Author Note: this article is not intended as a re-review of Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). I will touch on some brief talking points and discuss the two DLC missions before wrapping everything up nicely with my final impressions of the whole experience. If you’d like to read an in-depth critique of the main title, you can find our original review over here.
Sometimes when I sit down and have a good think about things, I’m a directionless idiot when it comes to video games. Six months ago, I finally found the time to sit down and play the 2013 reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. Growing up, I was never a fan of the Tomb Raider series – I was a Nintendo kid first and foremost, and by the time I made the switch to PlayStation the Tomb Raider series had begun to stagnate. As soon as I loaded the 2013 Tomb Raider, however, I instantly regretted waiting three years to give it the time of day. Immediately, I could see all the tell-tale signs that Crystal Dynamics had taken the lead from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series, and, in many ways, improved and stylistically fleshed out small features while also distinguishing itself as an entirely different type of game. When the opportunity arose to review the 20 Year Celebration Edition of Rise of the Tomb Raider, I was immediately all over that; quicker than when the Mr Whippy van rolls down my street.
Let me first say, when it gets down to brass tacks – I can’t tell the difference between the Playstation 4 and Xbox One versions. While the purist digital art connoisseurs are probably readying their torches and pitchforks, I’ll come out and say this doesn’t matter (and please don’t hurt me)! The game looks great on both systems, and I think it presents as an excellent example of the graphical boundaries that this current generation of consoles are capable of. Another bonus point in favour of the 20 Year Celebration Edition is that it’s in all but name a “Game of the Year” release, so all the DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider has been included (meaning you’re getting the WHOLE experience). This includes not only then Croft Manor level, but also a few classic low-poly Lara Croft skins to give the game that retro aesthetic if that’s what you’re looking for. Not only that, but you also get full access to all the outfits, weapons, and Expeditions Cards in the Expedition (multiplayer) mode.
The first of the two DLC missions is Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch. I found this quest to be kind of interesting, despite the linearity of the storyline and predictable plot devices. Despite my criticisms of the narrative deliverance, it was a spot in the overarching story that delved into something a bit more unique. Rather than taking a simple grim-dark approach, the Baba Yaga DLC took more of a horror route to its storytelling, and, in doing so, offered a nice respite from the tone of the main story. The second DLC mission, Cold Darkness Awakened, pits Lara against Soviet zombie-like creatures who rely on sound to track you. I was less enthusiastic about this quest, only because at this point I’m fatigued by the overuse of zombies and the Soviet representation reminded me too much of the Call of Duty series and Nazi zombies.
Other additions to the 20 Year Celebration release also include the Blood Ties and Lara’s Nightmare missions which both take place in Croft Manor. If you’re like me and enjoy the storytelling aspect of video games foremost, then you’ll likely enjoy the Blood Ties mission. To quickly summarise, the story is that Lara’s uncle Atlas is trying to take ownership of Croft Manor legally. To stop this, Lara hunts around the manner to find clues of where her father hid his will. While there’s no combat in “Blood Ties,” it does offer a lot of insight into the backstory of Lara’s parents and their lives both before and after having Lara. As an additional touchstone, it’s also supported by PlayStation VR. Unfortunately, I don’t have a headset, so I’m unable to offer any criticism, but if any of our readers have I’d love to hear some feedback on it!
In Lara’s Nightmare, Uncle Atlas takes a slightly “different” approach to stealing Lara’s inheritance, by sending an army of zombie warriors and floating skulls to kill her. As the title implies, this is all a nightmare Lara is having, with a series of events unfolding around Croft Manor happening on the back of waves of zombies seemingly constantly coming after you relentlessly, and plenty of ammo on hand to take them out. It’s a fun/complicated diversion and provides a nice twist on the usual challenge maps and modes in the game. It should also come as a surprise to fans that the Endurance mode of Rise of the Tomb Raider has received a co-op upgrade in this release as well.
Endurance mode was already a different component to the game, introducing even more survival elements into the gameplay by adding hunger and temperature gauges that need to be regularly topped up, and challenging you to find secret tombs and collectables before lighting a signal fire to be airlifted out by a helicopter. There are interesting facets to this experience as well, such as hunting rabbits and deer for food and even the fact that the signal fire to end your run attracts enemies as soon as it’s lit. Co-op lets you team up with a single friend to tackle the elements, and it’s a cool addition to a game mode I found quite surprising in design.
After all the dust settles, the big question is whether the 20 Year Celebration Edition of Rise of the Tomb Raider is worth it? For PlayStation 4 users, absolutely! The lone game by itself is incredible, and the extra content that’s added in is nothing to shrug off lightly. While I don’t think the DLC is necessarily AMAZING by itself, it lends content as an extension to further the experience of this high-tier quality game. And you know what? That’s OK with me! Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix are on to something here, and I’m glad to admit that despite being late to the journey, they’ve scooped me up for the ride.