Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider

About this Game

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Publisher

Square Enix

Developer

Crystal Dynamics

Release Date

November 10, 2015

Console

PlayStation 4

Time to Plat

40h+

Platinum Difficulty

Medium

Online Trophies?

No

Difficulty Trophies?

Yes

Support Us

Follow Us

It’ll Be a Cold Day in Russia When I Get This Platinum.

One of this month’s PS Plus games, Rise of the Tomb Raider is the second game in the Square Enix Tomb Raider reboot – making it the 11th Tomb Raider game overall – and takes place one year after the events of its predecessor.

I’d played it a small amount before, using a borrowed physical copy I had earned 7 trophies in February of 2018. However, I soon lost interest in the game and began playing something more exciting, no doubt. I had always wanted to come back to this as Crystal Dynamics’ original Tomb Raider release had been one of my favourite games for a long time.

And so, thanks to PS Plus, I return to it with fresh eyes and a determination to acquire the Platinum…

Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

Tome Reader

This Tomb Raider’s campaign offers more insight into Lara’s private life, introducing more backstory and characters than we’d seen before in the previous title. One thing I loved about the story and the way it was presented and formed is how it reminded me of old treasure-hunter movies like The Mummy or National Treasure.

I think someone’s here…

Cinematic cut-scenes pepper the game-play with exposition, but not so much that it becomes an issue or a pain. Usually, you’ll be given additional story as a reward for making progress through each of the open-world hubs of the game and there are more than a few very heavily action-packed segments wherein you’ll find yourself leaping over gaps, dodging boulders, and scrambling to safety while you run for Lara’s life.

The story was actually pretty exciting. It had a very slow and almost uninteresting build-up, but once given proper time the story began to develop some real tension which added to the edge-of-your-seat action in some of the more dynamic moments of gameplay.

Yeah, “Run!” is pretty good advice…

The game’s story can be easily compared to Uncharted in a lot of ways and I personally found myself constantly drawing parallels while playing, but I don’t think it is fair to compare the two as games. Obviously the graphical fidelity and storytelling in Naughty Dog’s late treasure hunting series are second-to-none for their time, but the Tomb Raider series combats this and separates itself with less linear game-play and frequent open-world hubs. I’ve often met people who prefer Tomb Raider over Uncharted purely for its openness.

One thing I would have liked, though, is more locations to visit. There’s the Syria section near the start of the game which is a pretty awe-inspiring environment with vibrant colours and great views but the rest of the game is just cold, snowy, Russian landscape for the most part and going through desaturated forest after rusty building after grey cave all gets uninteresting pretty quickly.

More of this, please, less blue and grey!

Doom Evader

The Gameplay in Rise of the Tomb Raider is actually pretty good, there’s a strong plethora of mechanics both in traversal and combat which keep things exciting and varied. These different mechanics are dished out throughout the game, too, so that just as things begin to become stale, a new tool or system is implemented.

While this is good from a gameplay perspective, from a Trophy Hunting perspective it is a bit of a pain in the behind because it means a lot of back-tracking for collectables and optional content.

One of many… many collectables.

Looking at the map retrospectively after completing the game, it’s clear that there really isn’t all that much to it, just a few hubs here and there and then some more linear connecting sections. Despite that, there is an astounding number of things to do and find, the hub areas are absolutely teeming with collectables, challenges, side-missions and more!

Throughout the game’s main campaign as well as the optional content there are a lot of excellent puzzles which make great use of the tools available to Lara as well as the game’s physics to really challenge you and your problem-solving skills. While some of them are so tricky to figure out that it’s actually a little silly, others offer just the right amount of challenge to leave you with a sense of pride in overcoming the obstacle.

Optional Challenge Tombs offer the best source of puzzles.

In-fact, I’d argue that the puzzles actually give RotTR another point over the Uncharted series, which has a practically painful lack of puzzles and even those which exist aren’t all that challenging.

Traversal and puzzles aside, the remaining main feature of this game is of course the combat. There’s a heavy theme of survival in the Crystal Dynamics Tomb Raider series and it really comes to life in the combat, too. There’s a lot of scrambling around and physical combat is a struggle for Lara as much as it is for you.

Brutal death sequences bring a shock factor to your mistakes, but it soon wears off.

