February 25, 2013

Tomb Raider Review Recap

Tomb Raider fans, it's now one week until launch, and the embargo preventing games journalists from posting reviews has at last been lifted. From what I've seen so far, most reviews range from positive to absolutely glowing. Here's a quick recap of what I've read. I will be adding to this list in the coming days.

Congratulations to the developers for such a strong showing right out of the gate. Can't wait to play it!


  1. Gametrailer and inside gamer review are absent

  2. Thanks, Veritas. I'll hunt them down. :)

  3. Some brilliant reviews, from sources I respect.

    Mine will be on the screen the same day it arrives and probably for quite some time thereafter ...

  4. I think, this part of the XBox360Achievements-Review absolutely nails what I can't stand about this new game:

    "Too often the on-screen action in this new Tomb Raider descends into third-person shooter territory, and not even an exceptional one at that. Quite what slow-mo breaches and armoured bosses are doing in a Tomb Raider game, we’ll never know. I genuinely think I killed more enemies in one run through of the reboot than I have in all the other titles combined. It even has conveniently placed red explosive barrels dotted around the environment. Le sigh. Think Tomb Raider 2, but 100 times more populated with goons.

    Unfortunately, everything that made the Tomb Raider franchise so compelling has been scaled back drastically in favour of the more action-orientated gun-wielding gameplay that supposedly made Lara who she is today, and the game suffers as a result. I just can’t understand how our adventurer can be so melancholy about killing some wildlife but will happily put 100 men in body bags without a second's thought. The mind boggles.

    In terms of controls, yes, it probably is the tightest and most responsive Lara has ever been, but the exploration, the puzzles, the incredible interior environments, the platforming, the actual tomb raiding and archaeological exploration, it all takes a backseat to the third-person shooter gunplay for the most part, which is truly a shame.


    [The] truly epic moments are outnumbered probably 3:1 by the generic third-person shooter gunfights. Lara as a stealthy hunter works. Lara as a shotgun-wielding, assault-rifle-donning psychopath who can take down a well-trained army, does not.


    Sure, there are a few Tomb Raider orientated mechanics in there – the traps, the platforming, the zip wires, the bow and arrow – but everything else just screams mediocrity. One thing is for certain: it shows a complete misunderstanding of what makes Tomb Raider so popular: its tomb raiding (the clue’s in the title), not all out warfare, which does seem odd. That’s not the problem though, it’s just that it’s not special enough to win us or anyone over. It’s a shame they couldn’t have put these resources into making more of what makes a Tomb Raider game in the game’s single-player.


    The best parts of Tomb Raider games gone by are the moments where you walk into a gargantuan room before figuring out how you can get across to the other side. There’s not really much of that same awe-inspiring tomb-navigation in this Tomb Raider. And you can see how much of an emphasis on tombs there is when there’s only nine and they're labelled as optional. Perhaps we should call this 'Optional Tomb Raider'."

  5. I'm not sure if I like this new direction the series have taken. It seems that the developers are trying so hard to "modernize" the series and put them back in their position of a successful franchise that they've forgotten what made the games great in the first place. This new direction, with it's dark and gritty plot and troubled Lara, really doesn't sound Tomb Raider to me. Also, this new emphasis on violence and action oriented gameplay seems like a great departure from the formula. The Tomb Raider I played in my childhood was focused on exploration, puzzle solving, not on shooting guns (this was the "job" other games, like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D). Another thing that bothers me is the plot, it has a Silent Hill vibe, which I find regretful since all the other titles were accessible to everyone, from kids to adults. The supernatural stuff of the previous ones wasn't as creepy as in this one, it was grounded on magic, while this new one seems grounded on horror. I may buy this game, I am still a fan of the franchise, but it saddens me that the series have departed so far from what it was during my childhood.

  6. @ the person above: Actually, as a fan of the series, if you don't like this new direction, you should NOT buy it. If all fans think that they should buy every game of the franchise, because they are fans, then the developers will never learn from their mistakes, because they see that their game has sold very well and so they are gonna make the same mistakes in their next game again. So again, if you don't like this new formula, then you should not support it by buying it.

