are looking at and forget that they are holding a controller in their hand. Quick-time-events make a gamer aware of the controller, but also that they are essentially just choosing which pre-rendered event they are going to watch for the next few seconds. The parts of the fight that are in the gamers control look fun and exciting. Lara uses her bow as well as her climbing axe to kill the animal (which had every right to be pissed that all these arseholes were invading its space) and can also confuse the animal in order to momentarily move to a different position and hide. Combat in Tomb Raider is something Crystal Dynamics have never really pulled off very well, but if it turns out to be anything like this video is suggesting, they may have finally cracked it.