Do you recognize yourself in the following? You are rushing to get out of bed, rushing to go to work, rushing all day at work, rushing home, rushing to make dinner, rushing to get the kids to bed and then when the house is finally quiet, you get to sit down with a glass of (strong) alcohol to play a game. Well, after you watch a show you aren’t really interested in; but let’s face it, you have to make some time for that stranger on the other side of the couch as well. “Hi spouse, how was your day? You’re going to bed early? Ok, mind if I play my game for a little bit? Thanks, love you too, I won’t be long.”
Nowadays, time restriction is the number one enemy of my gaming experiences. While I do enjoy a challenge in games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls, most of the time I just want to plop down on the couch and let the experience sink in – without the frustration of re-doing the same segments of a story over and over again. For that reason, when I received a review copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider, I immediately went into the options and turned the difficulty all the way down. In Rise of the Tomb Raider (RotTR), this means Lara turns into a bullet sponge, while her enemies turn into bullet magnets. Just the way I like it. I still died a bunch of times though, because those bears can go hibernate themselves.
This is everything I need from a game. With most challenge removed, RotTR becomes a “sit back” adventure with breath taking set pieces, complete with a shooting gallery to make you feel bad ass. Of course, If you are actually good at video games, you’ll probably have the same experience on any difficulty. It didn’t take long for me to get pulled into the game and after the first collapsing glacier, I caught myself saying (tweeting) “This is everything I need from a video game”.
What I mean by that is that this genre of games offer a relatively unique experience to me. I often played the game in 60-90 minute bursts, but not a single evening went by without something incredibly cool happening on my screen. Getting those one-hour bursts of awesomeness is perfect for the “parent player”. Not a single time did I go through a slog where nothing happened and, due to the forgiving checkpoint feature, I never lost too much process when I messed up. Of course, the Playstation 4’s “Suspend and Resume” function was another big bonus here.
I do have to wonder if people who played the XBOX One version had the same experience, as the Anniversary Edition came jam packed with bonuses that unlocked right out of the gate. Not having to go through big chunks of the gunplay to get access to a slightly different hand gun was definitely a pro. That being said, there is a LOT to discover in RotTR. Where a common critique in the reboot was that there were too few tombs to raid, this one triples down on that. The Tombs are challenging and rewarding enough to make them worth your time. Of course, there is also a wealth of treasure and lore to discover, but I found myself skipping through those later on in the game.
Does all this praise mean the game is without flaw? Of course not. I definitely preferred the story of the first one over this, but Crystal Dynamics really pushed the franchise into the right direction.