This isn’t really about discussing the story or spoilers about Crystal Dynamics new Rise of the Tomb Raider, it’s more-so about Lara Croft and her depiction in the reboot and the most recent sequel.
Now before getting into the thick of it, I just want to say that Konstantin and his “accomplice” were really well written villains. It’s just unfortunate that they got stuck in a game undeserving of their villainy.
Multi-dimensional villains are in short supply these days and he and his “accomplice” were well acted and animated superbly. That’s not to mention he wasn’t just another “destroy the world” type of super-villain found in most other games. This guy had a mission, a purpose and a will to get it done. He wasn’t without some kind of depth to his character traits and that’s what made him so memorable. It’s just a shame he was wasted in a by-the-numbers blockbuster like Rise of the Tomb Raider.
To be fair, everyone’s acting was pretty good. Camilla Luddington really worked hard to bring Lara to life and her voice acting and effort really did shine through despite the obvious flaws in the script. The major problem is that it isn’t really the Lara Croft many people grew up with in the 1990s and early 2000s and it doesn’t look like she’s going to turn into that Croft at all. Worse yet is that she isn’t really a tomb raider… but more like an emotionally fragile Rambo.
In the old games Croft was a confident, cocky, brash, cool-headed archaeologist. She never left home without her dual pistols, and she was always prepared even with a minimal amount of supplies. She was super-athletic and could nimbly find her way out of any tight spot. For all intents and purposes, Lara Croft was like a super hero on par to the likes of James Bond. And everyone loved her for it. You get a brief glimpse of how no-nonsense Croft used to be in the video below.
The thing is, this new Lara Croft is not a super hero. She’s not like James Bond. She’s not super-athletic, she’s not confident, she’s brash, she’s not cool-headed and she lacks the sex appeal of the old Croft. Worse yet is that she doesn’t even have the agency to be a tomb raider.
In both games, so far, Lara is dragged along into circumstances she didn’t really intend to end up in. It’s the complete opposite of the old Lara Croft who purposefully sought out adventure and was never afraid to face certain danger. In fact, the old Lara Croft in the first five minutes of Tomb Raider Anniversary showed more gumption and hardened resolve than the new Lara Croft did throughout the entirety of both Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Here’s a refresher course courtesy of MahaloVideoGames.
Now I know that this is supposed to be a reboot to show Lara’s “gritty” origins, but it’s been two games so far of a character who’s done nothing but whine, cry and exhibit self-doubt for a combined 16 hours across both games. It’s not realistic, it’s not engaging, it’s not endearing… it’s pathetic.
The character went from being cool and iconic to someone who happens to be annoying and needs constant emotional pampering and reaffirming of her abilities. I can’t remember the last time someone told Nathan Drake he was capable of throwing a decent punch if he just believed in himself.
New Lara Croft mows down hundreds of guys and then cries and whimpers when one of her friends get hurt. It’s a little like “Well, didn’t you just hurt a bunch of other people’s friends?”
New Lara Croft goes out on adventures unprepared and seemingly overwhelmed. After the end of the first game one would have thought Croft would have kept a gun by her side at all times, taken up ballet to get more graceful, and at least learned some kung fu or maybe kickboxing, maybe even some Brazilian jiu jitsu at the least! But no, she just relies on wildly swinging a pickaxe against trained, fully armored, military experts.
Yes, a young 20-something is fighting hardened soldiers with a pickaxe and they’re somehow afraid of her.
I understand applying the suspension of disbelief for some things, but if they want us to believe trained soldiers can be beaten by this young woman the least they could have done was given her some kind of cool martial arts moves. It just doesn’t make sense.
Now the old Lara Croft fought animals more than she fought humans and she had a bevy of acrobatic moves at her disposal. But when she did fight humans she blasted through them nonchalantly and with total competence. There was no pity party, no lack of self confidence, no crying and no wailing. The old games didn’t create a dissonance between this emotional character who cares deeply for her friends but doesn’t hesitate to kill her “enemies” indiscriminately.
It was particularly jarring in Rise of the Tomb Raider when listening to some conversations between enemy soldiers who expressed guilt, regret and apprehension about the mission they were on and how they didn’t want to hurt anyone, but continued to do so out of obligation to their paid duties. It’s like the game didn’t know if it wanted to treat the enemy lives as expendable, important, worthless or something for players to contemplate over. The fact that you couldn’t just stealth past the bad guys many times — forcing Lara to kill them in most encounters — made it stranger yet.
In the old games the villains were definitely more cartoony, there’s no doubt about it. You didn’t think much of killing them since they seemed like they trotted right out of a James Bond flick from the 1980s. Most times they were there to just propel the action forward as opposed to padding the game time. It was rare you got stuck mowing down dozens of guys. You could even avoid many of them if you wanted.
The thing is, the old games made it a priority that Lara was after whatever was in the tombs. Her agency was based on her own set goals as opposed to what others set out for her to accomplish. And therein lies part of the problem in the newer games: if it weren’t for the bad guys in both games, Lara struggled to see the mission through on her own terms. It was cringe inducing.
What’s worse is that her sense of thrill and exploration seemed to come second (or not at all) to fulfilling a task that allowed her to feel as if she’d gained self worth. It was the complete opposite of the controlled recklessness of the old Lara, or even Angelina Jolie’s depiction of Lara Croft, who came across as a very competent, thrill-seeking adventurer.
If they decide to follow through with a third game in this reboot of Tomb Raider it feels as if we’ll continue to get this whiny, self-doubting, haphazard version of Croft. I have no idea how she’ll transform into the legend of old at this point, but it almost looks as if the Lara Croft most people grew up with that became an iconic symbol in gaming might not ever reemerge within the confines of the reboot’s universe.