Well, maybe it’s a bit more of a struggle for you because the melee combat system is really not great, but the gun-based combat is pretty well executed and there’s an enormous range of ways to approach combat depending on which equipment you want to make use of, how you’re going to use the environment and – more importantly – whether you’re going to stealth that section or go in guns blazing.

The bow is the ultimate stealth tool and the best weapon by an absolute mile.

I also really like that gun-fire sound effects are played through the controller, it adds another layer of immersion to the feel of firing the weapons, but it was clearly an afterthought during the porting of the game because the controller speaker plays all gunfire. Even enemies. Even if they’re miles away and you wouldn’t hear them through the game but there they are playing back at full volume from the controller.

This oversight and laziness of simply playing the entire audio channel for gunfire through the controller both removes any immersion they were adding but also makes it difficult to gauge how close or far an enemy is, leaving you with the choices of either muting the controller or playing with headphones.

Personally, I found the combat system to be better built for stealth, which isn’t to say that guns-blazing won’t work, but there are simply more things working in your favour if you choose to take the time to assess the environment and take a stealthy approach.

Stealth Kill!

My biggest issue with the combat though is the cover system. You don’t press anything to take cover, Lara will simply crouch behind or press against nearby cover in a somewhat conveniently dynamic way, but it isn’t perfect. I would personally prefer total control over whether Lara is taking cover or not, as well as a more snap-on type deal where she will stay in cover unless I make a very deliberate movement or press a specific button.

This issue comes into play during stealth too, as there is actually no crouch button, Lara will just start sneaking around when an unaware enemy is nearby, but I feel like I would prefer this control to be in my hands to being babysat by the game over it.

Using cover to hide from enemies while stealthing is also not that effective. It may be due to playing on a higher difficulty, but enemies seemed to be able to see Lara through most low cover. Walls seemed to be the best bet, but even then they seemed to be able to see around corners a lot of the time, which proved very frustrating.

This section on Survivor was near-impossible. They could see through the water and the smoke in the room, making it extremely difficult to stealth as you’ll get shot at almost immediately.

Weapons and weapon upgrades very cool. Game puts a cap on upgrade materials, super dumb.

Relic Hoarder

Rise of the Tomb Raider has an unholy amount of things to collect throughout your journey in the Siberian wastes:

  • Documents. These will usually teach you some of either Greek, Russian or Mongolian, which Lara can use to read Monuments.
  • Murals. These will also teach Lara some language skills. Some will reveal the locations of other documents and relics.
  • Monuments. Often these require Lara to have a skill level in one of the three languages, reading one will reveal the location of coin caches on the map.
  • Relics. These inspect-able objects will offer you some lore and insight into history and cultures of the area.
  • Adventurers Backpacks. These will reveal the locations of the Survival Caches on the map, but are not needed for completion.
  • Survival Caches. These buried caches will provide you with plenty of upgrade and crafting supplies.
  • Coin Caches & Coin Piles. These golden Byzantine coins serve as an untraceable currency to be used in the Supply Shack to buy optional equipment and weaponry.

Each collectable will have it’s own icon on the map when they are revealed and each sector of the map has it’s own checklist of the collectables to find in that location. Finding them all will earn you 100% completion of the area, very important for those going for the Platinum like myself.

Icons and checklist on the map.

Due to the sheer number of collectables and the way many of them will reveal others, collecting them all is nothing but a pain in the rear. It’s hard to be methodical about clearing each map because you’ll often find yourself backtracking an insane amount to locations where a new item has been revealed. Finding as many as you can in your initial playthrough is vital to completion.

Mode Changer

Rise of the Tomb Raider has done away with the multiplayer game mode (and, thankfully, the trophies which went along with that) and instead introduced a leaderboard system. This leaderboard system involves the “Expeditions” option in the main menu. Through this option you can replay certain parts of the game to try and earn high scores, but it’s very useful for trophy cleanup too.

There is a standard Chapter Replay which gives you the equipment you would have at that part of the game, or you can play Chapter Replay Elite which is essentially like a “New Game +” mode, allowing you to keep access to all your equipment and upgrades.

There are then more fun modes which add more elements to the gameplay, such as the Score Attack mode, which Trophy Hunters will find themselves becoming very familiar with. This mode introduces combo multipliers and additional collectables to help you earn an even higher score, but i’ll talk more about it later.

