The Tomb Raider series turns 25 this October and during the third lockdown in the UK I have been working through paying the entire series from beginning to end and I will be writing plenty of content about this series over the next few months.
At the moment though I thought it would be great to do a full overview of the main entries to the series and how it has developed from the beginning and the various ups and downs the series has had over the last 25 years.
Tomb Raider (1996)
The first Tomb Raider game was released on 25th October 1996. It was a game that revolutionised 3D gaming. It was built by Derby-based developer Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive.
In the game, tough British archaeologist Lara Croft is hired by businesswoman Jacqueline Natla to recover an ancient piece of an Atlantean artifact known as the Scion. The game takes the players to Peru, Greece, Egypt and finally the ancient lost city of Atlantis.
It was released initially as a timed exclusive for the Sega Saturn before making its way to PC and PS1 and sold almost 7 million copies. The game was one of the first high-profile 3D action adventure games with an iconic character who became a household name, even eclipsing the brand that created her.
The game’s 3D environments combine platforming, swimming, combat and puzzles through 16 levels (not counting the tutorial level which takes place in Croft Manor or Lara’s home).
Tomb Raider II (1997)
The success of the first game meant that a sequel was almost immediately green lit with a very short development time of one year, in order to be released the following Christmas.
In Lara’s second adventure she is after the Dagger of Xian, a mythological Chinese dagger that will give it;s owner the power of the dragon, provided they have the courage to plunge the dagger deep into the heart. Lara’s adventure starts at the Great Wall of China where she finds the locked temple and is apprehended by a man from the Fiamma Nera cult, led by Marco Bartolli who has an obsession with the ancient lore and the dagger. She is soon globetrotting to Venice, an offshore oil ring, the wreck of an ocean liner, Tibet and China once again.
The game expanded on the 3d platforming of the first adventure with Lara having new moves including climbing ladders and riding zip lines. She can also drive vehicles with a boat and snowmobile being the vehicles of choice. It is also the first in the series to feature costume changes with Lara wearing a wetsuit and a snow jacket as well as her classic teal tank top and shorts. Croft Manor also made a return and was expanded to include an assault course and a treasure room, as well as a certain butler that everyone locked in the freezer (so satisfying!…).
The game was released on PC and console as a Playstation exclusive and overall sold 6.8million copies and according to data published by Eurogamer was the second best selling title of all time. on the PlayStaiton in the UK.
Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998)
Following the success of the second game, Eidos Interactive soon commissioned yet another entry to the series, again to be released at Christmas the following year and again it was done with Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft arriving in time for Christmas 1998.
In this third adventure, the opening cutscene shows a tropical jungle in the time of dinosaurs when an ancient meteorite crashes down to Earth (assumingly the one which killed the dinosaurs). The action then moves to the present day and this jungle is now Antartica where a scientist how works called DR. Willard is excavating and discovers some Polynesian statues, similar to those found on Easter Island alongisde the grave of a crew member of the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin’s ship in the 1800’s.
In the meantime, we catch up with Lara in India on a quest for the Infada Stone, an artifact worshipped by the tribe there. After it’s recovery she spots a boat on the river and meets Dr. Willard who informs her the artifact is one of four crafted by the Polynesians from the ancient meteorite. They fled Antartica for unknown reaosns but in the 1800s one of Charles Darwin’s sailors found the artifacts and sold them on. He then asks Lara to retrieve them from the South Pacific, London and Nevada before the final chapter takes place in Antartica where Lara learns what Willard’s plans are for the artifact…
The games biggest change was it’s non-linear structure – various levels had more than one route to completion and the games central three chapters could be completed in any order with only India and Antarctica being the opening and closing chapters. Lara also had some more new moves including a sprint facility and monkey swing across horizontal bars. The game also had some more weapons and vehicles such as the kayak, a quad bike and an underwater propulsion unit.
The game’s graphical effects were also enhanced, with triangular polygons meaning new hazards such as quicksand could be created and more complex geometries as well as particle effects allowing for fog and smoke to be used.
