Finally! I’m done with Tomb Raider.

I know, I’m late to the party: a year ago I would have breezed through the game in two days and bragged about it. My own slowness notwithstanding, I’m going to take a few minutes to say thank you to the people who made this game.

Thank you, Crystal Dynamics. For making and weaving a great story with believable characters you could identify with. Thank you for making gameplay that was not only smooth and enjoyable, but relevant, too. It’s been too long since I played a RPG/platformer as good as this one. In fact, the last I actually liked this much was Prince of Persia: Sands of Time: it’s not often that you get good gameplay married to stellar storytelling. Yes, stellar. I watched Lara evolve from an unsure student in the shadow of a lesser person to a survivor doing whatever was necessary to keep her friends alive. I watched the Tomb Raider being born, like a butterfly hatching from a cocoon, baptised in fire and madness.

And while there were far too many explosions for one spooky island, I never stopped enjoying the gameplay. It never got repetitive. The bow was a frickin’ awesome weapon: it made you think instead of chewing through enemies in a senseless cycle of rail-shootin’. The first headshot with the bow was just as enjoyable as my last. The were a few gameplay gimmicks – the GPS caches, the collectibles with their stupid questions that you turned around to examine, but those weren’t even part of the overall gameplay – they were simply an optional gotta-catch-em-all minigame. Far more realistic was how Lara would react to the environment: stopping under obstacles, touching walls as she got closer to them, automatically crouching to take cover around enemies – small touches that made the whole game a lot more immersive.

I’ve played a hell of a lot of games where the main character is solid, but the supporting characters are either dumb quest-givers (Dennis from Far Cry 3, anyone?) or so one-sided that they’re just human caricatures. Tomb Raider gets major points for giving me a believable set of secondary characters. Even if not one of them ever fired a shot to help me, I knew that they were fighting their own battles trying to guard my back. They weren’t questgivers. They were in hell, too.
All in all, a job well done. I hope this sets the stage for more Tomb Raider tales. Out of all the story characters I’ve played recently (Prophet from Crysis; Desmond Miles from the Assassin’s Creed series; the protagonists of the linked Call of Duty games), Lara has the most potential for future games. Indeed, she’s one of the oldest video game characters serving active duty today. Tl;dr: the Tomb Raider will continue.