It seems that it was yesterday when we were preparing to do the analysis of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the latest of Lara Croft's adventures to date and even though it's not a bad game and managed recover some of the original essence of the franchise, it seemed to me a title that little ended up contributing to one of the most iconic sagas of video games.
In my opinion, this happens because the current trilogy started by Tomb Raider, a title developed by Crystal Dynamics under the tutelage of Square-Enix in 2013, has tried to make a reboot of the franchise from the wrong point, focusing more in action for action, shootouts and phases full of enemies, which in the feeling of adventure and exploration which results from discovering archaeological remains that make up an exceptional history.
This thesis that I propose is not something that I take off my sleeve, but it is evident that low sales of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider attest that the most intrepid archeologist franchise does not go through one of his best moments despite the effort of the developers. Is it because it's lost the magic of the first installments? Or is it that expectations are so high that nobody knows how to row anymore in favor of the saga?
A golden start
Little did we expect the unwary that we played like crazy on PC or on the first consoles of the 3D era, like the eternal PlayStation, which we were going to rise to Lara Croft as a video game icon at the exit of his first adventure, Tomb Raider, in 1996. And it is that rarely has such a phenomenon been repeated in which a fictional and polygonal character became the object of desire or great admiration for adolescents of both genders, taking over magazine covers as important as Rolling Stone or million dollar advertising campaigns of great significance.
But I will leave aside the Lara Croft "icon", to focus the Tomb Raider as an adventure game saga, pointing out that, in this first installment, no other game had offered so much exploration, puzzles and occasional gunfights against all kinds of enemies. And is that the first Tomb Raider is the best of the saga for many, despite the fact that today the controls have been out of date, because it perfectly transmits the feeling of loneliness and constant danger that it faces a brilliant grave robber
It was precisely that feeling of loneliness in the face of danger and abundant exploration with almost impossible, superhuman jumps, which made this delivery a immediate success with a promising future, settling in places with a marked archaeological component (Peru, Egypt, etc.) and with some dazzling graphics for the time.
Predictably, the Tomb Raider continuations tried to exploit this formula endlessly, with a really convincing and varied Tomb Raider II, a somewhat weaker Tomb Raider III in its history and a The Last Revelation that, despite everything happening in Egypt, he knew how to look for the best assets to bring fresh air to the saga, considered by many to be the best classic Tomb Raider after the original.
A new era of tradition
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation had the responsibility for closing the life of Lara Croft within video games, since the financial disagreements of Core Design and the strong repetition in the game mechanics, ended up leaving the franchise on the verge of death, because nobody dared to renew a formula of success that no longer hooked.
After Chronicles, clearly a meaningless jumble of "the best of the saga" and the resounding failure of Angel of Darkness, Eidos decided it was time for the saga to go into the hands of a new studio, Crystal Dynamics that in 2006 would return the splendor of yesteryear to the saga with its notorious action-adventure title Tomb Raider Legend.
Legend, along with a perfect remake from the first Tomb Raider called Tomb Raider Anniversary (which adapted controls, graphics and Lara to the modern era) and a more irregular Underworld, became the new franchise trilogy with remarkable success, although without making Tomb Raider the referent that had been years ago.
This caused a good break in the saga and stopped along the way which included, among other things, the Square-Enix acquisition of Eidos, something that would serve Crystal Dynamic to get rid of much of the croftiana tradition, originating a reboot of the saga in 2013 under the name of Tomb Raider.
The rise of Lara Croft: the long shadow of Nathan Drake
This new 2013 Tomb Raider had a great commercial success, giving rise to the approach of another trilogy which would lead to the arrival of Rise of the Tomb Raider in 2015 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 2018, neither of which repeated sales volume or garnered critical acclaim. Why? Well, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others like me, this debacle is due to the search for a formula that disregards what differentiates Tomb Raider competition, in an effort to replicate a proven formula like that of Uncharted.
And it is that if some accused Uncharted of copy or get too inspired by Tomb Raider in their locations and tricks as treasure hunters, over time I have been able to see that Uncharted reinvented the genre with its own formula, with its pros and cons, with its followers and its detractors. However, the latest Tomb Raider are a chaotic map that imitates other sagas, but without contributing something that makes it unique and, for better or for worse, a tremendous invoice.