Overall the game still sold well though slightly lower than the previous game at 6 million sales globally. It was also a sign of things to come with many critics noting the games high difficulty and also how very little things had changed in this third game to the first and that other games were soon catching up on Tomb Raider’s initial innovation.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999)
In what was rapidly becoming a tradition, Core Design again released another adventure featuring Lara Croft at Christmas in 1999 – this time The Last Revelation.
This game was to be the most radical overhaul of the format established by its predecessors prior to The Angel of Darkness. The menu rings and Croft Manor were axed, replaced with a new horizontal menu structure and a compulsory training level set at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The training levels also added more to the backstory of the game, featuring a teenaged Lara Croft following her mentor Werner Von Croy on an expedition as he recovers the Iris artifact which goes wrong as Von Croy ends up trapped and Lara barely escapes.
The training level introduces rope swinging as a major new move and establishes Von Croy as a character who would appear in the subsequent two games.
Following the training levels the action is purely set in Egypt where Lara unwittingly unleashes Set whilst taking the Amulet of Horus, bringing about an Armageddon which she must now try to prevent – all the time being pursued by Von Croy who is now Lara’s rival and also wants the amulet. Most shocking of all and this is a huge SPOILER ALERT though 22 years on most people will be aware of it – the game ended with Lara’s apparent death as a pyramid collapsed around here.
Levels were more complex and some involved moving backwards and forwards between several levels in order to progress. The inventory system was also changed to allow for objects to be combined which changed and added extra difficulty to certain levels, as well as a laser scope which could be added to weapons and allow you to aim from a first-person perspective, as well as binoculars which worked in a similar way. The games vehicular sections involved driving a jeep and motorcycle.
The game was released on Playstation, PC and also the Sega Dreamcast the following year after Sony;s exclusivity deal ended. The game sold well at 5 million copies and reception of the game was overall positive though many people considered the changes to still be quite minor and evolutionary. Some players also found the large hub areas that included several levels with constant backtracking between them frustrating.
The end of the game (SPOILER AGAIN) and Lara’s death was also a sign of things to come – the development team were becoming burned out following the games’ unforgiving release schedule and wanted and needed a break but unfortunately this wasn’t to be as Eidos insisted the series continue.
In 1999, just around the corner was the release of the next generation of consoles with Sony’s Playstation 2 arriving a year later in 2000 but this wasn’t to be Lara’s last adventure on the current generation as developed in parallel was a fifth installment to the series….
Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000)
In what was to be the final release in a yearly schedule (for now) Tomb Raider Chronicles was released in time for Christmas 2000. Following the (SPOILER) Lara’s apparent death at the end of The Last Revelation, the game instead takes the form of four mini-adventures told by Lara’s friends and associates at a memorial service in her honour.
The four adventures told are fairly episodic though unlike Tomb Raider 3 have to be played in a certain order. The first is Lara’s adventure for the Philosopher’s Stone in Rome whilst pursued by Tomb Raider 1 villains Larson and Pierre DuPont. The second is Lara’s hunt for The Spear of Destiny on a Russian submarine. The third adventure starts teenaged Lara Croft to a small island of the coast of Ireland which is haunted by demonic forces. The final adventure is a James bond style heist with Lara breaking into Von Croy’s headquarters to retrieve the Iris artifact from the opening levels of The Last Revelation.
The game concludes with the friends toasting her memory whilst in Egypt Von Croy is looking for Lara in the collapsed pyramid that fell on her at the end of The Last Revelation. He finds Lara’s backpack and declares “We found her!” before the game ends.
The game again had some new features – Lara could tightrope walk, swing around horizontal bars and somersault out of crawlspaces. New equipment consists of a TMX-Timex that Lara uses to track her statistics (in a product placement deal with the watch company). She also has a grappling gun which can fire ropes. There was also a re-introduced stealth element in the final levels which had been previously used in the Nevada levels of Tomb Raider 3.
