Following the success of the rebooted Tomb Raider in 2013, which was then followed by a Definitive Edition for new gen consoles, we now have Rise of the Tomb Raider. However, almost a year on from its initial release, Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration finally releases on PS4. Set one year prior to the events that took place on the island of Yamatai, Lara continues her father’s work by looking for answers on whether the lost city of Kitezh is more than just a myth, legend states that Kitezh contains the answers of immortality. However, Lara is not the only one on the quest of immortality, as a ruthless as an ancient order of knights known simply as Trinity share the same goal, but their methods certainly differ. Lara’s father paid the ultimate price in looking for answers, but is Lara willing to risk it all for something that could be a mere myth? Lara Croft’s origins may have begun with the 2013 reboot, but this is certainly the tale of her rise, this is Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Fans of the 2013 reboot will instantly feel at home when they pick up and play ROTTR (which is what I’ll call it for the convenience of the review). When asked about the game in comparison to the reboot, I simply answer “it’s more of the same, but better” and I think that sums up ROTTR almost perfectly. The essence of the gameplay is largely the same, with practically nothing being changed and that’s worked in the games favour, as they say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, that’s not to say that the game hasn’t evolved in some ways, because it most certainly has. For example the crafting system has been improved upon, as now you not only have to salvage items from dead bodies (human and animals), plants and conveniently placed item boxes, but there are now far more natural resources to gather.
Depending on what you manage to salvage and what levelling up path you choose for Lara, you will not only be able to create new outfits, but you will also be able to craft explosive and poisonous ammo for your bow and firearms. Later in the game your bow and arrows will also make for a handy rope swing/grapping device, but you will also be able to fire arrows into a wall to scale new heights. One gameplay improvement that I really appreciate in ROTTR is how man and beast will adapt to weather changes and the time of the day. For instance, the human enemy will use torches and be more vigilant during the night, to compensate for the lack of light.
However for me, the most impressive improvement is how animals will behave, and depending on the weather and if its night or day, it will see a change in what animals come out to play, or for you to hunt. Wild Boars in particular is not a creature I saw during the day in-game, but during the night as I was perched high up in a tree, I could hear them rustling and snorting their way through nearby bushes. The game also has “Exotic Animals” which will not only make the best use of the day/night/weather cycle, but they also offer great salvage rewards, though they are more of a challenge to take down.
ROTTR stands out as one of the most visually pleasing games in this era. Lara Crofts facial animations are among the best I’ve seen recently and just like in 2013, you can see the emotion on her face, whatever her predicament, only in greater detail. Even subtleties like Lara re-fixing her hair when leaving water adds to the immersion with natural realism to her behaviours, and what can I say about the vast array of locations within the game? Well, Crystal Dynamics have done wonders in making this game look as stunning as it does, if there was a game created for a share screenshot function, then Rise of the Tomb Raider would be that game. It’s visual delights will also be enhanced upon with an update that gives the game extra shine and polish for compatible 4K TV’s and in particular for the forthcoming PS4 Pro.
As previously stated, with ROTTR being more of the same, but better, it’s hard not to draw comparisons, but with it being such a well craft evolution of the previous instalment, it’s only natural. So likewise, the voice acting in ROTTR is top notch and once more, the returning Camilla Luddington does a fantastic job at being the voice of our prestigious heroine. To add more pleasing tones to our ears, while Jason Graves remains to be one of my favourite videogame composers, I would have loved to have been blessed with this work once again in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Yet, Bobby Tahouri comes in and does a sublime job with adding his own tone, while retaining the instantly recognisable and iconic sounds known to the franchise.
Unlike the Tomb Raider reboot, Rise of the Tomb Raider does not feature any competitive multiplayer. However, if you played the last multiplayer attempt, then you know that you won’t be missing out on much. In its place, ROTTR features additional modes that offer a variety of challenges, from surviving, scavenging for certain items within a time-limit, hunting down specific creatures and more. In particular, the Score Attack mode is arguably the best, where you must chain together combos, searching for collectibles and partaking on set challenges, all in the name of earning the highest score possible. You can even craft your own missions (so to speak) by customising your own challenges and then pitting them against your fellow online gamer to take on. However, I can see what Crystal Dynamics have attempted here, but for me personally, it’s not something that I tend to visit very often. But if you find that this is your cup of tea, then there is plenty of replay value to be had.
