You can’t hold Lara down — her defining moments may have been in recent years, but her legacy spans way before the latest three titles.
With the new Tomb Raider game recently hitting the shelves and it being the last in the rebooted trilogy, it feels like now is a good a time as any to take a look back at the impressive, albeit rocky history, of the Tomb Raider’s past exhibitions.
Video game history over the years has given us some truly iconic characters to inspire and amaze us. From Master Chief to Spyro, Mario, Pikachu and countless more – they all helped shape the industry in some influential way. Lara Croft is another classic in this calibre – a female gaming icon that challenged the way developers thought; with the rapid advancement in technology in the 1990s giving new ground to what a video game could be.
A sex symbol, feminist portrait, and a dual wielding, all-around badass female – Ms Croft had quite the job to do, and she’s still doing it after several makeovers and over 20 years later.
Born in Derby, the team within Core Design were the fathers of the franchise and saw immense success from the 1996 launch, simply titled ‘Tomb Raider’. Released on PlayStation 1 and Sega Saturn, the game sold a total of 7 million copies, which ain’t bad for a first 3D pilot game in the mid-90s now, is it?
The games that followed slipped ever-so-slightly but bringing in 6 million sold copies per year was still a steady feat until issues started to shine through following the measly 1.5 million sales of ‘Tomb Raider: Chronicles’… Ouch.
At this point, the franchise had seemingly frozen with no clear direction in sight – with the die-hard fans still waiting on the triumphant return, with the backing of new hardware in the PlayStation 2.
It wasn’t until 3 years later in 2003 where eagerly awaited fans got their hands on The Angel of Darkness, a game that had tarnished Tomb Raiders yearly release schedule but gave Core Design more sales than the last tired attempt, albeit only by 1 million more.
So what did Lara’s 3 year holiday give us in the end? Well, not a lot, just more of the same with some enhanced graphical capabilities and some rushed development. This, however, could have been down to the pressure of the first feature film coming out the same year and the need to get the game out alongside it.
A Slippery Slope:
Things didn’t overly improve for the franchise in the next coming years, the certain staleness carried through even on the titles released on next-gen machines like the 360 and PS3 – things looked bleak with each game including Legend in 2006 and Anniversary in 2007 selling just over 3 million between the both of them, despite Crystal Dynamics taking the reins.
It was in the year of 2008 that we were given underworld and that seemed about it for Tomb Raider – a fairly average game that we came to expect and, well, I certainly seemed ready to give up hope, but that feeling didn’t last for too long.
It was soon after the less than substantial success of Underworld, that Crystal Dynamics decided to set to work on what’s next for Lara, which is something we didn’t find out till five years later and rest assured, it was a tediously long wait.
Originally aimed for a 2010 release, we finally got our hands on a reworked, young and clueless Lara – and oh boy was it a switch up.
Yeah, it may have been years longer than expected to hit the shelves, but for very good reasons. This was the second time the franchise had been re-imagined and rebooted, and after the less than gripping first attempt – this was make or break.
The brains behind breakthrough decided to focus on the origins of Miss Croft’s journey and give it the freshest story, gameplay, and mechanics we’ve seen in the past 20 years of the hardened hero. Seeing Lara in this whole new light was not overlooked by fans, old and new, and the game shifted a staggering amount of copies, more than any of her previous adventures.
Just like that, an icon who was once clinging on to success had been rebuilt into something emotionally charged and deviously fun in gameplay.
This thankfully followed through in the second phase of Square Enix’s master plan and Rise of The Tomb Raider built upon everything great the 2013 reboot had blessed us with, all the while adding subtle new features that didn’t feel like overkill.
Even though I, personally, preferred the first instalment of the trilogy more than the second offering, this for me was mainly down to the storyline narrative. The skill set and combat abilities seemed fine-tuned within ‘Rise of’, something that we can see has been further improved in the latest release.
The Newest Lara:
As Lara advances in age, confidence, and ease of killing, we can see the advancement in different skills and even how they are laid out. Taking her back to a more jungle-themed setting, we can see how the new skills fair with the more old foes she’s faced in her past, or future, depending on how you look at it (this is an origin trilogy after all).
It’s exciting to see a new batch of skills and variations evolve from what we’ve seen in the past two games, but re-imagined for a new setting. Even though Rise of the Tomb Raider was located in Serbia opposed to the hidden land of Yamati in 2013, the scenery and atmosphere certainly followed through. From what we’ve seen so far, Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks truly spectacular going back to its jungle-themed roots.
Now we finally have our hands on the game, do you think this is a misstep for the franchise and the start of another dark era? Or does the newest title live up the last releases and provide an epic end to Lara’s origin?
You can check out our full review of Shadow of The Tomb Raider here