Tomb Raider Diaries #8: X Marks the Spot
Previously, on Tomb Raider Diaries: Lara concluded that the only way to get off of the island is to go deeper into the heart of it to find the source of the storms: Queen Himiko herself.
PLAYTIME: 3 hours
ACHIEVEMENTS: Clever Girl, Now We’re Getting Serious, Looking for Trouble, Equalizer, Get Over Here, A Survivor is Born
Following Roth’s funeral, the survivors head to the beach to salvage a boat to get off the island. Lara apparently takes the long way around to do this, which involves more killing people, more killing people with fire, falling, and falling with fire. I may not have been paying attention at this point, but I think this was one of those moments where the game was trying to stretch out its final moments by adding time consuming, but ultimately pointless challenges.
Back on the beach, Lara gets to chat with the remaining crew of the Endurance, who are working toward getting the ship sea worthy. That is, everyone but Alex, who’s run off to the Endurance itself to retrieve Reyes’ tools. After Lara retrieves other stuff from some of the wrecked ships at the beach, she goes after Alex, determined to rescue him.
Nothing is ever on ground level on this island, which means Lara has to climb up and up and up to get over to the Endurance on the other side. Up means lots of opportunity for down, and my husband, who’s been watching me play, can now accurately predict our hero’s encounters with gravity. Thankfully, I did not get poor Lara impaled on jutting metal poles for her troubles (though she did often fall into the sea, bash her head on rocks, and perish. In fact, I’ve creatively killed Lara in many ways now, thanks to this game. I’ve come a long way from my days of inputting Playstation codes to simply make Lara explode. Sorry Lara. It’s nothing personal. Good thing you’re immortal!)
On the Endurance, Lara is confronted by more bad guys, whom she skillfully defeats. She also finds a new toy to help her yank heavier objects, which comes in handy when she has to save Alex, who is trapped on the ship. Sadly, though Lara is able to get to him, the Solarii are hot on her heels, and Alex sacrifices himself to get Lara out with the tools Reyes needs to fix the boat.
Back at the beach, Lara no longer has to convince the others that they need to go to the temple to stop the storms, because Whitman, the archaeologist who has suspiciously survived the Solarii without being captured like the others, kidnaps Sam. At least I think that’s the order of events. Forgive me… there may have been some wine involved during this playthrough… Oh wait! I remember! Somewhere in here Lara finds Himiko’s long dead general and realizes that Himiko’s soul is haunting the island and needs a new host. Sam isn’t intended to be the new queen of the island, she’s intended to become *gasp* the new host body!
Reyes sails the boat down river, and, along with Jonah, promises to cover Lara’s back as she goes after Sam. Now Lara has to deal with both the Solarii and the queen’s undead warriors, who all attack in greater number. In an unsurprising turn of events, Whitman’s betrayal is, in turn, betrayed and he is sliced and diced, leaving Sam in the hands of Mathias, the Solarii leader. Lara asks nicely for Mathias to let her friend go, but Mathias takes a moment to drop the crazy cult leader business to make us think about who and what Lara Croft has become because of this ordeal.
“Do you think that you’re the hero, Lara? Everything I’ve done I did to survive. How many lives have you taken to do the same? There are no heroes here. Only survivors.”
Meanwhile, Himiko’s storms grow worse, providing convenient cover for Mathias to slip away. I really would have liked to know how he slipped away so easily, leaving Lara to climb, leap and stumble her way to the top of the temple. At the top, she faces more Solarii and shadow warriors, including a particularly large one, in a surprisingly easy battle. The final showdown with Mathias was easier still, but in truth, I’d grown a bit bored by this time. Long story short, Lara saves Sam and carries her friend back to the boat as the skies clear. Later, on a ship taking the survivors to safety, Lara makes the biggest decision of her life: “I’m not going home,” she says. And so begins her adventures.
So despite becoming bored toward the end of the game – probably due more to my sporadic playtime availability than to the game itself – my final verdict for this game is a positive one. The game is, even on hard mode, very easy for a veteran gamer, but it presents enough of a challenge, along with the story, to be interesting. The praise I’d initially heard for the game came from seasoned gamers who agreed that it does not have much replay value, but it is still a worthy game.
The majority of my friends praising this reboot are males, which was a concern for me, considering the initial marketing choice that had me refuse to play the game in the first place. I’m glad I changed my mind and got to see the questionable scene involving Lara’s potential sexual victimization within context.
While I think the story dragged in places because it had to stop to be a video game where you have to shoot things and complete puzzles, I enjoyed it nonetheless. it is, unquestioningly, a visually stunning game, and it got a lot of things right, from diversity and representation, to everything about the main character herself. I enjoyed meeting this new Lara who, while green in the field, is not without many, many resources. The game does not break her in order to turn her into the brave and powerful adventurer we have known in her earlier incarnations. The story makes it clear that she was always this person and, in the face of such stress, she will persevere.
Because she is a survivor.
This is, as later advertising says, an empowering game. It’s a Lara Croft that anyone can appreciate. She’s not a damsel to be saved, nor, necessarily, is she a hero to aspire to. She is, first and foremost, a survivor. Oh and an archaeologist who is passionate about her work.
In terms of gameplay, it is, as I said, fairly easy, leading me to the conclusion that this game could be subtitled “ HOW 2 LARA CROFT.” I jest, but I actually am impressed by the concept. This reboot has given us a new Lara that many people can appreciate, from veteran gamer to amateur, from male to female, young and old.
Just like this trailer says:
When I washed up on the island, my life as I knew it was over, but my life as you know it has just begun. Those who live here want to hurt me, kill me; so I must fight. I must embrace what I am. I am vast, bold, brutal. I am agile, tough; I am daring, courageous, dangerous. I am strong.
I. Am. Lara. Croft.