The only vehicle is Lara’s deep dive diving suit which she uses in the Russian submarine levels to locate the Spear of Destiny on the ocean floor. The game also had 36 secrets which when found unlocked a special features section including a trailer for the then next-gen Tomb Raider title which would become The Angel of Darkness.
The game was built in tandem with The Angel of Darkness which began development at the same time, with the more experienced developers working on this game and a new team working on the new title. As stated above the team were suffering from burnout and even in a 2016 interview, designer Andy Sandham, called the game “a load of old shit”, saying that the staff created the game to earn a living rather than having any passion for it.
This was unfortunately reflected in reviews and sales with the game having very mixed reviews. Many reviewers did say it was the best of the five PS1 games and in a sense it was as the game had been refined over five years. However, it was still fundamentally the same game as the first one due to the tight turnaround. The game also sold significantly less, with only 1.5 million sold and is the second-lowest selling game in the series (possibly also due to the arrival of PlayStation 2 that same year).
Special Mention: Tomb Raider Level Editor (PC)
The only other thing to note is the game released to PlayStation, PC and Sega Saturn with the PC version also shipping with the level editor used by the developers in the game. The level editor was extremely popular and communities of Tomb Raider fans created their own adventures, many of which are still active and creating new levels today. The level editor can be downloaded even without the original game and levels can be played though only on PC.
The editor can be found on Stella’s Tomb Raider site here if you fancy creating your own adventures. If you fancy playing some, then check out http://www.trle.net/ which is just one site that carries a huge amount of levels and I hope to feature more about these on my blog soon.
Tomb Raider: The Angel Of Darkness (2003)
Now we reach the PS2 era in our journey through the main Tomb Raider series and this game was a huge turning point in the franchise.
Upon it’s release the game received scathing reviews, with a poor control scheme and camera and blighted by bugs. The big problem with it is that it was unfinished.
Firstly the plot: We learn Lara survived the events of the Last Revelation but the trauma has made her harder and colder. She meets Werner Von Croy in Paris where he tells her he’s been looking for some artifacts for a client called Eckhardt and he wants her help as he is being spooked by a serial killer called the Monstrum who is terrorizing Paris.
She refuses but suddenly she is knocked out and Werner is murdered. Lara is accused of being the killer and goes on the run to find whoever did it. What follows is an extremely complex story involving alchemists, immortals and secret societies who want to use some artifacts called the Obscura Paintings, which hide pieces of the Sanglyph, to awaken the Sleeper, the last of the Nephili race of biblical demons.
The games troubled development is extremely well documented online and the trouble really started right at the beginning. Core’s management team split the developers into two with the more experienced team finishing off Tomb Raider Chronicles whilst the new team worked on the next-gen sequel. When Chronicles wrapped and the team merged again they discovered a complete mess – the project had to be scraped entirely, losing virtually an entire year’s worth of development.
Following this the team struggled with creating a game for the new PS2 hardware and unfortunately Core’s management continually made bigger and more grandiose promises for the new game – stating it would rival other action/adventure series such as Shenmue and Metal Gear Solid which had been competing against Tomb Raider.
Another problem was the lack of management and direction. Core Design was originally a very small development studio (only six people worked on the original game) yet the team rapidly expanded in 5 years to cope with the series fast turnaround – yet the management style didn’t expand with it so often teams were left to their own devices and unlike the previous games there was nothing that could be used from the previous games in building this one.
The series’ publisher Eidos was also beginning to struggle to make a profit as no other series they released had the same impact as Tomb Raider and they desperately needed a hit to be profitable. The game suffered numerous delays and was reportedly submitted to Sony eight times before release on the PS2.
Eventually Eidos insisted the game had to be released in June 2003 to apparently meet an accounting deadline and hopefully capitalise on the second Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider films The Cradle Of Life.
In the rush to get the game released various aspects were cut down, of which there are so many examples. The game is the only one to feature a second playable character, Kurtis Trent and whilst he originally had his own moves and was going to be different to Lara he was eventually cut down until he was a virtual copy of her. Another huge cut is two locations from the game, Germany and Turkey were cut completely from the story to be used in a sequel to this game, The Lost Dominion which was going to be part of a trilogy.
