I like Rise of the Tomb Raider for all the ‘wrong’ reasons. I like it because it’s a treasure-chest-opening simulator that lets me wear medieval armor even though it’s freezing fucking cold and I’m being shot at by terrorist spec ops. I like it because the game includes experience points and allows me to level up my ancient Greek and sit at base camps to craft leather holsters by firelight. I like the map with all its little dots representing Stuff To Get. None of these things are typically associated with Adventure Games.
“a female Indiana Jones with a sense of boundless curiosity and superhuman resilience”
I also like Rise of the Tomb Raider for all the ‘right’ reasons, I suppose. Playing as a female Indiana Jones with a sense of boundless curiosity and superhuman resilience. The feeling you get when you loosen a fissure and break through a cave wall to discover a mysterious underground waterfall within. Animal pelts, man. Bloody animal pelts. The postcard decors that Know Exactly What They’re Doing. The non-stop assault on your senses provided by UNENDING MAXIMALIST ACTION and an endless supply of crumbling structures.
I’m a little bored by several things in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The central narrative is like a table reading by a bunch of actors too desperate for the cash to tell the scriptwriter he did a crap job. The shooting feels… required. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just sorta there. The fastidious collect-em-all mechanic that forces people like me to toggle back and forth between adventuring and ‘x-ray mode’. Who could have predicted a future in which all video game protagonists have the same totally cool ability to see bad guys and valuable stuff through walls?
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the type of romantic partner you immediately fall in love with only to find out a month later that they repeat themselves… a lot.
“Three deer later, I feel nothing”
I feel bad when I kill my first deer by lodging an arrow in its larynx. Three deer later, I feel nothing. I look at the way light refracts through the sheets of conveniently-placed ice: they’re beautiful. Half an hour passes and I barely notice them anymore. I rise at eight and go to work and come home and play Rise of the Tomb Raider on my PlayStation 4 Entertainment System with one earbud in as my wife watches Downton Abbey. It’s not a transcendent experience. It’s an after-work piece of entertainment that blends well with That Netflix Show You’re Pretty Sure You Enjoy.
(I retroactively decide to like Rise of the Tomb Raider because if I didn’t like Rise of the Tomb Raider why did I play so many hours of Rise of the Tomb Raider?)
Listen, I take it all back. Let’s start over, Rise of the Tomb Raider. Your optional tombs really shine, self-contained mysteries that they are. A ship caught sideways in a frozen waterfall. Dazzling. Byzantine. Puzzling. Your religious artifacts spinning in my hands. Your golden mosaics and scrawled inscriptions. The sound of your tombs grinding open to reveal the treasures within. We had something good, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I want to try again. Tonight at 7?