Tomb Raider will always hold a special place in my heart. When I was about 10 I broke my arm and spent a little bit of time in the hospital getting it all sorted, as a sort of “Sucks that your arm broke” present, my dad got me the original Tomb Raider and I’ve been a fan (Sort of) ever since (Kinda) So how did this reboot hold up? Meh, it had its moments.
I know Tomb Raider as that series that was really awesome from the starting gun and has gotten progressively worse with every single instalment. This latest Tomb Raider game I had seen almost zero press for and besides that literal clusterfuck of opinions about that scene where Lara almost apparently gets raped (Spoilers: No she doesn’t) I had no idea what I was getting into.
The game starts off well enough, after your ship crashes on a mysterious island, scattering your crew and leaving you stranded with no gear. You slowly have to gather equipment and food for survival while making your way back to the others and making sense of where the hell you are. The first few hours really are the best this game has to offer, they are brilliantly paced as you’ll spend time exploring the island, fighting the occasional generic bad guy and uncovering what is the start of the mystery of the island. Unfortunately it all starts going downhill and fast.
It’s almost like the developers ran out of faith in their own product about 5 hours in. Before you know it you’ll just be going from gunfight to gunfight, fighting wave after wave of cannon fodder. It’s good that they want to add a little action to this series. But this is ridiculous. It got so tedious towards the end that i was actually swearing at the TV whenever i had to spend the next half an hour doing the exact same thing I’d 15 times in a row.
How do these gunfights play? Ever played Uncharted? Well, pretty much that.
I swear, Lara could get off this island by building a bridge of the bodies of people she’s killed. I seem to remember the original Tomb Raider having a great sense of action and it only had 4 people to kill across the entire game. This reboot doesn’t achieve that with hundreds of enemies. What’s hilarious is that it tries to portray one of the generic enemies as the leader of the pack by virtue of the fact that he has a beard. That’s their idea of character development. Having a beard.
The first time Lara kills someone they play it off as a huge moral breakdown, Lara can hardly believe how easy it was to kill someone. I was thinking they would be setting up Lara to become a cold blooded killer Jason Brody style. But no, it’s never mentioned again and she seems to have no moral qualms about mowing down the entire population after that.
Maybe all this is why I liked the early sections of the game so much? The game was too busy trying to explain the mechanics of the game and telling a story that it wasn’t trying to be the same 3rd person shooter you’ve played so many times. And I like that. The game needed more moments where it allows the player to just explore the island and raid tombs and take in the scenery. It’s a shame once that’s all done, you’ll be playing a boring game right till the end.
Lara has an entourage of people with her but I can’t remember any of their names or what they did. Actually I get the feeling their only purpose was to pad out the skin options in multiplayer. That would certainly explain why they are so badly written and their being in the game feels like an absolute afterthought. It’s not all bad, that nerdy stereotype character has some funny shirts. So there is that.
The game also has a feature it calls “Survival vision” where pressing a button will light up important items and enemies in your area. Is Eidos asking that this feature come as standard? Because it’s showing up in a lot of their games. Regardless, it’s done very well here. It’s not so useful “Detective Vision” style that you’ll leave it on all the time and the entire game’s art direction goes out the window. And it’s not useless enough that you use it once in the tutorial and never again.
The story isn’t particularly interesting, but I think it fits. It boils down to this; Lara goes to mysterious island, island is not all that it seems, weird shit starts happening. The mysterious island hiding a dark secret has been done to death but It’s the exact kind of story this game needs. An easy to digest non-confusing adventure you’d expect to find in a cheap paperback novel in the bargain bin. Just don’t start looking for any kind of logic on this island, you’ll give yourself a nosebleed. If you’ve been paying any attention whatsoever you’ll figure out exactly what’s going to happen within the first 2 hours, I know I did. The story isn’t played out for some shocking twist ending and that’s why it’s so strange that Lara as a character is so slow to put the pieces together. Her inner monologue will be coming to realisations that I made hours ago. It feels weird and it makes Lara come off as really stupid.