  7. Great to hear the news Stella, i am very much looking forward to it and enjoying TR Underworld very much for the now. Those certainly are glowing reviewer scores. I will be doing an in depth article featuring all of the series for my international game developers Association as soon as the new title is out.

  8. I wont even play new Tomb Raider, I'm utterly disappointed. I would rather remember Lara as it was back in the TR1/2/3/4/5 days.It's sad, and with soooo many action/killing/horror oriented games, why couldn't we have one intelligent oriented puzzle game that we love? Why it can't be modern and at the same time truly Tomb Raider formula?

  9. After having read some of the reviews, I find myself conflicted. Not unlike how Castlevania: Lords of Shadow or the newer Resident Evil games have made me feel. It seems that with these newer games difficulty is held to a minimum, and providing a movie blockbuster experience takes precedence.

    From what I can tell, all these reboots have done is divide their respective fan bases between older fans who like solid gameplay and difficulty, and younger gamers who prefer graphics and big set pieces. Personally, I find modern games are not doing it for me. They're too easy and have too many cut-scenes. I want to play a game. Chess doesn't have a storyline or character development or need graphic fidelity, yet it's the greatest game ever created.

    Nintendo hard is but a memory.

  10. Well i think it is important to support the series even if we don't agree with all of the content. That way there is a future for Lara and we have a chance to influence the developers to return her to the correct path. So I will remain hopeful and will work hard to do what we can to keep Lara as Lara in the future.

  11. Sorry, CrisGer, but that's the most insensible thing to do. Games should be supported according to their quality, and not on the basis of fanboyism. If you want to contribute to the decline of quality games then by all means, go ahead and buy everything - that's the best way to ensure that publishers/developers go lazy "Why should we bother making quality games when the fanboys will even buy polished turd if it has the name of their adored franchise on it." As an allegedly conscious buyer I always ignore the reviews coming out during the first two weeks after release (many of those reviews smell like payola) and I saved about $500 already by not jumping on the 'fanboi' bandwagon (even though I admit I made a huge blunder by pre-ordering Dragon Age II :P ).

  12. Hello Stella,

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    I am looking for passionate writers to join our community of bloggers and I was wondering whether you would consider sharing your posts on Glipho and become a member?

    It might be a good idea to give your writing and your blog more exposure while having fun and meeting fellow writers.

    Please check us out at glipho.com and drop me a line at hubert@glipho.com for any questions.


  13. Thank you LadyMilla for your comments on my comments but i most respectfully disagree with you completely. I have studied and continue to study the development of many games including the Tomb Raider series and love the adventure of it all, and the remarkable talents that go to creating all of this for all of us to enjoy. After playing and studying over 700 games and collecting thousands I don't think I need your advice on this matter and in fact heartily disagree with your view. It is shortsighted and limits both the experience any of us can have playing the games and limits the future potential of development. Not any book is perfect nor is any game or series of games. No work, no creative work ever achieves what the creator or the appreciator may wish for. Yet the attempt is worthy and in the case of the Tomb Raider series, the ongoing journey is indeed worthy of support at any time and in any form. If they had stopped at say, Tomb Raider 3 think what we would have missed...Yet game development is a lengthy and expensive business and takes the work of hundreds of people and millions of dollars and cannot be undertaken lightly. For a series to continue there need to be sales and if one truly supports and appreciates a series such as Tomb Raider it requires loyalty as well as individual opinions which are always valuable. I am the last one to think the new Lara is what i would have chosen, indeed i may have quite a bit to say about her as time goes on and i have a chance to see more of her and this new title. But i would be failing in my duty as a supporter of the series and of the future of Lara to not support this any any title. It is not that big of a sacrifice. I dont support all series indeed many entire genres i dont support at all tho i study them all. But in the case of Lara, anything i can do to help her evolve and have a future I will and I will always encourage any who care about the series to support its future no matter how we may feel about individual titles. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks to Stella for her sterling support of Lara over the years and for a lively and informative blog.


    3D World and Game Developers Group
    "We Build Worlds"

  14. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. ladymilla and CrisGer, I commend you both on your ability to make well-reasoned points and disagree without turning it into a flame war. It only adds to my respect for the Tomb Raider fanbase.

