Rise of the Tomb Raider may go down as the high-water mark in this new trilogy, in much the same way that Uncharted 2 was the standout game of Nathan Drake’s three-game romp between 2007 and 2011. This game is an almost-ideal blend of the major ideas and gameplay concepts from the Uncharted and Far Cry series. From the former, it took many of the same climbing, combat, and puzzle mechanics, while it borrowed the open-world exploration and side mission structure of the latter. Add in a dash of distinctive Lara-ness in the form of optional tombs -- which, as many have accurately pointed out, are the highlight of the game -- and you pretty much have this game.
The game has its flaws, of course. Combat is much too easy on standard difficulty, with enemies standing 10 yards away from you firing widely far off target and giving you ample time to line up your headshots. I get that the issue can be cured simply by scaling the difficulty ladder, but for many gamers who will default to a normal setting the first time through, it’d be good to offer them more of a challenge. That being said, the ease of the combat produces moments of great fun in the sense that one can run around like a superhero (or villain) brutally killing all challengers.
The other major flaw is a narrative that doesn’t always coherently depict its characters’ motivations. Without spoiling too much, it is hard to discern why certain characters act the way that they do, or why they give Lara license to pursue objectives that seem irreconcilable with their own goals. Nor is it entirely believable that Lara herself would be so driven by the motivation ascribed to her for this current adventure.
Ultimately, my complaints pale in comparison to the tour de force that this game offers. In fact, playing this just a month or so after Uncharted 4, I found that it compared favorably. Although the characters and storyline of Uncharted 4 were better developed, the actual gameplay of Tomb Raider, including its climbing mechanics, pace and rewards for exploration, and even its combat felt more fluid and enjoyable. For anyone who loves third-person action-adventure games, this is a must-buy.