And is that the shadow of Nathan Drake it is too long and has ended by drowning Lara, which has been lost amid explosions, smoke screens and shootings instead of being reunited with ruins, explorations and unique artifacts which is what better knew how to make this franchise. If there is something that makes a game unique, why take it away from it instead of adapting it to current times without changing its essence
In my opinion, at least it is what it seems to me in view of the last games, it seems that the developers don't come up with a masterful formula for Tomb Raider and they seem to have forgotten what many fans have been saying for a long time, Lara Croft is a grave robber, an archeologist, an explorer and not a mercenary trapped in beautiful places.
Tomb Raider: a franchise that no one seems to understand anymore
The title of this section it's not free, It is a feeling that has accompanied me since 2013 with the reboot from Tomb Raider. Although I greatly appreciate the latest trilogy of games, especially that the bow be Lara's new iconic weapon, they have made me think that its developers do not know exactly what is this saga about or where does it come from, because they have tried very hard to transform it into something that is not, with the consequent disappointment that means for fans of the format.
I am fully aware that we can't go back to the mechanics of the classic Tomb RaiderWell, that formula would not like the general public and sales are sales, but I also know that Tomb Raider will not be what it was until reconnect with your essence, with that feeling that is felt when exploring a huge place full of traps and artifacts for the first time.
Probably both Square-Enix and the next developer of the new title of ña saga, if there is one, need replay the first Tomb Raider and revisit the title of the same name from 2013 to unite the best of both worlds. Obviously, no one will think that the 2013 installment had a bad story or bad gameplay, but they did hear the voices that warned, from the first moment, that the lack of exploration and puzzles as central elements it would not bring anything good and obviously we are at that point.
I am fully aware that achieving this requires enormous effort by all involved, but from Square and Crystal Dynamics would do well to listen. what die-hard fans of the saga have to say, more than anything because they are going to be the ones who buy the title yes or yes, as long as I offer them what they are going to look for when they play a Tomb Raider
Horizon: Zero Dawn, an example to follow
And that is one of the problems of the current Tomb Raider, you do not know exactly what you are going to play or what awaits you, something that you knew from the moment one in the first 4 Tomb Raider or, even, in the second trilogy of the saga. Thus, one knows perfectly what awaits him when it comes to gameplay when he plays a title of The Elder Scrolls or Super Mario, despite the fact that may include many new features.
Something similar to what happens in the adventures of Lara Croft, is happening with the last Final FantasyBecause with so much concern for innovating and changing, they have forgotten the most relevant premises. But there could still be hope for the saga if you look at the work of the Guerrilla Games guys with its great Horizon: Zero Dawn who is the spiritual successor to Tomb Raider in the last generation.
I don't know what you think, but Horizon has the most experience shadowy from the actuality in a completely different world, you just have to add more puzzles, more exploration, less battles and some places clearly related to historical places. I do not know if I see all this very clearly in my mind or if I have no idea what I am saying but, just as they took a risk in 2013 with a very atypical Tomb Raider, why don't they do it again with a more typical Tomb Raider but not very topical?
A half-light sunset
We don't know yet what awaits the Tomb Raider saga, although some media claim that a new installment could be announced this year of the franchise, despite the irregular sales that have served its last two titles. You might expect that with one Experienced grave robber after passing through Paititi, a new trilogy or whatever, will be used in the figure of that overwhelming Lara of the most classic installments, without losing that vulnerability you've gained in recent years.
And it is that a new Tomb Raider is not conceived if there is no a will of their own to rescue their essenceto continue doing the opposite would be to condemn him to have the days numbered, at least as a header AAA title. If a saga like Assassin’s Creed has managed to regain its validity by exploring new horizons and varying its repetitive mechanics, if Kratos has had a spectacular rebirth in the new God of War on PS4, What the hell prevents Lara Croft from stepping on places like Venice or Angkor Wat?
This is a question that studios and developers will have to answer if they do not want a saga of almost 25 years, slowly fall into oblivion after a couple of months on the shelves around the world.