However these locations were actually within the middle of the story with the two strands pulled together to create a disjointed story. New features such as the RPG elements and stealth mode were also dramatically reduced to the point they weren’t even new additions. In fact rumours say a beta build of the game worked better than the actual released version due to the amount of cutting taking place.
The game did sell well initially and sold 2.5 million copies, mainly due to a very aggressive marketing campaign but the critical mauling it received, as well as the amount of money Eidos had spent meant that this was the worst flop of the series.
In the immediate aftermath, Jeremy Heath-Smith who was Core’s Managing Director and a board member at Eidos was immediately fired and the development of the games was taken away from Core Design, the series birthplace to be transferred to a new developer, American studio Crystal Dynamics who were known for their Legacy Of Kain series. Ultimately Lara would return in the first reboot of the series, Tomb Raider: Legend
What happened to Core Design?
Ultimately the aftermath of The Angel of Darkness spelt huge trouble for the company. They never released another Tomb Raider title.
In 2006 they did attempt to create a Tomb Raider Anniversary remake of the first game which will be mentioned again below and though a trailer did leak online ultimately this game was cancelled and Crystal Dynamics created a remake of their work instead. There was an attempt to turn this into a possible Indiana Jones game and a beta build of the game has since been released by Ash on the Tomb Of Ash website. Full details about this are here: https://www.tomb-of-ash.com/trae-indy-build/.
Core Design were then sold to Rebellion Studios and became Rebellion Derby before the studio ultimately closed down in 2010.
Tomb Raider: Legend (2006)
Following the failure of The Angel Of Darkness, the series was transferred to American studio Crystal Dynamics, though it would be a further 3 years before the game was released. Tomb Raider Legend marked the first major reboot of Tomb Raider and Lara Croft as a character.
Her backstory was changed and it formed a large part of the plot in this game. Instead of being in a plane crash when she was 21, she was now only 9 years old and crashed in the Himalayas with her mother. However when investigating a stone dias she activated a sword which her mother pulled out and then disappeared. Investigating why her mother disappeared and later her father disappeared, which is now her main motivation. In Bolivia as an adult she discovers a similar dias, which she things might be connected and a mercenary called James Rutland who mentions an accident she was in when she was younger in Peru where her friends died.
In Peru she recollects what happened to her friends including one in particular Amanda Evert and decides to investigate where they died. Here she finds Amanda’s boot but her body isn’t there suggesting she made it out. Lara also makes a connection to Excalibur, the sword of Arthurian legend and goes on a quest around the globe to find the missing pieces. She also eventually discovers her friend Amanda isn’t dead and is actually working to get the pieces for herself.
In comparison to the previous games in the series very little was kept with the arrival of the new developer, Lara’s move set was completely changed and the old grid based system was replaced with “fluid movement”. Her outfit and voice acting was also changed with Keeley Hawes taking over the role from Jonell Elliot and Toby Gard, Lara’s original creator, returning to redesign her.
New additions to the series also included a custom physics engine to change puzzles from the old keys and switches of the previous games. A new “streaming” system of loading was also created with the game loading the next big area as you played, allowing for more detailed environments to be designed. Lara still had her dual pistols but instead of an inventory, she could now only pick up one other gun with limited ammunition, 3 medi packs and up to four grenades. She also now carries some binoculars, with a mode to help with puzzles, a flashlight and a grappling hook to swing across gaps and pull objects.
Another big change is the game’s composer Troels Brun Folmann created a sound system he dubbed “micro-scoring” where the main background music played, with additional music playing depending on how the player interacted. The game also added an arcade style time-trial mode once each level was completed. The save system was also changed with automatic checkpoints to save your game as you proceed, with Lara returning to the most recent one when you died.
