Tomb Raider
Once upon a time, games were simple. Bad guys did bad things. Princesses got kidnapped. Heroes saved the day.

This was perfectly fine. When movies were first being made, plots were rarely more complicated than Big Angry Monster + Frightened Villagers = Dead Monster. The concept was so novel that by merely being a motion picture, it blew people's minds. The same is true of video games, or pretty much any other medium. Once the novelty runs off, any medium has to either innovate fall to the wayside.

As pixels gave way to polygons, stories had to evolve with them. Stories had to become more complex, because 'Rescue the Princess' just didn't cut it anymore. We came to expect epic quests and ancient evils. Games became a way to escape. Stories became more important, but often still relied on tried and true tropes. We always knew that the damsel would be in distress, the valiant hero would save the day, and evil would be banished for a few thousand more years.

As graphical capabilities have edged closer and closer to lifelike, so have the stories. With our latest generation of game consoles, we are seeing a firm grounding in reality with many stories. Even stories that are firmly planted in fantasy strive for a 'human' feel. Games like Heavy Rain took away monsters and magic, and made the monsters decidedly human.

As I started this latest iteration of Tomb Raider, I will admit my hopes were not the highest. Having been disappointed by many games in the series before (Tomb Raider: Underworld, anyone?), I was a little hesitant. After all, Tomb Raider had never been known for it's stellar storytelling or rich back story. For the most part, there were two defining features of the series, and they both likely are the cause of Lady Croft's lower back problems. A series of glowing reviews convinced me to give it a shot, regardless.

I had been prompted to play this game after completing Bioshock: Infinite. I found myself in search of a similar experience, namely looking to strike an emotional chord with protecting a young woman. Having grown up with 'Save The Princess' games, I guess the urge to save the 'damsel in distress' has always been ingrained in me. Every trailer I had seen made a specific point of how this game chronicles the humble beginnings of Lara Croft, before the bravado and confidence we see in previous entries. In other words, we are looking at a person, and not a character.

It didn't take me long to realize that this was a girl that did not need protecting. I found Lara at one point bound, defenseless, and surrounded by angry men with guns. Most games would make this the moment where a boyfriend or father figure comes in, guns blazing, and saves the day. The men captured with her are swiftly dispatched, and it does not take long to realize that no help is coming. If this damsel remained in distress, simply dying would be a mercy.

I go on to see a young woman get stabbed, shot at, attacked by animals, and at one point, beaten by no less than four angry Russians. I found myself changing along with the girl on the screen. I felt helpless scrambling for daylight in a dark cave. I was terrified fending off wolves in the middle of a storm. The sorrow and regret was palpable when I had to take down a deer to keep from starving. After one tragedy too many, I was actually a bit surprised to find myself getting cocky when I overheard two guards saying "What's the problem? She's just one little girl!" "Yeah, well, this girl is kicking our asses!" Those angry Russians that beat on Lara? I didn't find myself worrying if she was okay. I knew she was. Instead, I found myself looking for them as the game went on, making sure they paid for their brutality.

As I watched the credits roll, I knew that I wasn't looking at a girl any more. This was a woman, strong and capable. This princess would never need a knight in shining armor to come rescue her. I fear for the dragon that thinks he can keep her locked up.
That was amazing. :)
04/07/2013 at 12:05am
Great writing! I've been interested in this game since before it came out and you might have just caused another purchase.
04/07/2013 at 02:41pm
Thanks for writing this Nick, I appreciate it. I have never considered getting a Tomb Raider... until now :D
04/07/2013 at 05:14pm
By and large, I've avoided the series, because, well, they seemed campy and unrealistic. While there is a certain amount of a supernatural element to the game, which is par for the course, it didn't really beat you over the head with it like some of the older ones. There has been a running joke about how when Uncharted came out, it was essentially "Dude Raider". It's kind of funny, because this game feels like more of a spiritual successor to Nathan Drake than one of Lara Croft's adventures. That's a good thing though, as Uncharted was the main reason I bought my Playstation 3 (Well, that, and Metal Gear Solid 4). A decent story, voice acting that didn't make me cringe, and pretty innovative controls. Basically, a bunch of things I hadn't seen from a Tomb Raider game before.

Looks like if you're a PC gamer, Amazon has it for $15 off right now. I'm happy paying $50 for it used on PS3. $35 is a hell of a deal.
04/07/2013 at 07:23pm
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