Is it too much to ask that Tomb Raider be about you know…raiding tombs? The optional “puzzle” tombs were the most enjoyable part of the game. I put puzzle in quotation marks because they are so mind numbingly easy as well as being very few and far between that you’ll breeze through them in minutes. Not a single one was challenging even in the slightest. Still, it was nice to see some old school platforming. That being said, they feel more like token gesture to the fans than any game defining feature. This game isn’t a puzzle platformer. It isn’t even trying to be.
What’s that you say, multiplayer? I played a few games. It’s the exact same thing you’ve seen in about 50 other games. You’ll grind XP to unlock weapons to change your loadout. You’ll choose from the standard match types like deathmatch and free-for-all. You’ll run into people as soon as you spawn and run the same loop of map over and over ad nauseam because the maps are too small. And you’ll know within the first game if the MP is for you. Or if you’re like me, you’ll play it for about an hour and forget it ever existed. And judging by the length of time it took me to get a game, I’m thinking most people are.
Is this what Tomb Raider has become, a series that is content playing second banana to the Uncharted series? I get the feeling that’s what it took to convince Square to throw their money at turning this series into a triple A game. I couldn’t blame, this series was a dud and taking notes and towards the end just lifting entire sections directly from U3 seems logical. But who cares, right? The next TR game will undoubtedly be next gen and then maybe it’ll try some new things. Maybe Lara in a bikini and riding a motorcycle, how awesome would that be?
Due to recent cutbacks at Square my review copy arrived before my bribe money did. So I give this game a 6/10
Until next time,
Dr Ruffle B. Berg
I don’t buy it when people say JRPG games are dead. They’re not dead; you just have to look a little harder to find the great ones. Is Resonance of Fate one of the great ones? Sure, but it’s still kind of awful at the same time.
The main characters in this game are Vashyron: The epitome of the father figure, tough guy, seen-it-all in his past type. Leanne: The good looking but awkward girl that seems so carefree it’s worrying. And finally, Zephyr, the “I don’t walk to talk about it” attention seeking lady faced teen that has pretty much become the norm in games like this. I imagine him being the kind of person that posts those useless moody updates on facebook looking for likes. They play to their archetypes pretty much throughout the whole game, and I like that. Sure, the dialogue gets a bit predictable because of it. But these characters are sympathetic and the occasional funny line actually made me like them after a few hours. Well, not Zephyr. He’s an insufferable douchebag. I was actually hoping he would die early. Sadly not.
I would talk about the story, but to be honest I don’t actually know what the hell happened. You’ll spend 75% of the game doing fetch quests like going into dungeons to get bottles of wine for rich people or cold medicine for one of your sick party members. If you’re looking for an engaging story of FF7 quality, look elsewhere. Things are explained very slowing and very poorly. It’s told via end of chapter cutscenes that usually have very little to do with the player. Actually very little to do with the player is quite a good description. It’s almost as if two different games are happening. You’ll be doing your quests as the player, fighting monsters and collecting items. And at the end of a chapter you’ll just see a cutscene of some other people somewhere else talking about things you have no idea about. It has zero context until about 20 hours in and even then you feel like most of the explaining is happening when you’re off doing something else. This game doesn’t know what tone it wants. You’ll switch from dark comedy and sex filled innuendo to scenes filled with melancholic drama from chapter to chapter. They work individually, but they don’t really make for a great overall story.
But what about the game part of the actual game? Well, it’s brilliant. Seriously, it’s amazing. It takes the usual turn based RPG formula of characters on one end of the screen and enemy on the other and makes it something completely unique, complex and engaging. You have two different types of damage; normal damage that doesn’t do a lot but is permanent and scratch damage. This is damage that absolutely drains the enemies life but isn’t permanent. Basically, you need to scratch someone and then finish them off with normal damage. It means you need to utilize your entire team and simply pressing attack every time it’s an option will get you killed quickly. Different weapons will do different damage. Things like your position on the map, the type of movements you’re making and when you decide to strike all make huge differences on the outcome of encounters. The game becomes fantastic the first time everything clicked and I actually understood the system and exactly how deep it was. The learning curve is very steep and I spent my fist 10 or so battles completely clueless. But one you get it, you’re hooked.