    As for the issues you bring up, I'm conflicted myself. As I'm sure you all know, I'm a fan from the very early days, and there have been things I like and dislike about every new iteration--from TR2 on down to the present. So far none of the changes--even the more drastic ones like we're seeing this time--have made me want to totally abandon the series. I do plan to weigh in on the new game, but since I haven't completed it yet, I feel it would be premature to do so now.

    I did spend my money this time knowing there were some things that didn't appeal to me on the surface (e.g., heavy combat, multiplayer), but my hope is there'll be enough in the game to make me feel the Tomb Raider love and keep coming back. I'll let you know in a few days. ;)

  15. Hi Stella,

    This comment is not related to the article, but Stella, I would be very interested to know what your thoughts are on Tomb Raider III. Because, for me, Tomb Raider III is the perfect Tomb Raider game and it would be interesting to me to know what you did not like about it, or in other words, what you liked better about the first Tomb Raider. I'd be very glad to hear an answer. :)

    In general, have you written any reviews for any of the Tomb Raider games? I'd be happy to read them. :)

  16. thanks Stella and i tried hard, i have great respect for all of our community and actually Ladymilla and I may agree on quite a bit, i did play thru the first part of the game to the first camp..and loved parts of it, it was exciting and took all of my Raider skills to keep poor Lara mostly alive...but Poor Lara...i must say..here were my first thoughts...and not happy ones about what they did to the appearance and voice of our dear Lara...

    OK quick off the topic note about the New Lara.....i took my first look and i can see what they did, ..they dumbed her down and commonized her appearance. They carefully deconstructed her face and her voice to make her a middle class (British) "normal" girl, they took away her aristocratic look and accent and gave her a commoners voice and face. We can fix the face with modding i am pretty sure, i am sure others will be at work to reskin her. But sadly we cant change the voice....if you have lived in England as long as I have and mixed with the upper classes as i did, you will recognize instantly that she is no longer Lara, she is more like what Lara's housekeeper would sound and look like. Her eyes are too close set, and small, her mouth has lost its expression and personality...and flair, and she is plain ugly. I am very sad to see this but i know why they did it, there is a massive effort in the UK these days to commonize society and deny the class structure that had led the country for centuries. It is a political movement and it has finally attacked our Lara, ..i will fight this with my work in game research and endevour to get Crystal Dynamics to see their huge mistake. They will suffer for it i am sure, and we need to focus that effort to get them to be sure to change her back. All is not lost, the game has elements of TR and it is a fun new environment. But i see what has been done and it was a bad detour. But i am sure in time we can save her.

    Lara has been for decades a wonderful and unique character, her background is aristocratic England, and the nuances and subtle elements of that life are very real and very distinct. The accent in which the upper classes speak is very different from the local dialects and accents and it sets them apart instantly. A cousin of mine Victor Montagu who was the 11th Earl of Sandwich, lived in a manor house similar to Lara's in fact a bit larger and older....and he was very similar to her in many ways, some of the same mannerisms and affects...and she is also a wonderful example of the gentleman/gentlelady adventurer and amateur scientist, earnest and sincere and deeply knowledgable to the point that she is intimate with the figures of the past as much as she is with her helpers and contemporaries. Their and her understanding and aquaintance with the 'classics" and the lore that they study is intense and personal. All of this is part of her wonderful and vivacious character. She also faces adversity with a unique aplomb, she does not quiver and quake, she does not complain she attacks and makes her way thru...and this is a great model and guide for us all. Each of us faces adversity in our lives in many ways...and it is the pluck and the courage to keep going that is so special about La5ra. I heard some sounds from her in the new title i would not expect Lara to make, i know she is having a hard time but i hope she bucks up and returns to her old self soon.

    Back to the real Lara.

  17. (previous comment continued)

    I have fortunately just started TRU and have all of it, or much of it still to enjoy....so i will get ready for what will be a difficult experience with TR 8.... i do want to see it and support the series but as an artist and a long long time lover of the series it will be hard. I will do it for Lara and for the community which we are all part of...but i do hope we can see some changes in the next title. I can't speak to the degree of violence that i am also a bit hesitant about, the winds of "graphically overreal shooters" have blown hard thru the game universe...but i will keep hopeful and thanks Stella and Ladymilla, please forgive my disagreeing, and really you and I may agree quite a bit indeed.


