Release Date: March 5, 2013
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
Lara Croft has long been one of gaming's most recognizable mascots, though the Indiana Jones-inspired treasure hunter is being remixed for 2013. Regular franchise developer Crystal Dynamics is hitting the reboot button on Croft, with a fresh, new origin story to play through in the upcoming March 2013 release, Tomb Raider.
What We Know:
The rebooted Tomb Raider finds a 21-year-old Lara Croft freshly out of school and off on a sea voyage. She's off to find herself and establish a presence in the world, not unlike so many other recent graduates. The journey takes a dark turn when Lara's ship is cut in two by a violent storm, leaving her and her fellow survivors stranded on a remote tropical island.
Tomb Raider diverges significantly from its predecessors in terms of how the unfolding story is presented, with the fully open world being a central component. The inexperienced Lara's first tasks on the island include getting basic survival needs in order, including food and water, a means of defense, and a sense of the surrounding environment. The story eventually gives way to a conflict with the island's resident mercenaries, with a key early scene chronicling Lara's first human kill.
The open world includes exactly the sort of environmental puzzles and platforming that have been a series hallmark since the early days, but the scope of the environment promises less of a structured adventure and more of a player-influenced journey. Tomb Raider also features a significant RPG component, with item upgrades being crafted out of collected "salvage" at the game's Base Camps. Lara also earns experience that unlocks skill points that you can spend to improve various abilities.
Lara will have opportunities to develop as players push through the main story, though the open world offers plenty of diversions as well. The 12-15 hour campaign is joined by an assortment of side quests and challenge tombs as well as the expected helping of exploration-promoting collectibles.
Just a few weeks ago, Square Enix also confirmed that Tomb Raider will feature a separate competitive multiplayer component. The Eidos Montreal-developed mode is a team-based affair, with three different modes to play on five maps. Survivors are pitted against the island's scavengers in 4v4 matches. The different maps offer unique opportunities in the form of traps and other interactive points of interest.
The younger Lara also necessitated the hiring of a new voice actor to replace longtime series lead Keeley Hawes. Lara will be voiced in this rebooted Tomb Raider by Camilla Luddington, an English actor who is perhaps known best in the U.S. for her roles in True Blood, Californication, and Grey's Anatomy.
What We Expect:
Crystal Dynamics has a lot of history with Lara Croft and a killer team has assembled around this reboot, one that includes God of War's Cory Balrog and Mirror's Edge writer Rhianna Pratchett. The move away from the generally linear story focus of the previous games is only a good thing, as gamer culture increasingly shows favor to more open-ended experiences.
Many comparisons have been made between Ubisoft's Far Cry 3 and what we know of the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, due to the focus in both games on jungle survival and personal transformation. The final product will no doubt offer plenty of its own unique elements, but if you're looking for a touchstone to help you understand what Crystal Dynamics is going for in Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3 is a valid example for comparison. At least based on what we know right now.
In general, expect great things. Crystal Dynamics has some good ideas in play here and everything we've seen of the game so far has been very encouraging.