Rise of the Tomb Raider Review
I quite liked the Tomb Raider reboot, particularly as somebody who always felt like the series was a bit overrated for all the hype it got. The new direction taken was honestly what the series needed by being both less linear as well as having updated combat.
The downside is that the new sequel has some rather nasty technical issues despite otherwise doing a lot right. While the hair physics are better optimized, there are issues with RAM usage, particularly VRAM usage that make maxing Rise of the Tomb Raider even harder than Arkham Knight. A 6GB card is needed to run the game with textures maxed during cutscenes since the texture swapping causes frame drops into the single digits. Despite that, I can max textures during gameplay just fine with no problems whatsoever with a solid frame rate. The stated requirements only mention 4GB needed for 1080p with 6GB recommended for 1440p which happens to be patently false. Even then, sometimes textures will not load at all and leave entire walls looking washed out.
System memory has similar problems to the point where my 16 GB of system RAM weren’t enough to keep the game from crashing due to a memory error despite the system requirements only listing 8GB needed. Again, the system requirements listed were false since the game is poorly optimized.
And much like how the last game had terrible optimization of hair physics, this time around anti-aliasing creates similar issues. Not only does anti-aliasing crush my frame rate but it’s not nearly aggressive enough to make grass and mud not look absolutely terrible in motion even at the highest settings. While I can commend Crystal Dynamics for better optimizing their hair physics, I’ve never seen anti-aliasing that both looks this bad and runs this poorly. Only 4X SSAA makes any sort of difference in appearance over FXAA but it’s far too much of a performance hit for nearly all users to deal with that it simply isn’t worth using and still leaves plenty of jaggies.
But with Anti-Aliasing turned off and textures lowered, the game runs much smoother than the last Tomb Raider aside from the periodic crashes. With all other settings maxed, the game actually runs better than the reboot did so it isn’t entirely an unoptimized mess, but considering that only one setting made the past Tomb Raider all but unplayable at launch, that’s hardly a complement.
PC-specific issues aside, the game underneath is rather enjoyable and arguably better than the 2013 game with a much improved crafting system. Combat feels appropriately tactical with a good mixture of stealth, planning and guns blazing firefights. The only downside is that many of the unlockable skills and outfits are balanced around the healing mechanics on Tomb Raider difficulty while the combat is balanced around Survival difficulty and comes across as too easy on any other setting. This leaves the Seasoned Raider difficulty feeling both too easy but also locking off certain cosmetic items and making certain skills no longer viable to choose when leveling up. For as good as the combat feels, it also feels incredibly unbalanced. The second hardest difficulty should be more challenging and I strongly recommend that players play on Survival mode since it’s next to impossible to run out of the materials needed to craft healing items. The other main gripe that I have with combat is that I cannot store crafted weapons in my inventory and I lose them when crossing platforms by rope.
Still, there’s a good variety of enemy types and encounters need to be planned around when to engage melee fighters and armored enemies. The four main types of weapons needed are usually sufficient to handle most encounters so crafted weapons aren’t particularly needed but it feels at times like the combat systems are full of half-implemented ideas that needed a bit more work to actually feel right.
As for crafting, I feel like the crafting system has progressed since the previous game in terms of complexity but there’s never enough salvage to upgrade every weapon fully by the endgame. Players will be forced to head back to previous areas where enemies respawn in small groups just to gain salvage which is notably grindy, even in a game with as many sidequests as this one has.
Speaking of sidequests, the best part of Rise of the Tomb Raider is actually raiding tombs. The main quest, sidequests and hidden areas provide enough new dungeons that it’s easy to get lost in the game. Finding all collectibles and completing all challenges easily raises total playtime to 50 hours so it’s hard to argue that you aren’t getting your money’s worth here. The platforming always feels intuitive and with as many unlockables as Rise of the Tomb Raider has, it’s hard to argue that the game isn’t a good buy. In fact, it reminds me a lot of late 90s 3D platformers and is good for holding over anyone waiting for Yooka-Laylee to hit later this year. While that may not be to everybody’s tastes, gamers who are nostalgic for the days of Gex and Banjo-Kazooie are going to find a lot to love with Rise of the Tomb Raider.
As for the narrative, Lara feels more confident this time around and more of the gameplay is actually spent hunting for artifacts and raiding tombs than on survival which works considering the title of the game. The actual story deserves to not be spoiled but there is a boss fight at the end which is surprisingly well done and makes me regret that there aren’t more of them in the game. Hopefully the next game will feature more major enemies in the story since boss fights are a dying trend and they need to come back.
Probably the biggest omission that I had issues with was the lack of multiplayer. While the multiplayer in the last Tomb Raider wasn’t as polished as it could be, I felt like there was a lot of potential that was wasted by doing away with it entirely and it’s sad to see it go. Hopefully it’ll be added back into the game as DLC but it’s more likely that it will make a comeback with the sequel. Given the modes and gameplay ideas present in the 2013 reboot, it feels like a letdown to not see those ideas be fully realized.
Overall, it’s a flawed follow up that presumably needed a bit more time to gestate but still does what the 2013 game did better. While it’s hard to argue that you aren’t getting a good value for your money, it’s also hard to give Rise of the Tomb Raider a glowing recommendation. If you’re okay with an overall enjoyable experience with some design and technical flaws, then go right ahead and make a purchase. Just don’t expect Rise of the Tomb Raider to fulfill all its potential.
+ Raiding tombs for treasure
+ Easy to get sidetracked with gathering resources for upgrades
+ Feels like a late 90s 3D platformer at times thanks to how much time I spend collecting stuff.
+ Combat feels good. Varied enemy types.
+ Exploration in an open world environment
– Poor optimization and crashes
– Multiplayer is gone.
– Difficulty seems unbalanced.
– Salvage is too rare.
– Needs More Boss Fights
Overall – 7.2/10