Featuring high-octane moments set in some of the most beautiful hostile environments on earth, Rise of the Tomb Raider delivers one of the most enjoyable cinematic survival action adventures to date. Thanks to CG film quality characters and FX, real-time cloth and body physics, and full performance captured cut-scenes, this is the most immersive and visually stunning Tomb Raider game ever made. Voiced and motion-captured by actress Camilla Luddington and animated after model Megan Farquhar, Lara Croft is back and looking better than ever.
Ahead of the game’s official release on November 10, we had the opportunity to speak with Franchise Creative Director Noah Hughes about Lara Croft and all that’s new in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Let's first catch everyone up to speed. When Tomb Raider was released back in 2013, it acted as an origin story rebooting the long-running franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player controls a much younger Lara Croft, who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger. In contrast to previous Tomb Raider games, Lara is portrayed in the reboot as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival, rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.
One year has passed since the events in Tomb Raider, and the deaths of her friends have left her in search for answers. Now, after uncovering an ancient mystery, Lara is set explore the most treacherous and remote regions of Siberia to find the secret of immortality before a ruthless organization known as Trinity beats her to it.
“It’s important to say that people don’t have to have played the last adventure in order to enjoy this one," Noah assured me. "We really pick up this idea that Lara is now searching for something that can explain what she saw. If that myth that she had seen is true, what other myths can possibly be true and what difference could they make to the world."
“So we send Lara on this expedition… In this case she’s seeking the secret of immortality. She believes this myth of an immortal prophet could be real and it takes her to the wilderness of Siberia, looking for the Lost City of Kitezh.”
In Rise of the Tomb Raider, players must navigate Lara through a world fiercely protecting its secrets and explore huge interactive environments in order to progress through the story. The more you play, the more you learn to use the environment to your advantage, scaling trees and diving underwater to avoid or takedown enemies. You can also configure Lara's gear, weapons, and ammo to suit your play style, craft explosives on the fly to sow chaos, and wield Lara's signature combat bows and climbing axe.
Adding another element of customization, Rise of the Tomb Raider features a fairly in-depth crafting system, allowing players to create items by scavenging materials from plants and animals. You can use these components to heal, craft improved ammunition, raise weapon, stats, and to make larger containers for your ammo.
The harsh in-game environment also includes a weather system that both human and animal characters react to, as well as a day-night cycle. For example, to create a hardier winter coat Lara must hunt a wolf which only comes out during a specific time of day and specific weather condition.
“The wildlife has become more important…We have dangerous wildlife like bears that are new, but they also yield rare resources. So for some of the coolest upgrades of the game you have to essentially hunt and scavenge and find some of the more rare resources of the world to get some of those advantages.”
He continued, “In terms of upgrades, you can choose your weapon type now. One of the things we wanted to expand was this idea of catering to your play style a little bit, so you can actually choose which bow you want to upgrade. Before there was sort of this single path, and now you can say ‘I really like the damage power of the compound bow,’ or ‘I really like the fast firing rate of the Ancient bow.’ We tried to really capture more of that survival system depth and player choice, both in exploration as well as combat.”
Additionally, combat has been redesigned with more options for stealth and sneak attacks. Lara can confuse enemies using the environment, hide behind bushes or in trees, or avoid combat altogether by climbing trees or traveling across roof tops - not unlike the Metal Gear Solid series.
“Our hub areas—our larger open exploration spaces—those are two to three times as big as the previous game. So you can really get a sense of scale. You can almost get lost in these places and you can discover hidden corners that certainly not everybody’s finding.”
The hub spaces offer the player with many different options. You can explore for collectibles, take on missions from the local remnants, search for challenge Tombs, all while defending yourself from members of Trinity and the hostile wildlife.
There’s also these huge ancient spaces littered with deadly traps that require you to solve dramatic environmental puzzles and decipher ancient texts to reveal crypts. Crypts are small, hidden dungeons that are laden with treasure.
Tombs are also hidden just like crypts, but they’re much more involved. These areas have complex puzzles, tons of collectible items, and you get to learn more about the ruins as you explore them. As a reward, in a lot of these secret Tombs you’ll have these ancient codices at the end which unlock special skills for Lara that she cannot get otherwise.
“One of the things we wanted to do with this chapter was scale up Lara’s characterization as the Tomb Raider as she hones this identity looking for lost secrets and ancient spaces,” Noah explained. “We wanted to deliver as much Tomb raiding opportunities as we could, and that includes main story Tombs - so some of the core story progression will happen in ancient unexplored spaces and things like that.”
He continued, “But the Challenge Tombs are exciting because they represent something that only you can find, or maybe multiple people find them, but not everybody does. So we did try to create some amount of challenge in finding them and solving them. So, if you enjoy puzzles and you enjoy tomb raiding, we really created a world that has these hidden pockets of puzzle and narrative and ancient awe-inspiring discovery.”
Rise of the Tomb Raider finally sees Lara use her wits and survival skills, form new alliances, and ultimately embrace her destiny as the Tomb Raider. “But there’s always that first question, 'At the end of this game, will Lara be the dual-pistol wielding Lara of old?’ And the answer is, not exactly,” Noah explained.
“We definitely celebrate that as maybe the ultimate destination for Lara, but what is important is that she isn’t acquiring a super hero level of invulnerability or confidence. We want to retain a certain amount of humanity.”
Where Lara came out of the last story not knowing who she is, she comes out of this story with a much clearer sense of who she is and what her role in this world is. Noah said it best, “She’s moving toward that heroic Lara, but she’s not there yet.”
After spending the better part of the weekend getting lost in this new secret world and uncovering countless ancient myths, we can't get enough of Lara Croft and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Rise of the Tomb Raider hit shelves on November 10.