Rise of the Tomb Raider is set to hit Xbox One exclusively later this year and recently we were able to spend the day in San Francisco with Microsoft getting a small taste of what is to come. During my time there I was able to play approximately the first three hours of the campaign. I didn’t want to stop playing when the three hours was up but that is always a good sign for any game. During my time with it I came across some key story points (which I won’t spoil here) and had a lot of navigating the environments and the puzzles I was presented with. In terms of core mechanics it appears that a lot of it remains the same from the previous Tomb Raider game so if you played that then this should be very familiar to you. You still have a base camp where you can fast travel to other camps you have discovered, upgrade your weapons, look at your inventory and upgrade your skills.
When you start out the game you are in a mountainous region with a storm that is quickly approaching. You need to quickly get to your destination and they almost immediately throw you into the action as your journey doesn’t go as smoothly as you like and you have to improvise quickly to survive. Once you get past that whole part you have a small tomb to explore and you can use your survival instinct if you need help. Your survival instinct highlights things of importance around you to try and nudge you in the right direction. There are statues, for example, with Greek on them but Lara isn’t able to successfully read it until you get her Greek translation skills up. As I was making my through the first few hours of the campaign I noticed that there are going to be times where I’m definitely going to be using the fast travel system to do a bit of back tracking. There appears to be a good deal of optional stuff here (including optional tombs) but you won’t necessarily have access to them at first. You might need something you won’t acquire until later on in the game so you’ll have to come back at a later time.
There are things to find all around the environment that could provide important clues as to what is happening such as murals on a wall or other older objects that help to fill in the pieces of the puzzle so you can figure out what happened there in the past. This also could potentially help you find what you are looking for in the present. You can look at your story objective at any time as well as any sub-objectives that you might have. There are also a bunch of stats for you to look at if you are interested such as how many challenges you have completed, how many relics you have found, how many coin caches you have discovered and things of that nature. You also want to explore for different supplies so that you can use the crafting system to upgrade your weapons.
There are a variety of skills to learn throughout your adventure with them falling into three separate categories: brawler, hunter and survivor. The brawler skill tree ha things such as “Thick Skinned,” “Iron Hide,” “Stealth Landing” and “Silent Killer.” Your Hunter tree has “Arrow Retrieval,” “Dead Eye,” “Bow Expert,” “Weapons Expert” and more. Your Survivor tree is a bit more about self preservation with “Rapid Crafting,” “Body Trap Specialist,” “Intuitive” and “Arrow Climber.” There seemed to be 15 brawler skills to master, 17 hunter skills and 17 survivor skills so that should keep you busy.
As I progressed through the game I found myself trying to play the game as a stealth character whenever I could. If there was a group of enemies that I needed to eliminate I would quickly study their patterns and then pick them off one by one. A tactic that worked well for me was waiting in the brush and then once someone walked by my location I quickly and silently eliminated them. You have to be careful though because if one of your enemies is looking at the guy as you take him out then you have a great chance of being discovered and you might have to shoot your way out of the situation instead of trying to get through it quietly. Climbing up a tree and staying above ground was also an effective strategy that I would employ from time to time. You will also have side missions that you can do, such as helping out a rebel group with their cause. I wasn’t able to play the game long enough to see what type of effect helping them out would give me but it seemed like you definitely want to do those missions if you can as it appears they will probably repay your kindness later on in the game.
As I said up above I also really enjoyed the story that I was able to see during these three hours. You go through a flashback so that you can see why Lara does what she does and where her state of mind is. Certain events have transpired and now she is on a mission to prove that a particular artifact exists while everyone else is telling her she is crazy. Once you are back in the present you find yourself making your way through Siberia where humans aren’t the only thing you have to worry about. There were times when I had to take care of some wolves and then even a couple of instances where I needed to eliminate a really big bear. After making it through all of that I made my way to a secret Russian base where I was able to learn more of the story and came across the big storyline moment that I mentioned up above.
I really enjoyed going through the first three hours of the game and seeing what Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics has to offer for Rise of the Tomb Raider. If you played the 2013 version you should be right at home here. Rise of the Tomb Raider seems like it will have more tombs though, both required for the story and optional. Lara is still a tomb raider finding her way but is more confident this time around and isn’t going to let anything stop her from achieving her goal. The only problem I have is having to wait until the game’s release in November to see what happens next.