Sunday, October 30, 2016

Game Diary - Tomb Raidin'.

I like Rise of the Tomb Raider.  I really like it - not done it, yet - the story and story presentation is farcical, its gameplay loops are sublime.  Mostly, this means its wide-open areas, thick with collectibles and doors protecting secret areas with enticing locktease and little side-tombs to master.  Once you solve whatever platforming/physics puzzle they wield, you get to open up a millennia-old manifest carved in stone, and your reward is ancient knowledge.  That's awesome.

Just platforming around its areas feels good - all the little mechanics like wall-jumps and axe-swings give it just a nudge more depth, making it more rewarding and involving than Uncharted's relatively tame but gorgeously-presented movement.

One thing I pointed out in the podcast last week, I feel like Rise idealizes Lara too much, to the point that she's devoid of flaws or... humanity.  This is perhaps a reaction to the controversy the reboot enjoyed when it attempted to frame Lara as a victim of sexual assault.  I like that there are no animation frames that call attention to her female figure, I like that all of her costume options are actually really hardy, practical ensembles for the Siberian weather she's spending most of the game in.

In the old games, there would always be sexy animations - Lara would pull herself up onto a ledge in a suggestive, gymnastic flourish, she would swan dive off cliffs like a model in a perfume add - not so, here.  When Lara cliff dives in Rise, she assumes the form of a Navy SEAL, dropping straight down, feet first, with her arms crossed over her chest for stability.

It's nice to see - but Lara is so perfectly capable, proficient and confident that her adventure feels absolutely inconsequential, as a result.  It's kind of the Superman situation - it's obviously impossible to hurt her or give her a challenge she's incapable of overcoming, so the stakes are nonexistent.

This is a stark departure from the Lara we got in the Tomb Raider reboot.  There, Lara didn't think she could do it.  She was John McClane, getting the absolute shit beat out of her over the course of that campaign, but a combination of luck and skill saw her gather up her courage and forge through an impossible challenge.  By the end, like The Guy In Die Hard, she was a staggering, desperate woman smashing through her limits - a legit, badass, awesome hero.

In Rise, she's not a human hero who's overcoming the impossible.  She's Rambo.

The gameplay?  Sublime.  The narrative?  Two steps forward, three steps back.

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