Many of these changes were welcome though some things weren’t so great. There was a redesigned combat system and vehicular sections where Lara rides a motorbike and briefly a forklift but combat was seen as repetitive over time, and the motorbike sections even more so. The game also used quick time events which were popular in many games of the time though were not popular with fans of the classic games.
Finally Lara used a headset which allowed her to chat to her associates, Zip and Alistair at home which though some fans enjoyed this, others felt it removed the sense of isolation from the previous Tomb Raider games.
Speaking of Zip, he was one of the few things that survived the change of developer, with the character returning form his brief appearance in Tomb Raider: Chronicles though re imagined. Winston also makes a return though is much younger and you cant; lock him in a freezer!
Also Croft Manor makes a return as a playable level, the first time since Tomb Raider 3, though instead of being a training area it is more of a side quest with Lara treasure hunting for rewards around her manor ((in fact players had to complete the first level of the main game set in Bolivia before the mansion is fully unlocked) though the aesthetic of the manor is very similar to the manor in the Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider films.
Overall the game did very well commercially and critically, with the game selling 3 million units and seen as a return to form for the series. In particular Lara’s move set, the games story and puzzle and platforming elements were praised, however the combat was seen as repetitive and many people felt the fame was too short and too easy.
The game was released on PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PSP, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and mobile phones, though the Game Boy Advance and mobile phone versions were criticized for poor performance and repetitiveness.
Tomb Raider Anniversary (2007)
2006 signalled the tenth anniversary of the first Tomb Raider game and following the cancelled Core Design version of Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics were asked to create their own version of the first game, which was released a year late in 2007.
The story and locations of the first game are pretty much the same, though additional plot elements were added: Lara already knew about the Scion as her father was looking for it to solve her mother’s disappearance and Jacqueline Natla knows this and uses it to persuade Lara to go to Peru instead of it being just “for sport” in the first game. Natla also claims to know more about what happened to her mother at the end of the game.
The game used the engine from Legend so Lara’s move set was very similar to that game, though Lara’s grapple can now be used to wall run as well and she can also perch on the top of columns.
Many of the areas and puzzles from the original game do return with tweaks to reflect a more modern audience, with some new ones. For example, the T Rex fight in the Lost Valley and the centaur fight in the Tomb Of Tihocan are now a major boss fights. Also, the Cistern and Tomb of Tihocan levels are merged into one area. Finally the final location was renamed to Lost Island rather than Atlantis to add more ambiguity. The game also featured Croft Manor with a level that involved solving puzzles to find her gear and artifacts around the Manor.
The game has no vehicular sections though Lara can now carry more than one weapon in this game and as many medi packs as needed, though ammunition for each weapon is capped. The game does use the quick time events from Legend, although Lara’s headset was scrapped to recreate the feeling of isolation from the first game.
The game was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, PSP, Wii and mobile phones. The game was later released on Mac in 2008 and PS3 as part of the Tomb Raidwer Trilogy in 2011. The Wii version also added a flashlight and archaeological tools such as pickaxes which can be used in some areas with motion controls.
The game was critically a success with many journalists stating it was an excellent remake of the original (though the motion controls in the Nintendo Wii version meant this version received mixed reviews in some quarters). However the game only sold 1.3 million copies, compared to the original’s 7 and is the lowest selling game in the franchise to date.
Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008)
In 2008 came the sequel to Tomb Raider: Legend, entitled Tomb Raider: Underworld. The game actually completes what is now known as the Legend or LAU Trilogy – combining the events of Tomb Raider: Anniversary in with what occured in Tomb Raider: Legend.
The plot begins with a short segment in Croft Manor which is engulfed in flames and in a short cut scene at the end Zip and Alistair shoot at Lara. The game then rewinds back in time and Lara is in the Mediterranean Sea searching for Avalon after the events of Tomb Raider: Legend. In the sea she finds a temple called Niflheim which is one of the Norse equivalents to Avalon. Lara uncovers one of Thor’s gauntlets when she fights Amanda Evert’s men and discovers on her ship that she has Jaqueline Natla captive. Natla tells Lara her mother is at another Norse Underworld Hellheim, but she will need Thor’s Hammer to open it and she will also need Thor’s belt and gauntlet to wield it. Natla suggests Lara starts in Thailand where she discovers in a temple that her father had already found the gauntlet and hidden it back at Croft Manor.
