The official Tomb Raider Twitter account announced that writer Rhianna Pratchett is no longer the lead writer working on the Tomb Raider games under Crystal Dynamics. The news was met with a lot of people showing support and adoration for the work she put into the rebooted game series.
— Tomb Raider (@tombraider) January 3, 2017
The tweet had a message attached to it that reads…
“Crystal Dynamics and Rhianna Pratchett are announcing today that Rhianna is off to pursue new adventures separate from the Tomb Raider franchise. Rhianna was instrumental in helping us find Lara’s voice in the 2013 origin story, and through Rise of the Tomb Raider she shaped Lara into the evolving heroine we know today. The entire team thanks Rhianna for her dedication and tireless efforts on the games. Please join us in wishing Rhianna the absolute best in her next adventure.”
There are various threads across the net that contain discussions where Pratchett is being ripped to shreds with criticisms about the writing of the two new rebooted Tomb Raider games. I didn’t think the writing was that terrible, but I did think it was written in dissonance to what the actual gameplay was.
Back in late 2015 I did a piece excoriating Rise of the Tomb Raider for portraying a weak and unsure heroine in Lara Croft, stating clearly and definitively that she was not the tomb raiding heroine we had grown up with from back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I did like the two main villains in the game, though, and they seem to have a more consistent vibe in their portrayal than Lara did.
Some people liked the two new Tomb Raider games but I cringed through them. I cringed badly.
There was obvious dissension in the production of how Lara should be portrayed, and the behind-the-scenes ruckus showed through in the final product, where we had a weak and confident-lacking Lara bouncing between being a pacifist and a Rambo-esque mass murderer. There was a bipolar element to the writing of the character where it was obvious the writing team struggled to match what the game designers had crafted. In result, Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider were two games that suffered greatly from identity crisis. Was Lara a badass or not? Was she a pacifist or not? Was she a killer or not?
Naughty Dog avoided the existential questions in Uncharted by bringing levity to the violence with jokes and faceless enemies you didn’t get to know. Crystal Dynamics did the opposite by having Lara hypocritically condemn her enemies for killing mercilessly, and then killing mercenaries mercilessly while they talk about wanting to get back home to their families.
The whole thing was a mess, and it was one of those obvious situations where they tried to choose being “mature” over choosing to incorporate a fun story that helped compliment the gameplay, not hinder it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this situation will be fixed with the third game. The gaming industry seems intent on fighting against its own nature and the nature that helped make the Tomb Raider series recognizable and a blockbuster name to begin with. Heck, those Angelina Jolie movies were bad but they were at least entertaining and recognized what they were trying to achieve instead of fighting against it.
Some supporters of this new grim-dark Lara Croft have stated that we’ll finally get the “real” Lara by the third game, which reminds me of the DC fanboys saying we’ll finally get the “real” Superman by Man of Steel 2. I’ll say the same thing about the grim-dark reboot of Tomb Raider that I’ve mentioned about the DC cinematic universe’s Superman: it doesn’t take three tries to get a character right. If you failed to properly convey the character the first time out, you’ve already failed the character.
(Main image courtesy of KVAND)