For me, much of the games replay value will be in the form of searching for all secrets and collectibles within the main campaign. Once each mission is complete, you can not only revisit them to search for treasures and tombs you may have missed, but you can earn credits by doing so, that can then be spent on Expedition Cards. The Expedition Cards offer modifiers for ROTTR additional modes. They can vary from giving you certain advantages over the enemy, fun features like Big Head mode or they can up the difficulty should you choose. While Expedition Cards can be purchased via in-game credits, you can fast track with real world money via the microtransaction route if you feel that way inclined. But they can also be just as easily avoided and in my opinion, they don’t feel forced upon you like we see in many other games.
If you’ve been a PlayStation 4 owner with incredible patience that’s been forced to wait it out for ROTTR, then the 20 Year Celebration has been well worth that wait. With it you get all previously released DLC, which includes two story expansions; Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch, Blood Ties (new to this release) and Cold Darkness Awakened. Baba Yaga is probably the favourite of the three, which see’s Lara visiting a new location in Siberia, which is full of psychedelic Witchcraft goodness and supernatural horrors. The less said about this expansion, the better (for spoiler purposes).
Blood Ties takes place within the Croft Mansion as Lara searches for her families Will to ensure that her home stays within the family and to prove that Lara is the rightful heir. While this expansion features no action, I really enjoyed exploring the once glamorous, now decaying home of the Crafts. It’s full of treasures, secrets and interesting story that digs deeper into the history of the Croft heritage. It’s a welcomed change of pace from the main campaign and is something that you can sit back, and relax to as you venture into its Tomb-like haunted halls of Croft Manner.
Blood Ties is also playable using the PSVR, but it’s fair to say that my experience was not a good one. Upon choosing to play Blood Ties using the PSVR, you have a choice of two control schemes. One will have you point and select the location in which you want to travel to, almost teleporting from point to point if you will. For those that may suffer from nausea, this perhaps would be the safest choice, however, movement is very restricted to say the least.
The second of the two control schemes will see you freely moving around with the use of the DualShock 4, while wearing the PSVR. Sadly, within less than 2 minutes of using this method, I started to feel nauseated, to the point where I would have been physically sick if I had carried on any longer. This is coming from someone that has played a few of the PSVR titles, and up until this point I have not felt sick once. Overall the PSVR element of Rise of the Tomb Raider feels tapped on for the sake of jumping the VR bandwagon and it certainly wouldn’t be any less of a game without it.
The 20 Year Anniversary also comes with an alternative take on Blood Ties, with Blood Ties Nightmare. This takes both elements of the normal Blood Ties chapter, adds Expedition mode stipulations and throws in some zombies for added measure. Much like the normal Expedition modes, this isn’t my personal cup of tea, even with generic zombies thrown in. You also get a new Endurance co-op mode and a whole host of other content, which includes characters skins from classic Tomb Raider titles. While the 20 Year Anniversary is exclusive to the PS4, anyone that owns the Rise of the Tomb Raider season pass on the Xbox consoles or PC will also have access to all its content at no extra cost.
In conclusion, while Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Anniversary isn’t leaps and bounds above the 2013 release in terms of a gameplay experience, it s however still a fantastic game, with a smooth framerate, lush visuals and with all its added content, it’s a must own game. The series may still be playing catch-up in the action/adventuring genre to the likes of the Uncharted series (you can read our review of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection here) in my humble opinion, and in particular with the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, but Lara Croft fans will no doubt be happy with her latest expedition and the series is most certainly on the right track.
It’s just a shame it’s taken this long to get in on the action for PS4 owners with all this timed exclusively malarkey. That said, what’s done is done and the delay in the PS4 release should not be a reason to be deterred, as the initial release was in 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Anniversary is among the best games of 2016. Just please for next time Square Enix, don’t make the next entry a timed exclusive, because this is a gaming series that should not be held back for anyone, regardless of their console preference.
+ Looks beautiful and plays great
+ Enhanced crafting system
+ The way wildlife interacts with daily cycle
+ Improved open-world with plenty of fulfilment
+ Good value for money with added content
- Blood Ties Nightmare DLC is ‘Meh’
-PSVR mode feels like it’s there for the sake of it