Tomb Raider is a series that is centric on one thing: Lara Croft is a chick with short shorts and a pretty large rack. Of course, that’s just the general consensus of it back when gaming was a simpler time where a game where you run around killing turtles as a plumber was an acceptable concept for gaming. So as time went on, people grew less interested in Lara Croft because her games weren’t as enjoyable as they had been. They simply didn’t find the appeal in a badass hot chick any longer since they were all over games now. Lara simply wasn’t so special any longer. So Eidos made a call to reboot the Tomb Raider franchise in order to boost sales and try telling an original story. Most critics enjoyed it, and I would say I enjoyed it to. However, there’s a lot to discuss about whether or not they succeeded in created a solid female protagonist now. (This article will contain spoilers, so read at your own risk.)
I’ll start by saying that I was never a huge Tomb Raider fan. I played one of the PS1 games and never really felt compelled to keep playing any further installments. So I played the newest Tomb Raider game completely ignorant like most people. But here is what my ignorant opinion on the series was: they made a female protagonist to break the mold and be unique, but they made her a generic, tough female and forgot to really give her too much else in the way of personality or interesting developments. So as the series went on, they had to figure out a way to make things interesting, so they added all kinds of crazy storylines and plot-related voodoo to make wherever Lara Croft explored be more exciting. Again, this is just my ignorant thoughts on what they did to the series, so if I’m wrong in any of that then feel free to correct me. I only state this to put into perspective what Eidos was thinking when they were looking to make the next Tomb Raider game, since they knew many people were ignorant of the series as well.
I was excited for the reboot of Tomb Raider though, and so were plenty of other people. Because of this, Eidos probably made the right call in rebooting the franchise. There aren’t nearly enough great female protagonists in games, so I figured that making Lara Croft a more appealing one would be a great move for the series. And I’m weird in that I don’t really get excited for games for gameplay, but I do get excited for the story. I’m a literary nerd; what can I say? I remained tentatively excited for the new Tomb Raider game though because I wanted them to really succeed. And for the most part, I think they did.
I picked up Tomb Raider on the release date and sat down to play it. I was excited to see what they would do with the character. I saw a whole cast of characters and knew that most would not survive, but that was okay because I figured it would be all about Lara Croft anyway. The game begins with a very good intro that pulls the player in, and the excitement doesn’t stop for a while. Lara Croft survives a ship wreck onto this crazy island and tries not to die in the cave she’s stuck in. She finds some random insane-looking guy and leaves him for dead. She gets impaled by a branch. She has nothing to work with but a primitive bow to make her way out to safety. Damn, is that a gripping introduction or what?
I’m interested in the game and it’s clear they were serious with all of the “A Survivor Is Born” advertisements; Lara Croft gets her ass kicked by nature through the entire game and keeps trucking on. We learn about who Lara is through the clever plot device of a camera that she had on her. She’s just a wide-eyed girl who just graduated from college and liked to have fun. She’s a regular girl with an interest in archaeology. This is relatable, and they did a good job letting us know how average she is, even if she’s got a little bit more adventurous personality in her. What I like is that they just sprinkle the exposition on you, and you can just draw conclusions on the things that are said. It feels very natural.
So we follow Lara Croft as she continues forth, trying to find her father figure in Roth. Along the way, we see her being forced to kill animals for food for the first time, we dress our wounds, and we are forced to go through some rather creepy looking caves and huts. We see Lara react in the same manner that a regular person would react, and that helps us connect with her. She’s even fascinated by the creepy stuff, much like we are. We want to figure out what the hell all of that is with her.
Because we spent so much time building up Lara and connecting with her, the rest of the game is set for us to be empathic with her. She catches up to her best friend Sam, and you can really tell the two of them are close. Of course, Sam gets kidnapped by creepy island guy that was hanging out with them and Lara must find them. We quickly find the other survivors of the ship wreck, seeing how happy everyone is to see each other alive and well, and go to find Roth.
