After Crystal Dynamics rebooted this famous franchise back in '11, people were optimistic about the new vision of Lara Croft, often termed as the survivor timeline. The game was set apart from her previous adventures as it showed a vulnerable side to her which had not been seen before, either from her or any video game protagonist for that matter. People have started expecting a polished character from games, but this game gave us a character who grew up in front of our eyes as the game progressed. After the conclusion, the question was, what next? Will she preserve her vulnerability, naivety in the next game as well ? Or was this the one-off where we get to see Lara mature ?
Rise answers those questions satisfactorily. Yes she has matured, learned from her previous experience , and now is looking to follow her fathers' footsteps as an adventurer archaeologist, only to be drawn into her fathers' last years and the mystery which surrounded them. As it turns out, Croft Sr was looking for an ancient artifact, a "Divine Source" which continued to evade him, driving him to the point of insanity and seclusion, taking away his position as a good father to a young daughter who looks upto him greatly. Lara takes up this quest, and travels to Syria to begin her search for the Prophet who was said to be in possession of the Divine Source. But her path crosses with Trinity, her old enemies who had been a thorn to her fathers' side as well (maybe a little more than just a thorn?), and she barely escapes with here life. Later she delves into her study and draws a line connecting the Byzantines in Syria to the findings in Siberia, and starts her journey towards Syria to find the lost city of Kitezh, which houses the prophets tomb and the artifact.
This game is amazed me with the connectivity between the levels, as there is literally no divide between them, and each is connected to the previous via walking paths mostly. Its literally a sort of constricted open world where the progression is always linear. A hybrid map you can say. But if the progression is always in front of you, why keep the option of going back ? Thats for the gamers who wish to know the story to the fullest. The cutscenes only tell you the important bulletins of what is happening, but if you want to read between the lines and know the full story from a historical perspective, you can collect documents, recordings from corpses who tell the story from their perspective, and you gain an additional insight into the world you now inhabit. Its a fascinating way to discriminate between players who wish to go through the main game, and those who wish to go through everything.
The leveling system is pretty much the same. Collecting hides of different animals, parts of guns, etc expand your arsenal and make you better equipped for the next stage (for which you might have to backtrack also). The additional aspect is the availability of caves and optional tombs to explore where you will be rewarded for your troubles and learn more about the world.
The story progression might seem a tad slow in the beginning when you might have to devote more time to ready yourself for combat before going forward, but picks up pace later on. The voice acting of the actors are really well done but what stands out are the locales - done spectacularly well. Each area beams with details and atmosphere. The involvement of the characters in the story is genuine and Lara's conviction to her role is striking. She picks up from where she left off in the previous game, and continues her development as a Tomb Raider through the adversities she faces here.
But here is my critique of the game - it adds new features but doesnt polish on the originals. Lara's movement is very tender and animated while traversing beams and climbing walls, but never on terrain. She trips over virtually nothing, falls down easily, and dropping down is still irritatingly difficult.
In an otherwise extremely engaging and polished experience, this stands out like a sore thumb.
In hindsight, this game picks up from where the previous left off and builds on Lara's character. The story is Tomb Raider staple yet quite well told. Progression is excellent like before and the levels are extremely well designed. If they can master the movement of the Lara, and perhaps add a bit of maturity to the story, the next game can take no false steps in building this timeline to the heights of the others.