The best thing about Expeditions mode are the challenges and modifier cards you’re given access to. The challenges are optional and there are a few to complete per stage, you can activate up to 5 per run and trying to complete them all could be a fun challenge for anyone seeking some extra content, but it’s not required for the Platinum Trophy.

The modifier cards, however, really stir things up! Through these modifier cards you can give yourself skills, weapons or equipment for your run, you can make the enemies or yourself tougher, or indeed do the opposite. There’s even a few cards there just for fun such as Big Head mode.

Opening a card pack.

You can buy cards by spending points (or real cash…) which you’ll earn throughout the story as you reach certain milestones, and you’ll also earn this currency from completing the optional Expedition Mode challenges. Using a card will remove it from your collection, though, unfortunately. Unless you earn a black version of the card, these are permanent and can be used multiple times.

I am, however, disappointed by the selection of cards available. If you ignore all of the cards which give you outfits or equipment, all that remains is about 20-ish actual gameplay modifiers which aren’t all that exciting when it comes down to it. Still, I had fun playing around with these for the Score Attack trophies.

I started off by selling all my duplicates so I could buy more cards, only to find out they were one-time use and I’d sold some pretty damn good cards.

My Rise of the Tomb Raider Platinum Experience

Survivor Difficulty Playthrough

I had actually already played Rise of the Tomb Raider a little bit, years ago. I’d borrowed the game but couldn’t be bothered platting it so I gave it back. Upon returning to my save file I saw that it was 11% complete and on Tomb Raider difficulty. This wouldn’t do, because to earn the platinum I would need to complete the campaign on Survivor difficulty and so I started a new game.

Survivor difficulty is surprisingly not that difficult. I noticed I got resources quite sparingly and enemies could take up to 5 or 6 body shots before they went down. But all it really meant was that I was more stealthy and conservative with my resources and I exclusively went for either stealth kills or one-hit-kill headshots.

There were a few situations where stealth simply wasn’t an option and in these moments is where I found the most struggle. If ever there were more than two enemies shooting at me it got very difficult to manage and grenades seem to be thrown around a whole lot on Survivor difficulty so there is never really anywhere you can take cover for very long.

On survival, healing can only be done manually, there is no auto-heal!

In those situations I would simply keep moving and do my best to get headshots as quickly as possible (which I’m admittedly not great at). It would often take multiple attempts to make it out alive and well but as every fight is very consistent it’s easy to come up with a decent game plan after only a couple of attempts.

As I made more progress, combat encounters started to become more difficult. There were many encounters which couldn’t be completed stealthily because either the location was far too densely populated to hide from everyone, or because the enemies see you as part of the story. These were the most brutal fights and took some real effort and – if I’m totally honest – blind luck to get through.

Having the “Survival Instincts” on helped a lot in my playthrough. Not only did it point out nearby collectables and resources which I was keeping an eye out for along the way, but it helps in combat by telling you whether an enemy can be killed without alerting others, something which made stealth laughably easy.

Using Survival Instincts.

Also, because it was the 20-year anniversary edition we were given, I started the game with lots of additional DLC content such as powerful weapons. One such weapon was the Venom Pistol, a very powerful gun which helped me blow my way through most combat situations with little-to-no resistance.

Along the way I was obviously trying to unlock skills, buy upgrades, and gather as many collectables as possible, while completing any Side Missions, Challenges or Optional Tombs as I could once I came across them. A lot of the time, though, I was locked out of certain areas due to not having the right equipment to progress, so over time I started to get more and more fed up with going out of my way to discover something new only to find out I’d need to come back later.

A Tetris Easter Egg!

Due to that as well as the fact the story was getting more exciting, I began to get tunnel vision and set my sights on finishing the story in order to do cleanup later. Thus, I only really collected things which were en route to the objective and everything else was left to one side for phase two of my trophy journey.

The final Boss battle on Surivor was pretty brutal to be honest, it took a few attempts just because of the number and variety of enemies it threw at me, but once I’d found a secure spot to hold out I was able to funnel all of the enemies onto a single balcony where Poison Arrows and the Shotgun were my ally, securing my completion of the game and earning me the Ultimate Survivor trophy!

