Rise of the Tomb Raider is by far one of the best games to come out in 2015. It is everything you want in a video game and more.
The 2013 reboot simply called "Tomb Raider" changed the formula of the franchise as it was more action-packed like Naughty Dog's Uncharted series. Even though it was a great game, some fans felt it relied too much on action.
I was one of those fans that felt the 2013 game had too much action. It lacked the exploration levels of the older games and featured way too many gun fights. It was still an entertaining game, but felt too much like Uncharted for my taste.
Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics has listened to the fan feedback and Rise of the Tomb Raider is a more rewarding and fun experience. Sure it still has several action sequences, but it never feels too overwhelming.
This is because Crystal Dynamics has dialed back on the action to allow you to handle it your own way. You can choose to go out like Rambo, or you can choose to stay quiet and take out enemies using stealth.
The combat has improved immensely since the last game allowing you to play the way you want to. The game feels more like The Last of Us in a lot of ways. Lara Croft still has a nifty bow and arrow, but she also has a crafting system too.
The crafting system allows her to make several different types of grenades or arrows. Not to mention she also has a new grappling hook to allow her to swing like Spider-Man to reach higher ledges and more.
The thing that makes this game far superior to the last game is the way it has been paced. There's more input into actual exploration with a sprinkle of some puzzles here and there to vary up the gameplay. It's not wave after wave of machine gun fights over and over again like the last game.
Another thing that make this game such a joy to play is that it's neither too hard or easy to play. I played this game at a normal pace and never did I get frustrated playing it. Even if you do get stuck, you can always look on the map as it shows you where you have to go next.
If there is one minor gripe in the gameplay, it's that it holds your hand too many times. In older Tomb Raider games, you are forced to find out things for yourself. This game gives you far too many clues sometimes that it makes puzzle solving a little on the easy side.
However, this game doesn't have so many quick time events (QTEs) like the last game so that's a good thing. The previous game used too may QTEs that it broke the flow of gameplay. The new game only uses it sparingly.
Rise of the Tomb Raider also has a decent story with a lot of character development. Lara Croft is no longer the scared little girl that she was in the last game. She has matured and is determined to stop Trinity once and for all.
However, her mission is difficult because both her and Trinity want to seek out "The Divine Source". The Divine Source grants its users immortality. She has to make sure she gets to it first before Trinity wants to use it for its own devious purposes.
It may seem like a cliche story on paper, but it's not. I'm not going to spoil anything for you here, but the story takes a lot of twists and turns along the way. The story never gets too boring and it will make you want to play until the very end to see how it concludes.
Crystal Dynamics is also smart for getting rid of the previous game's redundant mutliplayer mode. The studio has instead focused on making the single player experience more lengthy and rewarding and this results in a much better game overall.
After you have finished the 12-14 hour campaign, there are tons of other things you can do. This includes optional tombs and other side missions that you may have missed. I remember finishing the story, but only had a 50 percent completion rate. There's a lot that you can do here.
Graphically, Rise of the Tomb Raider is by far one of the prettiest looking games I've ever seen on the Xbox One. The Siberian Wilderness looks wonderful and the character models look realistic too. The in-game graphics are as good as CG cutscenes featured in other games.
Not to mention the voice acting is also immaculate. Camilla Luddington does a perfect job of voicing Lara Croft once again. Her voice never sounds too corny or unbelievable. I'm glad Crystal Dynamics decided to keep her as she's the perfect actress for a character like Lara Croft.
It goes without saying, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a much better game than its predecessor. It is also one of the best games I have played all year. I would go as far as saying it could be THE best game of 2015.