Saturday, May 31, 2014

GAMER GIRL WEEKENDS: TOMB RAIDER

Surprisingly enough this is the first Tomb Raider game I have played all the way through. Everyone kept telling me how gorgeous the game was, how the story was fairly interesting, and that it is a great little game. Now I remember when the trailers first came out. Gone was the Lara Croft I knew. Where was the strong independent woman who looted and raided tombs and explored mythology? This was a beaten up Lara, broken and bruised, and in peril (not your usual peril). It didn’t appeal to me. Especially when the game company said they needed Lara to be in distress so that guy gamers would want to take care of her. Pfft.

And then people began to talk as the game came out, ladies who had the same issues I had. But they were loving it. Some had never played Lara before and now they were getting to know her, see how she became the woman that you know and love. So I decided to try it out…just a year later. When we first meet Lara she is in her cabin listening to music when her ship keels suddenly due to a massive and completely sudden storm. You try to get to safety, but fail. When you wake up you find yourself on the beach and try to find your missing crew.

The first real action scene is disturbing. Its kill or be killed. Now I know what the stakes are. But Lara doesn’t just shrug it off, she is visibly affected by what she does. Taking a life, even when you are fighting for your own, is not that easy. Even animals affects her. And admittedly so was I as the gamer (the sounds from the animals are what kill me). Along the way as I not only search for the missing crew, but try desperately to survive and get off the island, I find journals and clues that help make this world even more vivid. Lara goes through a lot, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is downright brutal, but there is a courageous strength to her. I didn’t always feel like I was the damsel in distress. I was fighting to save my crew. I was trying to save others from being trapped on this cursed isle.

The game is gorgeous to look at. That is the first thing you will notice. I would spend time just gazing around before I decided to tackle the area. You have mountains, you have the shoreline, ice waterfalls, and gorgeous forests. Seriously it is gorgeous. I also liked the redesign on Lara herself. She is a bit more realistic than previous games and though there were some minor hair rendering issues (by the way she would look adorable with short hair), she is quite purty.

The game mechanics aren’t bad. I used stealth a lot (a nice feature is that Lara automatically gets into cover instead of standing there like an idiot until you get her into cover) and my bow quite frequently. In fact one of the things I really liked was how Lara interacted with the environment. She shivered when it was cold, reached out to walls when she was close to them, and lit torches when she couldn’t see. This made the game a bit more immersive for me as she was reacting in a real world way instead of as a video game character. The weapon upgrades using your salvage was nice. I also liked that you constantly interacted with the environment from scaling walls with your pickaxe, setting things on fire to get to a new area, and ziplining all over the place. Whoo hoo. Overall it’s a nice blend of your traditional tomb puzzle solving, a survival action game, and shooter.

There are some minor annoyances. Lara’s death scenes are gruesome and sometimes over the top (yep you know what I am talking about pole through the neck…seriously). I will say that I dreaded those scenes so much that I did my best to make them not happen. I really wanted her to steal someone’s clothes so she wasn’t shivering all the time. I actually enjoyed playing around in the environments and forwarding the story more than I liked the shooter elements which is odd since E and I are definitely all about the pew pew pew.

Final thoughts: Sure there were a few tombs to raid, but this was Lara the hero. I saw the beginnings of an adventurer. I saw the beginnings of a total bad ass. It was great when a group of guys hollers, “She’s here. I need some help!” This was Lara the survivor. Amidst the mythology and the madness I felt like I played a pretty fleshed out character. Sometimes I needed stealth, sometimes brute force. I needed to be clever and adventurous. There was loss, there was peril, but there was also strength and hope. I seriously went from scared oh dear god Lara to damn right she owns it. And that is a great experience. I would not be disappointed if they continued in this vein. Let me see her become this bad ass. Let me grow with her. Because I loved it.

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