This is the first Tomb Raider game that I've played since Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider III back on the PS1. That was ages ago, but this reboot still felt very familiar. They've managed to keep the atmosphere while updating the gameplay.
The game begins when Lara’s ship crashes onto the island of Yamatai, which has been taken over by an insane cult called the Solarii Brotherhood. Unlike the previous Tomb Raider games I've played, Lara stays on that island and doesn't visit other countries. I really enjoyed the beautiful setting. You can explore the forests, the beach, the ancient Japanese buildings and the mountainside. There’s also a sense of history as you can see the shanty town and the fortress that the current crazed inhabitants live in, as well as the abandoned bases and shipwrecks from the survivors that were stranded in Yamatai before the Solarii arrived.
Lara starts off with no weapons at all, but you eventually build your arsenal up until she becomes a one-woman army. Lara automatically crouches when entering a combat situation and moves between cover seamlessly. This is very helpful as enemies go out of their way to flush you out; they'll shoot flaming arrows at Lara and send armoured goons after her. You can switch quickly between weapons on the d-pad and “scramble” to avoid enemy gunfire. When the fight is over, Lara straightens up and you back to exploring the island again. One issue I had was with the camera – during a one-on-one-fight, if I was targeting an enemy and scrambled to the side of said enemy, the camera would go directly behind Lara and I’d have trouble seeing where my opponent was.
One thing I really appreciated about this game is finding all the collectables (relics, documents, GPS caches) accumulates experience points which go towards acquiring new skills. Finding the hidden tomb and solving the puzzle also nets you additional skill points and experience. This is totally unlike Assassin’s Creed 3, the game I’d played before this one, where Connor collects feathers…for the sake of collecting feathers. Sure it’s nice to get achievements, but I’d like to see it have an affect on gameplay as well. The secret tomb puzzles also felt like the classic Tomb Raiders I’d played back on the PS1.
You can also hunt animals and look for crates that contain salvage in order to upgrade your current weapons. Some of the weapons have secondary uses as well. Lara can use the climbing axe to climb rocky walls and shoot a rope across gaps to climb across.
Plot-wise, I think the game was average. We see Lara grow from a vulnerable young woman to a hardened veteran. There is also an explanation as to why no-one can get off the damn island once they realise how dangerous it is. However, the crew of the Endeavour aren’t as fleshed out as Lara, and come across as two-dimensional. They get at least one diary entry each. I also didn’t think the head of the Solarii was particularly memorable either. I would have liked it if the Queen of Storms messed around with the weather a bit more. Something that was similar to how Groudon and kyogre messed with the routes in Pokémon Emerald.
Overall, I feel Tomb Raider was an excellent reboot of a much beloved series and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.