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Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game I have been looking forward before it was even announced. I loved A Survivor is Born, it had great action, a fantastic villain with Himiko and Lara was a great character. Sure the supporting cast wasn't as good as they could have been but they weren't bad and I did want to see them make it out alive.
But that all changed when I started reading the tie-in comics set between Survivor and Rise and they where Awesome. The comics really flesh out Sam and Jonah's characters, helped by Gail Simone and Rhianna Pratchett's excellent writing. They really made me care for these two and I couldn't wait to see what role Sam would play in Rise since she became one of my favorite characters thanks to these comics.
Sadly towards the end it was clear that a bit of Himiko's soul had made it into Sam and that she would be left out of Rise's plot. While I‘m at least glad that Sam wasn't killed off I hate that she was Put on the Bus because I had really come to love her character and her relationship with Lara was one of the highlights of the comics.
I also don't like that Lara's PTSD was mostly pushed to the side even though the first trailer and the comics showed she was still suffering from the events of Survivor. So yes, the game is guilty of Wasting a Perfectly Good Plot AND a Perfectly Good Character with Sam.
With that said, I have to say that I actually liked Rise just as much as, if not more, then Survivor. I like that it has a Softer and Lighter tone rather than trying to make it Darker and Edgier the Survivor. Which make sense, the first game killed off half the cast and Lara went through hell and, in my opinion, had suffered enough. And it's not like Rise lacks drama or that Lara has is a weaker character. The events of Survivor and the comics can still be felt and they do have an impact on her but that's Shown instead of Told.
And I'm glad that the game doesn't make it so you HAVE to read the comic to understand what's going on. So yeah I enjoyed Rise of the Tomb Raider. It's a solid game and, in my opinion, An Even Better Sequel.
And who knows, maybe The Bus Will Come Back and Sam will return in Tomb Raider 3 and play a major role with her relationship with Lara getting a major focus and even be playable for a mission or two. So, you know, fingers crossed.
I won't be focusing much on the gameplay here. All of those parts work like they should. No real complaints there.
But my gripes have to do with the writing. Namely, that this game feels less like a proper sequel and more like a filler episode. The last game left things - Lara's mental state, Sam, etc, up for some potentially very interesting development. But this game not only fails to follow up on these threads, it seems to go well out of its way to avoid touching them at all. Wanted to see Lara's PTSD have effects on her? Eh, it's paid a bit of lip service, but she's otherwise the same as she was in the first game. Wanted to see the game stick it to Straight Male Gamers and have Lara and Sam hook up? Too bad; Sam is a non-entity here. Even the plot feels like a rerun of the reboot down to its characters, and seems far more interested in setting up a Myth Arc than developing Lara as a character.
The reboot was an extremely dark and unpleasant game at times with what it subjected Lara to. The payoff should not be just to see Lara survive, but evolve as the series continues. To see that this sequel chooses to rehash so many elements of the previous game, continue to wallow in self-serious darkness, and refuse to meaningfully develop her character further is saddening. I struggle to find a justification as to why. Was it because Square Enix demanded a trilogy out of an origins story, and left the developers scrambling to drag it out? A desire to keep the tone as far from Uncharted as possible? A misunderstanding as to what fans want out of the reboot series?
All the potential to take her and this series into territory that couldn't have been explored otherwise is going begging so far. A third game could fix all of this, mind you, but that is a lot of pressure to pick up the slack, and even more so given that this has supposedly underperformed in sales and the reboot was already under fire for merely selling six million copies.
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