The First Few is a series where we take raw unfiltered first impressions of the game and write down exactly what we think within the initial hours of it. Whereas a review covers the experience as a whole, The First Few focuses on the opening act of the title or more commonly called the “hook”.
Ascending The Snow Covered Hills
Rise Of The Tomb Raider has been on my mind for a while. The remake was one of my favorite games of its release year and the Steam version was fantastic. When Rise was announced as an Xbox One exclusive, my heart dropped and my wallet prepared to cough up some dough for the home console. However much to my jubilation, it was announced that the sequel would find its way to Steam shortly after its launch.
Which brings us to the top of a snow covered mountain in Siberia. The game looks absolutely beautiful. Snow blows past with ferocity and whips Lara’s hair as her cheeks become red from the severe conditions. As I trotted up the first playable section of the game, I felt a call back to some of the more exciting moments of the prequel. The mountain was clearly unstable but we were here on some kind of mission. So on we pressed as the ground gave way beneath our feet. Once we reached far enough in, it looked like Lara retained her trusty dual pick-axes from the first game and it turned into a light tutorial on how to use them. As I began to scale the mountain, I could feel the sharp platforming from the first had been realized perfectly. I was engaged and ready to do the damn thing.
1 Hour In: Suddenly In Syria
The story threw in a flashback as the locale changed and I found myself swimming through an underground oasis named the Tomb Of The Prophet. That’s right, one hour in and we’re raiding tombs! Finally! During this tomb a lot of introductions to certain mechanics popped up. Sprinting, jumping, scaling, light gun play, etc. Then one involving spike traps appeared that slowed time down for a second allowing Lara’s uncanny reflexes to kick in and leap over the death trap. Not sure if that’s a continuing mechanic but it is a cool one. All of these introductions led to a rather meaty puzzle requiring shooting, jumping and sprinting to get through. Super fun.
Oh! Forgot to mention the awesome archaeological discoveries. Basically, there are little voice acted journals, artifacts, and ancient coins for you to find. Usually this is just a collection type thing but the narrative about a particular soldier hunting down the prophet was intriguing and had me searching long and far for them. I do however think that Lara’s “Survival Instincts” are a little too similar to detective mode in Arkham Asylum. You can’t have it on as you run about but it makes finding hidden secrets a joke. In a game where you’re an explorer, the feeling of stumbling onto something needs to be kept intact, or at least an option to not show items and artifacts when you tap that button looking for a way-point.
Final Hour: Back In The Cold
I didn’t even notice time pass by. I had fought a bear, raided a pirate ship trapped in ice, made soldiers suffer at the hands of a petite (yet oddly strong) brunette and even found a cave with some mysterious minerals inside. The feeling of exploration really is exhilarating. Almost every part of the map is covered with something to grab or resources to procure and even optional tombs.
Speaking of resources, I do have a few gripes with crafting. I understand upgrading a bow you made with your bare hands. I understand sharpening the pick-ax using some bone and rock. What I DON’T get is how I’m crafting ammunition pouches from trees and dead wolves or why a feral bear is guarding a box with a semi auto pistol part. Things like that really remind me I’m playing a game and yank me out of the immersion even if only for a second. If I was fighting soldier dudes in a base and they had a lock-box with a gun part, fine. That’s believable. Instead of a bear guarding a box, why not a guy he mauled and dragged back having the gun part in his bag? Gives a little more narrative, justifies your decision to slay the bear, and doesn’t break the immersion.
But I digress. In this last hour I’ve come to admire the game and have a yearn to play it even more. The developers clearly took note of what worked and what didn’t because they’ve made nice changes to this one and preserved the features that made the first one so great. The most appreciated one is the continuation of no UI on the screen when you’re outside of battle. The game is beyond gorgeous and the devs know they worked hard to get it to that point. So why cover up the beauty with a lot of unnecessary bars that mostly just say “By the way, you have 100% health still! Just constantly letting you know!”
Rise of the Tomb Raider will hopefully keep this momentum and allow me to finish it within a week of starting. Something that is pretty rare for me lately when it comes to AAA titles. With that, I’m off to expunge more Mongolian treasures hidden in Russia. Yeah… just go with it.
Control method: Xbox 360 Controller
Time spent: 3 Hours
Andron (or Ace as he likes to call himself) is the so called "Head Honcho" of Bombchu.com. He has a deep passion for video games primarily RPGs, Fighting or Adventure. When not gaming, he's furiously typing on his keyboard or coming up with new schemes.