  18. Part of the challenge is a general change in the air not just about Lara....i have found it rather surprising how quite different some of the latest crop of young and avid Raiders are in character in some of the forums. I will have to wait longer to see if the changes in our virtual Lara are actually a sign of a deeper shift than I had expected. There are some wonderful parts of the new game, the graphics are stunning and the new setting quite intriguing ... the B 24 L model that was used as a wreck was quite accurately done and very believable as a relic from WWII and the cargo cult and pirate den was well done as well. I am interested to see how the survival elements work out..i imagine we will have to make and use weapons and forage for sustenance. Such "needs of daily life" have been added to a number of recent games to increase immersion , if that is their intent then it will be interesting to see how it goes. I am glad to have this blog as a haven of civility and true Raider support :) Thanks again Stella for so much that you do for us.

  19. Well, I went into playing the game pretty convinced that I'd hate it, but honestly I thought it was incredible. Yes, it's very very different, but that's what made it so interesting.

    If I were to play the same game, with the same 1996 backstory, knowing everything about Lara, it wouldn't have the same effect. The rewrite was strategically done, as it doesn't massively change the old plot, but freshens it up enough to seem modern and interesting.

    As for Lara, I like her change. I think she looks more real - her proportions are so much more realistic, particularly in the nose and lips. I always found her nose a little distracting because it was so very very small.

    Despite not liking Camilla Luddington to begin with, I did grow to like her voice. Her accent is pretty much bang-on for an upper class young adult imho. It's very rare these days to see a young woman like herself speaking like... Joanna Lumley, for example. Camilla sounds more convincing.

    I also really liked how she progressed. [MINOR SPOILERS HERE!] When she returned to the ship and saw herself in the mirror again I really felt a change for her. I felt like that was a very defining moment for Lara. Also, when she first weilds those dual pistols... There's a sense of badass familiarity you just can't get from the other games.

    I look forward to reading your review, Stella! :D

  20. Good comments and i agree with you the game is quite interesting. Re the accent, for a London person yes the accent is workable if a bit loose, but Lara was raised in a more rarified atmosphere and all of the voicing in the past Laras have been from that point of view. It is hard to describe how fast the audio antenae pick up class differences in the UK of my experience and THIS Lara is not fully UU, listening carefully to the flashback before the shipwreck when Lara is not suffering from her wounds, her speech is slurred at times and she never ever glotalized her vocal stops in the past, she was crisp and distinct even when she and her mother were crashing in the plane....but then i have not been in the UK for many years so things may well have changed. I will keep wide open for this new version and look forward to seeing the development in the young Lara that this game is clearly focused on..it was an interesting choice for a plot and I think a valid one...I will remain hopeful

  21. Not related with topic, Stella, I miss the old Walk-troughs site design! I grow up reading your walk troughs and playing classical Tomb, please bring it back :)

  22. Which version,Hatšepsuta? I've been through about 5 different designs now. I'm sorry you're not a fan of the new one, but to be honest, I get bored looking at the same thing every day for years. Every now and then I just have to change it up.

    You can still see most of the old versions on the web archives (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://tombraiders.net)--at least the versions that lived at the tombraiders.net address. The Geocities site is long gone now. :( And naturally it doesn't include pages added since the snapshots were made.

  23. Stella, I hope you know your site is mentioned during the credits at the end of the new game!!

  24. @Anon: Thanks, I saw that. Not just mine, though, lots of great TR fan sites. I'm proud to be in such good company. :)

  25. Well, after watching Classic Game Room's review of the game it's convinced me to make a purchase. Mark is an old school SEGA gamer like myself, and looks at games through the eye of how fun it is. Graphics and technical specs seemed to take a big chunk of the other reviews that I've watched and read but hardly any of them convey any sense of fun that the new game apparently has. He's not even a fan of the series as a whole yet he gave the game a glowing review. From one old school gamer to another that speaks volumes to me.

    So, in this instance I am going to backtrack from my previous statement of old versus new. But, just this once. :)

    For anyone interested here's a link to a very funny and convincing review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80gCB3lFLJk

  26. Hi Stella,

    Nice blog and information.

    Friendly greetings,