Lara finds her father’s office underneath her home and finds the second gauntlet with a message warning her that Hellheim contains a powerful weapon. She then hears the explosion which began the game where we learn Natla has made another doppelganger of Lara who kills Alistair. The quest continues with Lara recovering the remaining remnants, returning to Amanda’s ship to free Natla who she needs to show her the way before she discovers the truth about her mother and Natla’s true motivations.
The game was released as the first game of the next generation on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC as well as PS2 and Nintendo Wii versions.
New additions to the series included a wider move set than ever before – with the developers using the acronym What Could Lara Do as a standpoint to give her the biggest moveset yet. The environment was also updated with more logic to make it more of an adversary e.g. ledges which were wet would be more slippery. There was also new melee combat moves and animation e.g. Lara could push foliage out of the way as she ran into it. For the first time in the series, Lara’s movements were created with motion capture rather than hand-drawn animation.
The grappling hook was expanded – allowing Lara to use it to wrap around objects to push things off.
Less popular sections were also changed – Lara no longer used a headset in this game during the levels – only talking to Alistair and Zip in cutscenes (maybe it broke at the end of Legend?). She also used the motorbike in a less linear way and it actually played a roll in solving some puzzles rather than the on-rails shooting galleries of Legend. Quick Time events were also replaced with “adrenaline moments” where time slowed down and the player had to react to a hazard but retained full control of Lara. The game also introduced some non-linear elements to levels, in a similar fashion to Tomb Raider 3.
The game also had some platform specific elements. The PS2 and Wii versions were largely cut compared to the next-gen counterparts, with motion controls added to the later similar to Anniversary. These versions generally received negative reviews due to this. Also the Xbox 360 version had two DLC expansions: Beneath The Ashes and Lara’s Shadow which explanded the story. However, these unfortunately didn’t release on any other platform which wasn’t popular with fans (I personally haven’t played these DLC levels either).
Overall the game was praised, in particular the next gen versions, though the Wii and PS2 versions overall received mixed to negative reviews. The game was initially slow to sell but ultimately sold 2.6 million copies worldwide as of February 2009. It was the final Tomb Raider game to be published by Eidos Interactive as a company before it was acquired by Square Enix. It is also the final time Croft Manor appears in game as a playable level, DLC aside.
This game also was the turning point for the series yet again with a more dramatic reboot to come….
Tomb Raider (2013)
Tomb Raider (2013) signalled a complete reboot for Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise. The game re-established Lara Croft as a far younger and inexperienced character with an entirely new backstory.
In the game Lara is shipwrecked on the lost Japanese island of Yamatai, an island protected by violent storms making it impossible to escape. Lara must learn the truth behind the storms, save her friends and escape whilst being hunted by a malevolent cult, led by a mysterious man called Mathias, who was already shipwrecked there.
The game dramatically changed huge aspects of the series. Lara’s costume was changed with Camilla Luddington taking over and being the first to provide motion, voice and facial animations to the character in the same game. The gameplay focused more on survival elements using a hub and spoke model where the game had several “hub” areas with plot events happening in between them and players could return to these hubs to find new areas, collectibles and optional tomb, using abilities and gear they had acquired from earlier.
The game also uses RPG levelling up systems to improve Lara’s hunter, survivor and exploring skills. They can also collect salvage points to upgrade weaponry. The game also had a multiplayer mode though it was largely panned and so far hasn’t returned to the series.
Speaking of weaponry, Lara no longer uses her dual pistols in this game, being replaced with a bow and arrow which have been used in the series ever since. The combat borrows heavily from the Uncharted series, which had arrived in 2007 and largely stolen Lara’s thunder as the action adventure game of choice. Aiming was now freely controlled and there was greater emphasis on close quarters combat and stealth elements. There are no vehicles in this game and the action takes place purely in one location. The tone of the game was also much darker and violent and was the first game to receive a Mature or 18 age rating in the series.
