The recent release of Tomb Raider thrills once weary gamers 

Lara Croft returns for a new round of thrill seeking and adventure

Tomb Raider is a game series that players aren’t usually too keen on when it comes to picking up the new installment. During its heyday, Tomb Raider was well respected for bringing a new sense of adventure to gaming while also placing a female as the leading character.

As the game gained popularity, sequels soon forgot about raiding tombs and put emphasis on enhancing heroine Lara Croft’s sex appeal. The series soon faded away in the mid-2000s, but jokes about Croft’s disproportionate body were still relevant.

Luckily the people at Square Enix, best known for working on the Final Fantasy and the Dragon Quest series, teamed up with Crystal Dynamics to breathe new life into the series this time around. Their goal: to create a well-rounded Lara Croft that players will relate to, while bringing the franchise away from sexuality to return to its survival-driven adventure roots.

Tomb Raider features a beautiful, yet classy, version of Croft. The first adventure entails a trek to the find the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Lara’s ship crashes in the opening credits leaving her stranded and forced into survival mode.

The game takes the player through the motions of Lara’s ascension into action superstar. Gamers begin with a meager bow for hunting food as Lara is forced to utilize rock outcroppings for shelter.

It’s this portion of the game that builds Lara’s character and regains lost credibility with fans. Croft’s character is fragile and new to adventuring, so she acts accordingly in-game.

Every fall or wound is met with gut -wrenching, lifelike screams that caused me want to keep Lara out of harm’s way. On top of that the game has some grisly death animations. The most notable came during a downhill slide through rapids; I missed the correct input and Lara was horrifically impaled through her neck. I spent the next five minutes replaying the section, determined to repeat the mistake I had previously made.

After an hour or so of playing Tomb Raider, I had developed a protective bond with Miss Croft — one that was built through sad exposition based scenes and gameplay that’s saturated in player immersion.

The game seamlessly switches at a certain point, and the explosions, free running and combat becomes incredibly intense. Granted, if you’ve ever played any of the games from the Uncharted series, the mechanics will feel very familiar.

Tomb Raider is packed with color-coded free running, a hectic cover based combat system, and satisfying close quarter takedowns much like Uncharted.

The weapons that one acquires throughout the game feel powerful and are satisfying to fire. The combat system allows for players that are more privy for stealth to take the bow, climb to a tree top and begin shooting arrows into bad guys while completely clandestine.

The bow is hands down the best weapon in the game and probably the most fun to use.

There is also a skill and credit system that allows Lara to upgrade herself or her weapons after accumulating enough points. This allows players to further tailor Lara to their specific play style. I personally maxed out my bow and close quarters stats for a more assassin Lara.

That’s the real beauty of the last half of the game. Players then begin to accumulate weapons, maxing skill trees and taking thrilling risks. You’re an action hero now, and the gameplay certainly reflects that.

Not a combat person you say? Have no fear — Tomb Raider has hidden goodies galore. There are hidden maps, trinkets, GPS signals and even secret tombs for you and Lara to raid. I went through the full game and only had a 66% completion rating because of the immense amount of hidden material.

My only advice to interested gamers is to play Tomb Raider on the hardest setting, since the game felt pretty simple otherwise. I played a quick run through on normal and outside of some missed inputs, I only died to enemies once or twice.

The new Tomb Raider offers a fantastic new take on a once dying series, offering gamers an engaging story, fun combat and challenges that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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