For some, reboots are a touchy subject. On the one hand, they can give new life to a dying franchise. On the other, they often change beloved characters into something almost unrecognizable.
So it was with 2013’s Tomb Raider. Lara Croft, the main character of the franchise, is one of the most recognizable female game characters in history. A reboot involving such a well-known character would have the daunting task of injecting something new and exciting into the game, while also paying homage to the character of the past.
Crystal Dynamics, the developers behind Tomb Raider, found a balance by creating a prequel, featuring a much younger Lara. The reboot was gritty, emotional and very, very different. In fact, it didn’t feel like a Tomb Raider game at all. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the game was compared to the very successful Uncharted franchise.
The Lara Croft of 2013’s Tomb Raider was young, naive, unsure, and above all, a survivor. She was thrown into a terrible situation, and she was the only one who could get herself back out. She might have been a different character than Lara of the past-now very whiny and helpless-but that was acceptable because this was the start of her journey to becoming that strong, self-assured treasure hunter.
With Rise of the Tomb Raider coming to Xbox One on November 10th, fans of the reboot will finally get to see if Crystal Dynamics can deliver the tougher, more badass Lara Croft that old school fans crave, while also continuing to develop an innovative and exciting game experience for new fans.
So what can fans look forward to in this highly anticipated sequel to the reboot?
This time, Lara is fighting on her own terms
Rise of the Tomb Raider is set after Lara Croft returns from Yamatai. No one believes her tales of the island, and a mysterious group called Trinity covers up any evidence she might gather. In order to prove she’s not insane, as well as to vindicate her father’s life-long obsession, Lara decides to search for the secret to immortality.
If the theme of the first game was “survival” the theme of the sequel is “destiny.” Armed with the survival skills she gained from the first game, Lara is now ready to embrace her destiny as a tomb raider.
Lara has grown up
What excites me the most about Rise of the Tomb Raider is the concept of taking learnings from the last game and applying them. There are plenty of franchises and characters that don’t seem to learn or grow from the supposedly important lessons of previous adventures. But a big theme of the upcoming Tomb Raider is that Lara is much more prepared for the challenges she will face this time around.
In the opening of the game, we see that Lara is separated from her friends, and must spend some time alone. Instead of being afraid, or asking for help, or saying her iconic line of “I can’t do this” from the first game, she tells her friends not to come looking for her, and repeatedly tells herself that she CAN do this.
She also puts together a camp in no time flat, quickly demonstrating that this challenge is not enough to stop or even slow her down.
Mental health is a key concept
“Lara your father was… unwell.” - Anna
“He was a broken man. I don’t want to see you end up like him.” - Anna
Rise of the Tomb Raider aims to be even more cerebral than Tomb Raider. Everyone thinks that Lara and her late father are crazy, obsessed over make-believe. Even an ex-lover of Richard Croft, Anna, begs Lara not to follow her father’s path.
The trailer shown at E3 2014 literally has Lara sitting in a therapy session discussing the traumatizing events she’s been through, and how that might affect her mental health.
In an interview, creative director Noah Hughes said that a driving desire for the reboot of the franchise was to take Lara from caricature to a relatable, human character. The average human, put into Lara’s situation at Yamatai, would probably suffer from PTSD, at the very least. It is interesting to see an action game take such an interest in creating a believable and relatable character out of a stoic, badass action hero.
While Lara herself believes that what she is doing is right, and that she will prove her father was correct, it does not necessarily preclude the fact that she may indeed suffer from mental illness. The word “obsession” is thrown around a lot, and I’m interested to see how far they take the idea that Lara may have developed a mental disorder to deal with mental trauma.
My Take On All of This
Preparing for this article taught me something really important about myself. Though I consider myself very supportive in real life of friends with mental disorders, I somehow lack that same empathy for game characters.
This article was originally going to be about my concerns that Lara has been weakened from the tough, stoic, badass character that she was. Would a man have to go to therapy? I asked myself.
Then I really stopped and asked myself why in the world I thought asking for help made someone weak.
If you’re interested in reading more about the fact that we somehow equate seeking help with weakness, and that we expect men to deal with situations rather than process them, I highly recommend this blog post which basically says everything I eventually (and more slowly than I would like) came to accept about my thought process.
Will the reboot ever show us the stoic, badass Lara we’re more familiar with? I don’t think it will. But I also don’t think that is a bad thing.
Instead it will show us a new Lara, who is a different kind of badass.
As video games push the envelope and strive to become thoughtful, thought-provoking, interesting games, the best thing I can do is to support that growth, and to give myself a chance to be won-over and surprised, rather than jaded and nostalgic. After all, I can always go back and play those old games if I miss them so much, right?
At the very least, I’m excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider because it has already made me ask questions about what it means to be strong, and the weakness of hiding your problems from the world.
I also really want to dive into that craft system and explore those cool-looking tombs.
Rise of the Tomb Raider comes out November 10th for the Xbox One and Xbox 360.