Overall, the game was received very well critically and commercially with many praising the graphics, the change of tone and Luddington’s performance as Lara. The game did court some controversy during development for an attempted rape plot element which explained Lara’s first kill. Also the game was criticized for a narrative dissonance between cutscene Lara, where she is vulnerable and scared with gameplay that involved fighting wave after wave of enemies. The game also sold well and as of 2015 sold 8.5 million units – making it the biggest selling game in the franchise.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider (2015)
Following the huge success of Tomb Raider 2013, a sequel was greenlit and released in 2015, Rise of The Tomb Raider.
During development of the game – the title courted controversy where at E3 it was announced initially as a Microsoft Xbox 360 / Xbox One exclusive, causing huge outrage form Playstation fans of the series. This was quickly corrected to sya it was only a timed-exclusivity deal with the game being released on PS4 in 2016 as a 20th Anniversary Edition.
In the game, traumatized by the events of the first game Lara looks to her fathers research for answers and finds references to the Lost City of Kitezh and the promise of immortality. Ana, Lord Croft’s partner finds Lara there and advises her to let it go. However Lara organises an expedition to the Lost Cities in Syria to find the Prophet of Constantinople’s tomb – a key figure in the legend of the lost city. She finds the tomb but it is empty and she is attacked by Trinity. She blows up the tomb and escapes but finds on the floor a symbol linking the tomb to Russian religious history. Back at Croft Manor she reads about an artifact known as the Divine Source said to be able to grant immortality so Lara and her friend from Tomb Raider, Jonah Maiava go to Siberia to find it.
Lara and Jonah become separated by an avalanche but Lara finds an old Soviet installation but is captured by Ana, who reveals herself to be a Trinity agent. As Lara doesn’t know where the Divine Source is located Lara is imprisoned with a man called Jacob who she escapes with. Jacob saves her and take her to a geothermal valley and says they are descendants of the Prophet’s followers. Lara must now help to find and defend the Divine Source from Trinity and Ana’s grasp before she finds it as Ana wants to cure herself of a terminal illness and Trinity want to use it to take over the world.
In many ways the game was more of the same compared to the first entry in the trilogy, though Crystal Dynamics listened to players feedback and tweaked the game in response. The game emphasized tomb-raiding more than the predecessor with tombs made larger than the reboot and some being part of the main story, though there were still optional tombs in the hub areas. The optional tombs also had more meaningful upgrades than the previous games experience points.Some old moves were also re-introduced including grappling, rope swinging and swimming.
Lara could also use her climbing axes and knife in combat and stealth was revamped, with Lara able to hide from animals and humans, as well as climb trees to kill enemies from above. Also outfits made a return with Lara wearing the same outfit form the first game in Syria before swapping to a more apt winter outfit for Siberia. There were also additional unlockable outfits which gave players unique advantages and the 20th Anniversary edition had a series of skins based on Lara’s transformation over the years.
RPG elements from the first game also made a return with some expansion. Players could still collect salvage and experience points and upgrade skills at base camps. There was also a new language system where Lara could read murals, artifacts and documents to increase Lara’s proficiency in Russian, Greek and Mongolian. Growing these skills allowed Lara to expose ancient secrets. The game also featured documents and artifacts for the player to discover and also expand on the story.
The multiplayer element of the previous game was dropped, though this game did also have additional DLC including an endurance mode which did have a multiplayer co-op element. Additional DLC included:
- Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch – Lara must investigate the mysterious Wicked Vale and uncover the secrets of the witch, Baba Vega.
- Cold Darkness Awakened – An expedition / zombie mode where Lara must shut down a Soviet Chemical Weapon plant activated by Trinity.
- Blood Ties: Set in Croft Manor, Lara must explore the manor to find proof she owns it before her uncle takes ownership of the Manor.
