Currently Playing: Tomb Raider

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This is a refreshing take on Tomb Raider. It’s interesting to see the game taken over by a new team. I’ve been playing the series since it started so many years ago. I remember it was the time when I first played the original Lara Croft Tomb Raider game on the PC. It was the early days of 3D video cards, which was the time when PC games were just proving itself that PC games can be better than game consoles. To see Tomb Raider being rebooted is worrying but it does seem that it really needed it.

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The original game was amazing, especially for that time. It actually gave women empowerment. It was surprising to see a computer generated character show up in a lot of magazines, and they were not game magazines too. But the problem with Lara Croft games of the past, is that she was a bit sexualized, a way too much on the games after the original. It was good that for the last few games, the tried to lower all that sexiness down, but the gameplay was just not working. The old system was getting old and they keep reusing ideas and they even tried to give her a darker edge. There were good moments too, but the last few games were so buggy that it was hard to actually enjoy the game. I know Crystal Dynamics did redo the original Tomb Raider, I suppose it’s for them to get familiar with how the original works out and they added a few touches that make it work with modern gamers.

The new reboot not gives Crystal Dynamics a chance to use what they have learned and give her a make over for modern gaming. And this is refreshing indeed.

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The new game revolves around Lara Croft as a young starting out archaeologist. Young as inexperienced, and she’s afraid of the things that she will face. This is not the Lara Croft that we are used to, this is a time when she is faced with difficult choices. It gives her the moments to face her fears and stand up to her challenges. This is a side of her that we have not seen before.

The story revolves around a group of archaeologists (including Lara) with a reality TV team trying to find Yamatai Island. The cutscene starts off that there is a massive storm, so strong that it sinks their ship, Lara survives discovering that she has landed on the a strange island full of shipwrecks. The first time you control Lara Croft is when she is tied up, as she tries to escape, you are given a taste of how the controls are. While the story is given to you in little pieces, as Lara uses a camera (from one of her friends in the ship) she finds early in the game. The camera has bits and pieces of conversation and it shows relationships, and it gives a back story on why they were going there in the first place. I enjoyed the idea that Lara is not the confident woman that we see in previous games. She is still trying to be on her own and her friends give her the boost she need to give her confidence.

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The game controls are pretty good, in fact I have no problems with the game. The game starts off easily with the basic controls. I could have thought that the entire game would have worked even with the basic controls that I have. Like movement, how to use a weapon, how to use a simple tool. But it’s interesting to see that the farther you go, it keeps on introducing new elements that doesn’t feel overwhelming. It feels like a natural upgrade. It’s either you are given tools because of a storyline or you have an option to upgrade a weapon with the salvaged parts that you find within the game. The progression feels balanced enough, not extremely easy but not too difficult that it can put me off. I know I’ve died a lot of times, but it wasn’t frustrating because it loads up where I’m pretty close already.

The game worked great on the keyboard and mouse setting, I did try to get my Logitech Rumblepad 2 to work but to no avail. I even tried the Xbox360 controller emulator, but that didn’t work out either. There are times that I’m forced to mash my controls and I worry that I could break my keyboard which is why I wanted to use my gamepad. So, that’s one of my gripes on the game.

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The visuals are amazing. I know I don’t get a steady 30 frames per second on my system which is almost around years old alraedy, but check out my screenshots and it’s fully playable. This is the default setting that I got, and it looks great. I know there are other effects that I can’t see since my system doesn’t support it, like the tessellation effect which makes hair move like it’s real. But other than that, this looks amazing. The detail on Lara, and she really looks good. The environment feels alive and the water effects when I was going through the waterfall looks great. The graphics engine is amazingly done, considering this is a newer game than Alan Wake, I can’t even get that game running smoothly, it was actually unplayable. But this one is done so well, that it feels like it either matches the Xbox360/PS3 or it’s even better in visuals. Although don’t take my work on that, since I don’t have a copy of this game on the PS3 or Xbox360.

There are campsites in the game, these work as savepoints. It also gives you an opportunity to upgrade your skills and weapons. I like the idea that your skills and weapons are not like Role Playing games that it just gets better the more you give it points. The skill points you earn is very limited, and basically, you just unlock a skill at a time. The more you get more skills, the more the game feels more fluid, it feels that Lara is getting so much better, but naturally.

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I enjoyed playing the new Tomb Raider, and I do hope the new one works on my laptop, although I think that is wishful thinking at this point. I highly recommend this game, and you don’t have to know Lara Croft to enjoy this game since it her a fresh new start.

I got the game through Steam sale. I got the collectors edition (digital) for less than PhP200 (US$4.50)

Tested on:
Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit SP1
AMD A8-3520M
5GB DDR3 RAM
512MB ATI AMD Radeon HD 6620G

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