Collectable Clean-up

With the story complete I headed all the way back to the first area and began cleaning up shop. It ended up being pretty satisfying. I had all the tools I needed and so simply made my way methodically through each area slowly raising the completion to 100%.

I was getting a lot of resources along the way too, for upgrades to weapons, gear and skills.

The thing is, some collectables reveal more collectables on the map. So a lot of the time, I would clear an area thinking I was pretty much done, only to find a map revealing several more locations.

I also had to complete optional challenge tombs, which were okay to be honest, some of the puzzles were really quite challenging which offered a lot more satisfaction upon completion than if they had just been quick dash and grab tombs.

The sound of wind-chimes will let you know when an Optional Tomb is nearby.

The more annoying things to do were optional challenges and side-quests. They ended up taking much more time, especially since a lot of them were half-complete and I had to take a moment to gather my bearings and figure out where I was and what was left to do.

I also disliked how fast travel is only possible from a camp. So I’d start at a camp and work my way through the whole area completing everything and checking off the various collectables on the list in the Touchpad menu, then I’d have to find another camp nearby just to leave to the next location.

Some locations even had various barriers left over from the action sequences in the story which meant fast travelling within each area too, often not knowing if you can progress or not until you hit a wall, struggle to get around it for a while, and then end up traipsing back to camp to fast travel.

Who would have thought that this dope action sequence would become such a pain in the future…

On top of that, the map was often unhelpful, It would show something’s exact location on the map but the entrance to that area could be a 10-minute hike in the opposite direction and underground. Relying on the map too much leads to a lot of wasted time!

To make matters worse, when you’re viewing the map for fast-travel purposes you can’t see any of the collectable icons. You need to back out, open your map via the touchpad, check the collectables you need, close your map, go back into the camp, open fast travel again and then fast travel where you need to be.

The two biggest areas which took longest to complete were the Soviet Installation and the Geothermal Valley. Both were large open areas with multiple optional tombs and a hefty checklist of collectables to gather. The Soviet Installation was at around 70% completion when I revisited it, but the Geothermal Valley was only at 40% completion and took a good few hours to fully complete.

The Geothermal Valley is home to a group of medieval-armour-clad survivors

After I’d finally finished up the Lost City section of the map, I was done with collectables! And boy does that feel good! I took a quick trip to the supply shack to use the Gold coins to buy everything there for another trophy and it was onto the next phase of my Trophy Hunt, the misc trophies…

Misc Trophies

This phase mostly consisted of using chapter select to replay chapters from before I had killed everyone, this is because I had a lot of combat trophies left over. Knock people off ledges, kill someone with a bottle, kill 6 enemies with the revolver without reloading, that sort of thing!

Killing three enemies with a Shotgun made for a pretty great trophy screenshot!

I played using “Chapter Replay Elite” which allowed me to keep my weapons, tools, and upgrades. I also set the difficulty to Adventurer so that I wouldn’t have to deal with any unnecessary struggle when collecting these remaining trophies. For the most part they were pretty easy to acquire, the hardest part was just finding the right group of enemies for each achievement.

Where it started really becoming a pain was with the more grind-y trophies such as shooting 15 deer in the heart. Deer aren’t exactly rare but in the dense forest areas where they live you’re more likely to spook them before you’ve even seen them, so it’s a right game of cat and mouse trying to get just one of them, never mind 15! Then, of course, they don’t respawn half as quickly as you’d like them to which means going the extra mile to speed up the process. No fun at all.

This trophy screenshot appears to have captured the deer’s spirit leaving its body.

Thankfully, after about 7 or 8 to-the-heart deer kills, I discovered that the Chapter “Research Base” spawns you with a deer right in front of you! So obviously once I discovered that, I just kept shooting the deer and then reloading checkpoint until the trophy was mine.

Score Attack Playthrough

This was the hardest part of my Trophy Journey. There’s a trophy called “Golden Child” which requires you to play through every single level and optional tomb of the game on “Score Attack” mode of the Expeditions menu and come out the other side with a Gold Star rating based on how much score you rack up.

Leaderboards let you see and use what other have used as modifiers. Comparing your score to theirs at the end.

