Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

Richard Walker

Lara Croft is completely and utterly insane. That seems to be the overall message to take away from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Whether she's scaling sheer icy cliffs with her climbing axes or leaping chasms without a moments' thought, Lara remains completely irrepressible; hellbent on recovering mysterious artefact X (whatever it may be) at any cost. After surviving a hellish experience in 2013's Tomb Raider, Lara's back doing what she does best, and this time there are more tombs to actually raid too! Think of that!

That said, Rise of the Tomb Raider's Challenge Tombs remain entirely optional, although it seems that Crystal Dynamics has at least made a more concerted effort to include components in the storyline that place an emphasis on exploration and discovery as well as a fair old dollop of spectacle, with Lara's newly-acquired ability to translate languages from old scrolls and murals being one particularly neat addition. It's more of Lara the explorer that we like to see rather than Lara the cold-blooded murderer. Although there's ample time dedicated to slashing arteries and shooting heads too.

Lara prepares to pounce.

This time, Lara finds herself trudging through the snowy tundra of Siberia in a race against time to acquire the powerful 'Divine Source', an ancient trinket that, you guessed it, grants the holder eternal life. Again. Competing to grab the precious artefact is the military might of Trinity, an 'ancient, evil sect' whose constant presence in helicopters and amid the dark corners of decrepit Soviet installations plague Lara at every turn.

When you're not blasting, throttling or carving the jugulars of Trinity's bad guys with a combat knife, Lara will also find herself having run-ins with wolves and other hostile fauna, while you're also able to hunt deer, rabbits, squirrels, boar and birds to harvest their hides and feathers for arrows, weapon and gear upgrades. If you played the previous Tomb Raider, you'll already be well-versed in deer hunting, climbing and surviving-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth set-pieces. All of it's back in spades for Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Traversal and discovering Rise's world remains one of the most engaging aspects of the game, although boosting Lara's XP and her language translation skills involves unearthing a plethora of collectibles and completing a range of challenges, which transforms its larger hub areas and connecting catacombs and thoroughfares into checklists to systematically work through. Not that there's necessarily wrong with that. But by the end of the game, Lara will be weighed down with relics and scrolls she's scavenged. There are also side missions to complete for allies you'll meet during your epic journey.

Exploration and progression is made all the more simple by Lara's 'Survival Instinct', which with a click of the right stick highlights the way forward and items of interest in a glowing yellow hue. Dyed in the wool Tomb Raider purists that like discovering things for themselves will hate using Survival Instinct, and I thought myself to be one of those very purists. However, after a while, I found it to be an essential device that'd often get me out of a scrape. I'd hate myself for using it though.

Use the ballet, Lara! Leap!

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a generously sized game, with a good 10-15 hour story that's interesting enough to keep you playing. It might not be the most compelling yarn, and features countless moments in which Lara almost falls to her peril, only to miraculously avert crisis at the last second with an exclamation of “shit!”, but it serves its purpose well enough. Still, more involving puzzles and more challenging traversal-based challenges would have been enormously welcome, as would more tombs.

That said, the Challenge Tombs present some fantastic physics-based conundrums to solve, as well as some spectacular environments to explore. That this is easily the game's forté makes it all the more galling that there aren't more of them. Did I mention that more tombs would have been nice? There are crypts too, with ancient weapon parts to excavate, while caves and catacombs also harbour secrets and resources. Rise has no shortage of intriguing areas to seek out, and frequently rolls out gorgeous vistas for you to stop and admire.

Combat encounters aren't really in keeping with traditional Tomb Raider but are supported by fantastic gameplay mechanics that make stealth hugely gratifying and an aggressive approach equally enjoyable. And as you upgrade Lara and her range of skills, as well as her bow and arrow, assault rifles, pistols and shotguns, these combat-based moments grow increasingly fun. Being able to craft shrapnel grenades or Molotov cocktails out of discarded tins and bottles also add to the impromptu options at your disposal during a gunfight.

Here's Expeditions mode in action. Rack up dem points!

Once you've dispensed with Rise of the Tomb Raider's story, you can return to the game to mop up collectibles or delve into the Expeditions mode, where you're able to replay levels against the clock picking up wisps or shooting lanterns to boost your score. It's essentially a series of speed runs, with packs of cards to purchase using credits earned during the story that can then be used to alter the parameters with things like big heads, limited ammo or a single life, for instance. As a substitute for the nixed multiplayer mode, it'll do.

Alongside the story, Expeditions mode has a few achievements attached to it, collecting cards and achieving gold scores in each level. This involves replaying stretches of the game over and over again, which you'll soon grow tired of. During the story, however, there are some great achievements to complete, like shooting a chicken out of the air with a flaming arrow or getting six kills in a row without reloading using the revolver. The rest are dedicated to story progress, finishing the game at Survivor difficulty and collecting every last thing. It's a fine list with a decent spread, but with a little too much grind for my liking.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a strong sequel to 2013's reboot, building upon the potential of its predecessor while adding to the sense of wonder and exploration-based aspects more in keeping with Ms. Croft's roots. Of course, more tombs and puzzles to solve would always be welcome, but Rise is nonetheless a fantastic blend of entertaining combat encounters, traversal and open-world exploration, and arguably a cut above the previous game in gameplay terms, if not necessarily in story terms.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

A worthwhile follow-up to Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider is also an incremental improvement over its predecessor, with more spectacular sites to explore and sights to behold. And tombs! More tombs!

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A lovely orchestral soundtrack and another marvellous turn from Camilla Luddington as Lara make for some stellar audio.


A doozy. Rise of the Tomb Raider has some glorious landscapes to admire and Lara looks fantastic. A properly lovely looking game.


Did you play Tomb Raider back in 2013 or the Definitive Edition? It's pretty much the same on this front, albeit with a few new bells and whistles, zips and zorps. It's good.


A sizeable story with a bajillion collectibles and the Expeditions mode in which you can replay levels for points and collect parameter-customising cards. A good value package. No superfluous multiplayer is a plus too.


A decent list with a smidgen of grind thanks to the collectibles and Expeditions mode. The story-based achievements are great, and the overall spread is good, covering all of the bases.

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