Rise of the Tomb Raider | Review

I just played Rise of the Tomb Raider! It’s an action adventure game, developed by Crystal Dynamics, published by Square Enix, and brought to Linux by Feral Interactive.

Rise of the Tomb Raider was released for Linux April 19th, 2018.

I received this game from Feral Interactive for the purpose of review. Thanks guys!

Aesthetic

Rise of the Tomb Raider has an aesthetic rooted in the real world. From the catacombs of tombs to the mountainous and wooded regions, the environments are expansive and detailed.

The game’s lighting is equally as impressive, with HDR and exposure being emulated to approximate a real camera.

Character designs are good here, especially when the game takes a moment to really show you how these characters relate to each other. I found it interesting that this game has such a height difference between two characters. I can’t think of another instance--besides maybe Atlas and Pbody--where this was the case.

My only complaint with the game world is that it can feel quite inorganic with the deliberate telegraphing of “jump here, cramble there, grapple this, vault that.”

The game also has an abundance of wildlife. To the point where you can encounter a bear or even a mountain lion. Suffice it to say hunting and scavenging opportunities are plentiful.

Gameplay

Exploration is a big part of Rise of the Tomb Raider, and the game feels like a satisfying mix of openness and linearity. I rarely ever felt directionless, especially given the Q key, which highlights precisely where you need to go.

However, as I mentioned earlier it’s hard to get lost. The world is finely crafted to Lara and her abilities. White objects and markings signifying where you need to go next.

There are RPG elements in this game with the inclusion of skill points. These let you enhance your survival and combat skills. You can also craft items from scavanged materials in the world. For example, you can fashion various types of arrows from wood, feathers, grenades, poison berries… you get the idea.

Let’s talk for a moment about the controls, which in all honesty is my least favorite part of this title. Your input here feels about as precise as any cinematic platformer. Rise of the Tomb Raider reminds me of games like Another World or Prince of Persia, where the fluidity of the animations took precedence over user input. And while I’m by no means knocking those titles (or this one for that matter), that’s simply not how I expect to play my games. Half the fun of playing a video game is the responsiveness of my in-game avatar. Simply put, controlling Lara just isn’t fun.

As I played though this game, I found myself growing quite displeased with the level of violence. Not just with shooting enemies, but the way in which the game seems to be preoccupied with the death of the main character. I mean, some deaths have elaborate cutscenes that feature gruesome dismemberment. But as soon as the cutscene’s over you’ve respawned with little penalty for failure.

Rise of the Tomb Raider relishes in putting Lara in peril, even with small things, like jumping from ledge to ledge and having to ‘press E to recover.’ In my opinion, it happens with such frequency that it loses any impact it might’ve had and just ends up being obnoxious.

Narrative

I found much of the games narrative worthy of skipping past. This is yet another example of Square Enix melodrama.

When I wasn’t skipping cutscenes, the story here was a prime example of ludonarrative dissonance: where your actions as the player do not match up with the story the game is trying to tell.

For example, I spend most of my time in this game brutally mowing down enemy combatants. Yet in this cutscene when a guy breaks into my house to steal my work and ends up trying to kill me, Lara hesitate to shoot him dead and he escapes.

There were many times I found myself positively exasperated by some of the ridiculous decisions cutscene Lara makes. So much so that it really tarnished my experience with the game.

Performance

Rise of the Tomb Raider performed respectably on D’argo, my office PC featuring an AMD Ryzen 7 1800x and an Nvidia GTX970. I’m currently running version 395 of Nvidia’s proprietary driver stack, as those are the minimum requirements. For much of my time with the game, it hovered at a steady 55-60 FPS. There were a few instances of diminished performance, but all-in-all, it generally worked great! Good job, Feral!

Final Score

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a mixed bag. While the gunplay and combat is solid, the uneven story, quicktime events, and sluggish movement left me wanting more. Plus, the game’s ghoulish celebration of abusing Lara can be a bit much for my taste.

I would recommend this game to anyone who’s searching for a console shooter experience on Linux. If you’re a fan of Tomb Raider, and you are acclimated to standard-fare AAA violence, you’ll probably have a blast with Rise of the Tomb Raider.

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