Our Daily Beard

Oh what a wonderful day!

No particular reason.

Though I’d wax lyrical about the merits of the new Tomb Raider reboot, now that I’ve had a chance to play a significant portion.

The game is, as we know, a back-to-basics story. Before becoming a grave robber, Lara is a budding archaeologist struggling to gain recognition for her theories, which are cool and new and looked down upon by the squares in town hall.

One such square is Dr James Whitman, a celebrity archaeologist who bosses her around and hogs the limelight while a camera crew film an expedition to the island of Yamatai. This is a legendary lost kingdom kind of deal. Could the mysterious island hold some strange secrets? Yes. The Nishimura family, descendants of the aforementioned lost pastos, fund the expedition and send the plucky Sam along with it, just in case any mad cults are there who might fancy a direct blood descendant of the magical Yamatai psycho-queen. Very thoughtful of them.

The point is, we have a tight story about the ship’s crew trying to survive after being wrecked on an island populated by prior wreck survivors, trapped there and moulded into a cult by the charismatic Matthias, whose parents named him fully in the knowledge that he might want to lead a cult one day.

The survival story is fantastic. Gone is sassy Lara quipping as she backflips over some Special Forces goon firing two pistols- now we have a young Lara fighting tooth and nail to protect her friends and come to terms with a world of violence and several brands of sacrifice.

What makes it such a joy to play is that Lara is back to being a normal person. She may be special in her own way and obviously talented and capable, but he’s human. She screams, she begs, she cries and when crawling through a pitch black crack in the ground, up to her chin in bloody water, she reflexively says ‘Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”. Camilla Luddington did an astounding job.

That’s not to say that there isn’t occasionally, too much moaning and groaning. Like her past incarnations, Lara spends an awful lot of time going ‘ugh’ ‘mm’ ‘ooh’ and all the rest while heaving her bosom around the muddy landscape. Still, at least it’s realistic, when compared to game characters who effortlessly bound from place to place with the stamina of Greek gods.

Even when she fights (clubbing people to death with rocks) there’s an air of desperation, an edge that makes the whole game feel more genuine. The effect does spoil a little once you get into the main body of the game and begin fighting waves of island crazies armed with machine guns- it would appear that this little mysterious island is really busy, with a population in the hundreds. It’s hardly deserted, anyway.

In fact, on that note, Lara encounters massive quantities of corpses and bones, too. Okay, the island was once populated, but there are so many dead bodies strewn around in an ‘ooh scary’ fashion that’s a wonder there’s anyone left to terrorise the new kids.

Gameplay is sleek, with a cover-based ranged combat system that works just fine and a nice fire dynamic to keep you moving. Close combat is a furious button mash but it works- it feels like a small-framed woman with no experience fighting for her life with an ice pick. You will, at some point, catch yourself repeating Lara’s refrain of “Get off me you bastard!”

Long story short, try it out. It’s not Tomb Raider as we know it, but that’s just because it’s more grown up and thought out, rather than yet another sequel trying to build on an out-dated franchise.

Try it- and don’t forget to make her jump off a cliff now and then for old time’s sake.


by Bret

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