2013’s reboot of the Tomb Raider series may have performed well among critics, players and at retail, but less so with traditional fans of of the long-running series.
There’s no doubt that Tomb Raider (2013) was a decent action adventure, but it certainly lacked a number of elements that have always been core to the series. Gone was the focus on raiding of actual tombs, with only a tiny smattering of optional areas hidden around the island that rarely consisted of more than one or two rooms. And for a franchise built on challenging environmental puzzles and platforming mechanics, it was always clear exactly how to get to where you needed to go, thanks to level design that funneled players forward, always forward. Sure, you could backtrack and find secrets, but there was never any real reason to.
As you’d expect, Lara’s last (chronologically her first) outing proved divisive, with accusations that it was little more than a repurposed Uncharted clone trading on an established brand doing little to satisfy players hoping for a return to glory. Speaking in an interview with US gaming magazine Game Informer, Crystal Dynamics’ Noah Hughes – creative director on the new game – said that his team had “heard the feedback” resulting from the reboot, and that Rise of the Tomb Raider will see something a little closer to the puzzle-focused Tomb Raiding days of yore.
“Puzzles are an important part of the Tomb formula, so we’re excited to have more tombs in the game, featuring more puzzles,” he explained in the interview. “You’ll still see a spectrum of difficulty for puzzles, so some of the secret tombs are larger and in some cases might have more difficult puzzles, but we’re trying to put them in the game in a ramped kind of way. But we really do celebrate puzzle design as a unique facet of our gameplay formula,
But wait a minute – there’s a couple of qualifiers there. The reference to “secret” tombs suggests that these areas will still be optional diversions rather than central to go the gameplay, while there was the careful sneaking in of the word “some”. But aside from that, what exactly does he mean by more difficult?
“Our intent is to challenge the player but we don’t want average players getting into stalemates,” he explained. “So one of the things we’re doing to push the level of accomplishment with these tombs is something we call nested puzzles, which were actually common in classic Tomb Raider games. It’s where you have multiple sides to a room or multiple things you have to do to solve the main puzzle. And this really allows you to actively tinker with these different elements rather than just standing there… and scratching your head.”
“These tombs will take you longer to solve but it’s still an interesting combination of physics and cause-and-effect systems that add up to that grand finale of getting through that door at the end of the room.”
On the face of it, that sounds like they’re still being careful to not make things too challenging, and the mention of physics suggests we still might be seeing the same old “weight down a platform cause another one to rise up” puzzles that we’ve come to expect from Crystal Dynamics over the years. And probably barrels of some description. Lots and lots of barrels.
Rise of the Romb Raider is due for release sometime towards the end of this year on Xbox 360 and Xbox One, with a PC release coming later. A timed exclusivity window with Microsoft doesn’t mean it won’t appear on PlayStation 4 at some point, but we’re guessing the exclusivity is set to last for at least 6 months, possibly longer. Of course, Crystal Dynamics is handling development duties again, though the 360 version is being handled by port-stalwarts Nixxies.