However, something bad happens; we are surrounded and need to get through a bunch of bad guys with guns. So a guy grabs us with the intent to kill us and we have to QTE him to death. After that, we see Lara react in a very terrified manner. She killed a guy for the first time. While some people will call that weakness, she only reacts like that once. We feel for her in the moment, but she has to kill again and again and again. People take issue with this and talk about how unrealistic it is that Lara is able to so easily kill after this. My response to that is that Lara is in a situation where she has to kill or be killed now. We saw her be strong enough to go through everything she’s gone through to get here despite nature kicking her ass along the way? She’s scaled cliff sides and gone through hell to get here, and she knows that she’ll have to do more killing. It’s completely unavoidable. She clearly isn’t happy about it through half the game, but she does it. Because Lara is a tough chick, and she’s going to do whatever she can to survive. I mean, what do you expect her to do? Become sick after every guy she kills? That’s bad gameplay, yo.
And then there’s the issue with Roth people bring up, saying that it doesn’t make Lara look strong and independent because she relies on him so much. But Lara doesn’t know what she’s doing for the beginning of this story; she needs someone to rely on. However, we’re not entirely reliant on Roth because Roth is injured. We need to get his equipment so we can send a mayday at the communications relay later. Roth can only tell us we need to find it in a cave, you know, where we have to kill wolves to get to. The rest is up to us. Even though Roth does, in fact, bail us out later in the game, we’re left feeling like he’s just better than us and trying to help us out not because we’re a weak little girl, but because we’re so unfamiliar with what we’re dealing with. I mean, god. Does it look like we need Papa Roth to hold our hand during this? We just escaped a cave and killed some wolves!
And you know what else we did? We killed a bunch of crazy island people with guns and climbed up a gigantic communications tower to mayday for a call! We didn’t even need Roth to do this absolutely crazy thing that most people wouldn’t have guts to do on their own. Of course, an ancient curse causes the plane that’s coming to save us to get hit by a lightning bolt and plummet to the ground, but still! We got that far!
But when we get back to Roth, we realize we need to get Sam back, because they might kill her. We’re saved from being killed by that creepy jerk who took her, Mathias, because crazy giant samurai creatures come to save us. Or kill everyone else. It’s probably that second one. We realize they want to use Sam to sacrifice for a fire ritual to let everyone leave. If the sacrifice fails, we learn that Sam will be immolated in the fire. So yeah, this just got more urgent for us. Oh yeah, and all of our other friends are kidnapped too and we should probably save them as well.
And then we have a problem that I have with the game’s story now. Very simply, I have no reason to really care about any of our friends that die! I don’t know much about them, like this old Grim fellow. Sure, we know Lara cares about him, and that makes us feel a little bit bad because he died, but why should we really not want to see this guy die? This is a pitfall that the game falls in more than once, but I’ll get to the other time later. Grim dies and we go forward.
It’s at this point in the game that Lara just gets so pissed at these killer cultists and decides that she doesn’t care about their lives. All of them run and scream to get away from this girl, and she yells, “That’s right you bastards! I’ll kill all of you!” Yeah, Lara is finally at the point where she’s absolutely badass, and we are comfortable with that now because honestly, wouldn’t you want to kill the hell out of these guys by now too?
Now we manage to get to Sam, but the entire palace is being destroyed by a fire. We all want to escape via helicopter, but we know what will happen. So does Lara. So Lara doesn’t do the stupid thing and just jump on the helicopter and run. She sends Sam to run away on land and jumps on the helicopter, forcing them to land it before the storm takes them down. Roth is even like “Dude, Lara. Cut it out!” Except a storm does suddenly appear and strikes the helicopter with lightning, and we crash as a result.
Lara’s luck seems to run out and Roth revives her. Mathias comes by to ruin our times and tries to throw a tomahawk at Lara, but Roth takes the hit instead. Now Roth, we can actually feel for. We get a sense of how close him and Lara were and how awesome he’s been. Lara finally shows weakness by mourning Roth, and we are allowed to really feel for her now. Roth’s death is more to help us connect with Lara more than it is anything else. That means we’re in charge now, and we should be. We’re shouting that we’re going to murder anyone who gets in our path. That’s basically the action game equivalent to moving out of our parents’ house.