What I loved about this system is that it doesn’t hold your hand one bit. Here is the battlefield; the strategy is up to you. And you will need a good plan going into fights. It’s less about grinding and simply having a higher level or better gear than your enemy. You need to actually plan your attack, where will I move on the battlefield, who will I use this turn? What ammo is better against what? What type of attack will I use? How will my moves impact my characters 2 turns from now? Encounters are won by clever movements and well placed shots. It’s so refreshing to see a JRPG try something different and not be afraid to take to its extreme. This is the furthest thing from your typical combat system and it’s awesome. How many other JRPG games can say they have a combat system so deep that you can you could only really master it on your second playthrough? Not many.
Visually, it’s a mixed bag. While the detail and creativity that has gone into the enemies and the bosses in particular will have you wanting to replay it just to see it again, the world, people and towns are bland. Not a lot of variety has gone into the environments both in and outside of battle. It won’t be long before you’re seeing the exact same industrial area battle zones over and over again. This coupled with the fact that there’s just not a whole lot to see in this game, I was bored with the world quite quickly. Being bored is actually quite impressive in a game with art design this good. The world looks like the inner workings of a giant clock. I don’t know why they didn’t make a big deal out of this; it’s a clever idea that is never taken anywhere.
The game has this whole dress up thing where you’re encouraged(?) to mix and match different outfits for your characters. I didn’t understand this system at all. I was about 45 hours in before I bought a single piece of clothing I didn’t just find from a treasure chest. What’s the point? Nothing I can do will make these characters anything other than what the developers wanted them to be. I don’t see how me spending my money on the most fashionable shades or a shirt that makes Zephyr look even more effeminate (If that’s possible) will add to my connection with these characters. I know playing dress-up is big in Japan. I’m guessing something has been lost in translation. If you’re going to include throwaway features like this, at least give me a reason to care beyond that I may randomly be into this shit.
Thankfully the games other customization feature isn’t a completely pointless addition. You can customise your guns with different barrels, clips, scopes and other add-ons. Given the limited amount of space you have to do this I found the choice or what guns will specialize in what areas like speed, number of bullets of just damage was a difficult choice. I found it wasn’t really worth it to have every gun on every character be an all-round type. I needed to make each weapon have a purpose. Each would play a part in my battle strategy. Either do massive scratch damage, unload bullets quickly to break enemies or just do incredible damage. How many other JPRG games can say they make you think about your weapon this much? Usually it’s just choose it and use it with one or two additions if you’re lucky. RoF took that to a whole new level.
Overall this game is full of some pretty good ideas but only one of them is really fleshed out enough to its full potential. Granted, it’s the most important one, the one that you’ll spend most of your time with. And if one superb feature is enough for you to overlook the shortcomings of the others, then get this. It’s one of the best JRPG games released in years. It’s just a damn the developers didn’t have more time to create a story, world and characters that were as great as the combat system is. This isn’t a bad game, it’s an unfinished one.
To be fair, SEGA never gave this game a shot at being a success. If giving it almost no pre-release press was bad enough, they decided to release it just one week after Final Fantasy XIII had hit shelves. Making sure the majority of your audience was busy with the most eagerly anticipated JRPG game on current consoles to release RoF wasn’t smart marketing on SEGA’s part, to say the least. I don’t know what the endgame was there, maybe trying to ride the wave of FF popularity? Whatever their intention was, all that ended up happening was that RoF got lost in the haze of FF and no one bought it. It’s a shame, even with its problems RoF is a far better game than anything Square has developed in half a decade.
I’d really like to see a sequel to this game be made sometime. Or maybe just that awesome combat system put into another tri-Ace developed game. I now that Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean did similar things with their battle systems. But it never quite clicked as well as it does in this game. Pretty much all the problems I mentioned above could have been ironed out with time and maybe a bit more cash. But I know that’ll never happen. SEGA own the RoF IP and given that it didn’t do so well outside of Japan, we are unlikely to see another console version.
Besides, tri-Ace are developing for the FF series now and if Square really didn’t want to rush their most profitable series into the grave (more than they already have, that is), they would give complete control to them. Hell, the stagger system in FF13 was a total rip off of the scratch damage system from RoF anyway. May as well let Square take their copying to its logical conclusion and have tri-Ace make the whole thing.
I’m willing to forgive a lot for some awesome gameplay. And this game has a lot that needs to be forgiven. The characters are boring, the world is bland, the missions are repetitive and the story just kinda sucks. But, damn. That combat system is awesome…