Posted: May 19
I was skeptical at first; this game had an all-sizzle-and-no-steak vibe about it. It never interested me until it came on sale recently for super cheap, all (albeit pointless) DLC included, so I thought I'd give it a shot.
I was pleasantly surprised! Despite my initial scoffing at the cheesy Hollywood story being played completely straight, by the end I cared what happened to the characters and genuinely wanted to see where the story would end up. The combat is fast and fluid, the jumping and climbing is serviceable, and despite being set on a fairly small island the game conjures up a great adventure vibe with plenty of locations to explore and good visual payoffs. There are fun apocalyptic logs to find, and a rich backstory to be found just from looking at the ruins of past inhabitants.
That said, this game is far from perfect. Firstly, the RPG elements are barely there; you have more than enough money and experience to buy the best skills and upgrades without even exploring too extensively, and if you're like me and have to OCD 100% every area then you can purchase literally every single upgrade and ability by the end, half of which you never need to use. Make no mistake, this game is a linear adventure and the upgrades are completely linear as well. I would much prefer the game deny you resources and force a degree of specialization, but as is there is no remedy except a self-imposed challenge.
Secondly, the game has a number of quick-time events. Usually these are fine, and in combat you can be rewarded with good timing. However, there are several sequences in which you're tumbling down a hill or a river and have to dodge numerous instant kill hazards without any warning. In one parachute section I did not even realise I was in control coming out of a cutscene, and then as soon as I did died to a tree (?). I fancy myself as a FPS veteran with quick reaction times and I don't think there was a single one of these tumbling sequences in which I did not die.
Speaking of tumbling, the third major issue with this game is the themes. Lara does a lot of tumbling, groaning, wailing, and general angsting. The game goes out of its way to have moments showing Lara as vulnerable, something the developers specifically intended. But instead of subtly showing it, they occasionally have a scene of Lara shivering and saying "you can do this" followed by sequences of the player massacring people. And it's not self-defense either; between Lara silently sneaking up and hacking at someone's brain stem or the boss encounters in which Lara dismembers the foe's skull from the front (and I mean DISMEMBERS), I find it hard to sympathize. Lara is a cold-blooded and vicious killer in combat, and a fragile "you can do this" little girl in cutscenes. It doesn't match.
The supporting characters are somewhat annoying too, with the best two relegated to nothing but an intro scene and then their death scene later in the game. The ones that remain are: a woman who hates Lara for no particular reason and "calls her out" on making it "all about her" after Lara has literally killed hundreds of people and jumped across lava pits to save them, one of the most obvious traitors in video game history, a girly-girl best friend who's only feature is being a walking plot device, and then the other big guy who has almost no discernible traits (I think he had a name?) who is nonetheless the voice of reason in this inane conflict ball.
So yes, this game is not without flaws. I didn't even mention the frequent crashes or pixel-hunting collection quests (one collectible is a GPS beacon; almost literally a pixel on the ground) or the laughably easy puzzles that still insist on peppering you with hints, because despite all the flaws this game is a package I enjoyed. It plays like an action movie with a script to match, and once you accept that behind the gritty serious wrapping is a swashbuckling adventure full of cool set-pieces and a spunky female protagonist, it's good fun.