If you’d asked me before, I would’ve been skeptical. Another gritty reboot, this time of Lara Croft, a character whose confidence and poise under pressure was part of the hook? I know people who hated the twists on Bond in Skyfall.
It’s not that I would’ve doubted whether there’s a great idea for a character-driven, narrative-driven adventure game in there, it’s that I’d doubt whether the realities of modern big-budget video-game production would be able to pull it off in the face of demographic data and audience testing and brand protection.
(I’m not just talking about the much-publicized controversial and problematic elements of the game’s promotion and production. In fact, I’m not talking about those elements in this review at all — I’m reviewing the game as it was during actual play for me, for whatever that’s worth.)
Making this game required facing some tough hurdles, like making a bad-ass character into a human character without undermining the badassery, if you will. The cunning within the new game’s approach, in my opinion, was that it didn’t really try to leap the more general hurdles. It focuses the game on a specific story, following a popular character through a particular arc, and pays attention to the needs of that story. I can’t say that this Tomb Raider damned every torpedo but I feel like it aimed to stay true to the story it wanted to tell. It’s a shame that story is so grueling and cruel.
Tomb Raider humanizes Lara Croft in a way that could be seen to undermine her bad-ass nature if you think of bad-asses as being necessarily or completely superhuman. So, it seems to me, the developers at Crystal Dynamics didn’t quite aim to clear those hurdles. Instead, they pursued a different path and aimed for a different game with a different voice and style. They bet that an audience exists for this game, this story, this experience.
I hope that bet pays off and I hope Crystal Dynamics learns the right lesson if it does. Here’s why…