These stages are modified slightly to include will-o-the-wisp-looking blue flames which are laid out in a trail throughout, which are actually kind of helpful as they show you the way to go in most cases. As well as these, there are paper lanterns which you can shoot down for additional score.

Score is earned in the following ways:

  • Killing enemies (more score depending on the difficulty, so Survivor difficulty is recommended… Again!)
  • Collecting Blue Flames
  • Shooting down Paper Lanterns
  • Finding collectables such as survival caches, coins, relics, etc.
  • Gathering resources such as wood, medicinal leaves, etc.
  • Picking up ammo
Flames and lanterns.

On top of this, there are several ways to give your score a boost at the end, these include:

  • Keeping a combo. Every time you earn score, your score multiplier will increase by 1x – to a maximum of 99x – and a short timer will start, failing to earn score before the timer runs out will end your combo.
  • Applying detrimental modifier cards. You can apply modifiers in Score Attack via cards purchased in the shop. The more detrimental the card is, the higher the score multiplier. For example, the card “Struggle” will prevent you from healing at all but will award you a 100% score bonus, you can apply up to 5 cards. In most decent runs, I had a multiplier of 200-350% from modifier cards.
  • Completing the stage as quickly as possible. From the start of the run, there is a time bonus score in the top left, this will continuously tick down to 0, so the quicker you finish the stage, the more of that bonus score you get to keep!

My main focus was obviously just to finish every stage with a gold rating and through this process, every other trophy popped too. There is one trophy in particular which had me worried, which requested that I complete 5 levels without taking any damage at all, but this is actually very easy as some of the optional tombs have no enemies at all and so it’s very easy to avoid damage.

Aren’t you impressed? I completed 5 enemy-less stages without taking damage…

Getting a gold rating on every stage actually wasn’t all that difficult either, in most cases I managed to do it within my first attempt. The issue was how long it was taking to work my way through them all. I essentially just made sure I had the best score multiplier I could for that stage (i.e. If there is little-to-no combat, I could use cards which reduced my ammo or health because I wouldn’t need it) and then completed the stage as quickly as possible while babysitting my combo to ensure it never dropped.

For the combat heavy stages I used a card which gave me infinite poison arrows. These were a one-hit-kill on almost any enemy and allowed me to make it through most encounters completely unscathed within record time! The downside was that this card had a -50% score multiplier, so I’d have to use a risky card such as the perma-death card which forced me to restart a level if I died in exchange for a 100% score increase.

Once I reached the end of this phase of my journey, I realised I still had a stealth kill trophy for getting 25 stealth kills with the combat knife that I never earned along the way. Obviously, I was relying on my bow too much! I used Chapter Select Elite to quickly nip in and grab that very last trophy, leaving me with a Plat I was proud to have earned.

My Platinum Screenshot ain’t too shabby either!

Time Breakdown

Initial Story Playthrough & Some Collectables

Collectable Cleanup

Misc Cleanup

Score Attack Playthrough

That concludes my Rise of the Tomb Raider Trophy Review. If you enjoyed reading this review, please do let us know, it means the world to us when we hear feedback and we love engaging with people over the game we just platted. It’s basically the only thing motivating us at the moment!

You can follow us on Twitter @GetPlat and Instagram @platget where we’ll be sharing updates, upcoming reviews and general gripes about the games we’re working on so feel free to follow us or use it as another channel for feedback!

Verdict

Play

As good as Rise of the Tomb Raider is, the platinum trophy was just that little bit too far for my tastes. Getting all of the collectables was a much bigger chore than it would be in most other games and the Score Attack playthrough was simply overkill.

Pros

  • Very exciting Action Sequences
  • Vast array of weapons and skills
  • Wide range of traversal tools keeps exploration fresh

Cons

  • Far too linear in some sections
  • Collectables are nothing but a needless chore
  • No dedicated crouch button
  • environments quickly grow stale

Gold Trophy

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fine example of a decent treasure hunting game and it's hard to argue otherwise. My qualms with platting the game aside, it genuinely is a fantastic game with some truly great moments and mechanics.

About the Author

More fond of single-player experiences and story-driven games than anything else, TheDblTap has a keen eye for secrets and collectables, a skill which serves him well as a Trophy Hunter. However, with little patience and poor timing, he can struggle where MrZhangetsu would succeed.

More from TheDblTap