Hands-Off Preview: Rise of the Tomb Raider

on June 18, 2015 11:00 AM

After her previous adventure in 2013’s incredibly well-received reboot, Lara Croft is back in another adventure that so far, is shaping up to be bigger, better, but no where less dangerous as Rise of the Tomb Raider is providing new challenges for her to become a legend.

Where the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot from Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix reset Lara Croft back to basics in an adventure that placed the famous heroine in some tough situations, its upcoming sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider instead focuses on shaping Lara into the “legend” she has always been, with the game expanding from the reboot’s core mechanics and providing as many new abilities for Lara as it does new challenges and environments to overcome.

During this week’s E3 2015, DualShockers had the opportunity to experience a hands-off preview session of the game for roughly about 30-45 min. worth of gameplay from the title, taking place directly where the game’s epic E3 2015 gameplay reveal demo left off: in case your memory’s a little foggy (or if you just want to experience it again), that trailer from this week is below:

Right after Lara is separated from her company and picks herself up from the remains of a brutal avalanche in Siberia, the demo we had the chance to witness was separated into two distinct sections: the first of which, we had to see how Lara would survive the situation, cold and stranded in the middle of the Siberian wilderness with no food, shelter, or warmth.

Instantly, the objective for the mission becomes finding those items to survive. Picking herself up from the snow backs of Siberia, Lara trudged through the huge paths of snow to break down sticks and small trees for firewood, leading the player to explore the environment searching for wood to build a fire and establish shelter to endure the cold winter night.

By this point in the demo, the team on hand showing Rise of the Tomb Raider established that searching through the game’s environments and exploration will be as crucial as ever to players in the latest title, with resources and crafting playing a much larger role compared to what was offered in 2013’s Tomb Raider.

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During this segment of the demo, the team showed how gathering resources scattered throughout the environments will extend deeply into the game’s upgrades and crafting system, with items throughout the environment divided into both “common” and “exotic” resources depending on how easily accessible they are.

Items like plants, mushrooms, wood, and others provide more easy to obtain upgrades for weapons or equipment, while others such as animal pelts and other ingredients will offer more significant upgrades to Lara’s equipment and abilities, if proving a bit more of a challenge to acquire.

The results of this resource gathering, crafting, and upgrading of Lara’s gear were shown to more immediate effect in the next section of the demo, where Lara had to survive a brutal encounter with wild grizzly bears in the Siberian forests. During our demo it easily showed to be brutal, as our demo-er accidentally ran into a deep snow bank on the first run that lead to a grisly mauling by a bear: once again, Rise of the Tomb Raider shows like its predecessor that it isn’t afraid to be brutal and harsh where it counts.

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Following a chase scene reminiscent of the action septettes from the previous title, the demo then showed Lara utilizing a combination of her skills and equipment to ward off an attacking grizzly bear.

In the case of our demo, we time-jumped ahead a bit to see Lara using her advanced equipment at her disposal, such as a more finely-crafted recurve bow and poison-spewing arrows used to great effect in the bear fight. Having to dodge the bear’s charging attacks and quickly hit the bear with poison arrows to stun it, our demo-er then took to quickly dashing around its sides to hit it with arrows and quicktime-event-triggered ice pick hits to finally take it down.

Through these thrilling segments of the demo, Rise of the Tomb Raider already shows that plenty of new tricks are in store for Lara Croft to aid the new settings she is in, and facing much harsher conditions in areas like the Siberian environments we were able to see in the demo.

Weapon upgrading and crafting are more elaborate and driven with options for players to customize and experiment with equipment to their exact liking, and while Rise of the Tomb Raider continues to establish the series in a new direction, the sequel is also bringing back the titular “tombs” that made a name for Lara Croft.

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In the final section of the demo, we were taken deep into one of the new tomb levels that will provide plenty of new (and optional) challenges while also bringing back some of the nostalgic environments that made Lara Croft a legend nearly two decades ago.

In this particular crypt-like environment which Lara finds in a cracked mountain side, the game’s keen attention to detail and level designs shine dramatically with visual flair.

In one particular section where Lara has to crouch through a narrow tunnel-like area, the light of her torch slowly reveals the horrors waiting in the shadows with various skeletal corpses, crushed skulls, and more horrifyingly: walls aligned with scorpions creeping from every angle.

Combining the traditional mechanics of puzzle-solving and exploration that Lara has done for decades, Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s take on the “tomb raiding,” as mentioned by the team demoing the game at E3, is a completely optional aspect of the game that players can decide whether they want to take on or not.

However, with the demo we were able to see of the game’s tombs waiting, it would be hard not to find Lara exploring every nook and cranny of these tombs for their rewards, even if that means danger is waiting.

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Where the previous Tomb Raider took us back to Lara’s roots in 2013, Rise of the Tomb Raider is very much about crafting her into the legend that she is destined to become. Though previously 2013’s Tomb Raider set up Lara on the path to discovering the abilities that were within her, Rise of the Tomb Raider similarly is putting players in her shoes to take on new challenges but with a whole new set of equipment and abilities that come with it.

With the team demoing the game at E3 2015 showing an improved crafting and upgrade system along with other abilities being added to Lara’s arsenal such as swimming and tree-climbing to take down foes, Rise of the Tomb Raider sets Lara on the path to becoming a “legend,” and hopefully if the gameplay we experience is any indication, the next title in the series could be just as legendary.

Rise of the Tomb Raider will release for Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 10th, 2015.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.
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