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Review: “Tomb Raider” marks a new era for iconic game

It’s been a long time since the world was first introduced to relic hunter Lara Croft, the main character of the original “Tomb Raider” game released in 1996. A lot has changed in the gaming industry since then. With advancements in technology, an increasing acceptance of games as an art from, and the medium reaching a wider audience than ever before, the industry has evolved in many ways with games becoming more complex in scope and creative direction.

This evolution in gaming has created an opportunity to revisit and improve upon classic games. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics have risen to the challenge with their take on the origin story of Croft simply titled “Tomb Raider.” This game marks a new era for the “Tomb Raider” name and is not a mere reboot of a once popular series. It’s a complete reinvention and an exciting new direction.

In “Tomb Raider,” a young Croft is on her first archeological expedition. Lara along with the crew of the “Endurance” travel through the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan in search of the ancient civilization of Yamatai when the ship is destroyed by a sudden storm. Lara makes it to the shore of a mysterious island inhabited by a dangerous cult. On her own now, she must search for her crew and a way off the island while surviving harsh conditions and fighting back against the hostile inhabitants.

The first thing I noticed about this game is how visually stunning it is. The opening cinematic of the ship being caught in the storm and Lara barely escaping not only features a high-quality detailed look but is action-packed and sets the tone for the rest of the game.

“Tomb Raider” truly feels like an epic adventure. The story takes Lara all over the island and into a variety of environments, including shipwrecks, catacombs, cliffside temples and a swamp just to name a few. The beautifully designed levels along with the sweeping musical score create a mysterious and immersive setting for the game. The camera angles used at certain gameplay sequences (like parachuting through a forest while dodging trees or sliding down a mountainside river) makes these action moments particularly intense.

“Tomb Raider” also adds another layer of visual detail: Lara’s appearance changes as the game progresses. After scripted events in the game and cutscenes, her character model will have injuries, more dirt on her clothes, and she’ll be carrying additional gear with her.

More importantly, the game’s main character is completely redesigned in terms of personality as well. No longer a caricature of a woman, the new Lara Croft is a much more developed character and a very human protagonist. She has strengths and weaknesses. She has self-doubts and limitations — particularly in the beginning of the game. Lara also shows courage and resourcefulness as she fights back against the hostile islanders in order to save her comrades, allowing the player to take part in her evolution from sheltered archeologist to a strong heroine….

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