- Lara’s Nightmare: A zombie survival mode that takes place at Croft Manor.
The game was critically praised but was very slow to start sale,s with only a third of the copies sold compared to the previous game in the UK (around 63,000 compared to 180,000 during the first week of Tomb Raider’s release). The exclusivity deal, lack of promotion and it competing against Fallout 4 on Xbox during the same week were seen as reasons for the games slow release.
When the game came out on PC and PS4 however sales did improve and the game has reached a total of 7 million copies sold as of November 2017.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (2018)
So here we are at the most recent entry to the series, 2018’s Shadow Of The Tomb Raider.
The game was designed to act as a conclusion to the Survivor trilogy which began with 2013’s Tomb Raider. In the game, Lara must stop a Mayan apocalypse that she has unwittingly caused by taking an artifact from a tomb. She must find the lost city of Paititi in the Americas whilst fighting Trinity and one of it’s leaders, Pedro Dominguez.
In many ways the plotline of this adventure is very similar to that of The Last Revelation in 1999, with Lara making a mistake raiding a tomb she must now seek to resolve. The game wasn’t developed by Crystal Dynamics, but instead by Eidos Montreal who took over development duties whilst Crystal Dynamics offered additional development and acted as producer.
Though many gameplay elements did stay the same, the game focussed more on big cinematic moments and also on puzzle gameplay compared to the previous entries in the trilogy. Most notably the game had different settings which could make the combat, puzzles and traversal easier and harder compared to what the player wanted (easier modes meant enemies were weaker and routes were highlighted to the player)
More traversal moves were added including wall run and abseiling. Swimming was also expanded with Lara able to swim deeper using a rebreather with pockets of air highlighted, also enemies such as piranhas returned to water sections with enemies who could attack Lara in the water to make the sections more exciting. Stealth also returned but Lara was able to sue the jungle and mud to her advantage by camouflaging herself to attack enemies and combat was expanded on with a machete being added to Lara’s melee weapons.
The game also featured the larges hub area in the games so far with Paititi having many optional tombs to find. Non-playable characters also appear to give Lara additional missions in the hub areas. Players could also unlock outfits from past Tomb Raider games as well as more outfits appearing during the course of the adventure.
There is also a brief flashback section with Lara as a child exploring Croft Manor.
The game had seven DLC packs included with new content, optional tombs, co-op functionality, weapons and outfits added These packs were called:
- The Forge: Lara must explore the lava-flooded Forge of the fallen gods to locate the secrets of Kuwaq Yaku.
- The Pillar: Lara ventures into the tomb known as the Path of Huracan to find out more about the Maya apocalypse.
- The Nightmare: Lara must brave a new challenge tomb to obtain a powerful and mysterious weapon.
- The Price of Survival: Lara must defeat Trinity’s forces and elite Paititi soldiers that stand in her way.
- The Serpent’s Heart: Another challenge tomb where they can survive the waters of a never before seen challenge tomb, infiltrate a prison barracks to stage a prison break and face cultists in a mountain stronghold.
- The Grand Caiman: Lara must stop a ferocious deity who is threatening the lives of San Juan villagers and prevent a cataclysmic disaster.
- The Path Home: After the events of the main story, Lara seeks to find out what happened to the Yaaxil.
The game reviewed again very well with the previous entries though critics again started to say the series was evolving rather than revolutionizing with each entry. The game did also get off to a slow start in terms of sales, attributed by Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda as being due to a lack of originality compared to other titles though by the end of 2018 the game had shipped 4.12 million copies worldwide.
So that is the conclusion of my look into the history of Tomb Raider and this year for the 25th Anniversary of the series, we look forward to what we will see of Tomb Raider in the future, with a new movie and Netflix series announced and an intriguing promise to unify the Core Design and Crystal Dynamics timelines in a video released by Crystal Dynamics in January this year.
What was your favourite game of the series? Where do you see the series going next? Let me know in the comments below.