Of course, everyone wants to be rescued and Lara is the only one who says “No, we can’t escape because the island is crazy possessed by a pissed off Sun Queen that strikes lightning at anything that tries to leave.” Understandably, some of the crew members say that’s all crazy and that we should be escaping. We’re on Lara’s side though, because we absolutely know this is what is going to happen. And then there’s freaking Whitman. Whitman isn’t one of our friends; he’s just a guy that was on the ride with us. And we know Whitman is absolutely full of crap. We hate him because he is such a dirtbag and obviously full of it, and he barely even hides it. Lara tries to tell everyone that he was working with Mathias and the cult, but nobody listens to Lara because they want to focus on escape. Obviously this won’t come back to bite us, right?
However, we can’t fully confront him because our other friend, Alex, is going to try and get something we need to repair the boat. And, well… Eidos tried to make him more sympathetic. I guess. We find that he got pinned down under some wreckage, but he got what he needed. We don’t really get too much time with Alex, so we just don’t feel bad for him. He gives some kind of speech about how he just wanted to be cool like Lara and how he thought the only way Lara would like him is if he did something brave like this. I mean, I guess it’s a little sad, but why do we feel for this guy? Just because he tries at the last minute to make us feel for him doesn’t mean we’ll feel bad. Again, I think this was mostly used to help make Lara look good and show how she still feels sympathetic for her friends. He does go out with a bang (haha), but we don’t have much time to worry about him as Lara needs to run away from giant explosions.
By the way, since now is as good of a time to mention it as any other time, I liked how unpredictable this game was. You just don’t know what’s coming up or what to prepare for. You always have a chance of falling or having to run away from this and that. You get ambushed by surprise a lot of times. You just can’t ever expect what’s coming, and it always keeps you on edge. I like that about this game.
Of course, we come back to see that Whitman, being the lying jerk he is, took Sam to the cult so she could be sacrificed. Because he just wants to escape and make a TV show with all of this. So now we’re left with Jonah, friendly Samoan guy, and Reyes, sassy black woman who don’t take any crap from anybody. So we have to go save Sam again, but Jonah and Reyes are on board with us this time. We all make our way there and get to witness Whitman trying to make friends with the undead samurai people at the behest of Mathias. And then the samurai stare him down before murdering him brutally. That was pretty satisfying, honestly. Whitman is such a small fry for us to kill after we slaughtered so many armed cult soldiers, so why not have him look like the clueless patsy he is and get sacrificed by the guys he betrayed us for?
We now have to go through an ancient monastery and fight our way through revived samurai people to get to Sam. What is most interesting is when we get to the top. Snow is flowing everywhere and cultists are trying to stop us at every turn. They really make it feel like a climax. And then when we’re so close, we have to fight the gigantic Oni monster. This is pretty amazing because we never fought this before. We only saw it, heard about how terrible it was, and ran away from it. But here, we need to face it head on. And we’ve progressed as a badass enough to be able to do that. It doesn’t feel out of place at all.
And then we need to kill Mathias and stop the ritual to save Sam, which ends all of this insanity. We’re finally allowed to leave the island! She carries Sam back to the others to solidify her as a strong badass. They are picked up by a cargo ship and Lara is left contemplating to herself about how there are so many more myths to find. She doesn’t want to go home now, even after this horrible trip. She’s strong enough now that she wants to go and explore the rest of these crazy hell islands.
And then A SURVIVOR IS BORN.
So that’s Tomb Raider. It’s basically a prequel to what Lara becomes in the previous Tomb Raider series. It’s obvious they wanted us to see Lara turn from just an average girl to a hardened badass, and I think they absolutely accomplished that goal. It’s obvious that Lara is the only thing they cared about, and that’s fine. Every single time they wanted us to feel for Lara, they made sure we absolutely did. Eidos was able to manipulate our feelings to perfection, I thought, and they really did well in creating a character that was mostly known for her appearance into a real, strong, female protagonist. The narrative does have its problems, but the game creates an interesting enough adventure that we can overlook them for the most part. I think that this was a step in the right direction for the franchise though, and I look forward to seeing Lara Croft’s next adventure in the following Tomb Raider game. I feel like it’s now a franchise that’s absolutely worth picking up every time.