Commenters are saying Tomb raider should learn from Uncharted, MGS etc. Yes it should because they are great games. Howabout this for a new inspiration though.. Endless Ocean..
Imagine this.. As Lara, you drive your boat to a certain hidden island, no cutscenes, no breaking immersion. in 3rd person you are driving the boat, you moore and dive in with snorkel ala Underworld.. But there are not 20 sharks to kill, instead there are some fish and coral. You dive to check it out..
You swim to the beach and emerge.. the beach is rendered beautifully with the jungle looming ahead.. With a FarCry 2 style 'real world' map and compass that zooms to over the shoulder cam so you can see it in her hands, you navigate to your destination.. If the island is the games playground, it could be true open world. FIND YOUR OWN WAY through the jungle. But you would not be able to progress to sealed areas etc til certain puzzles are solved that open doors, this creates some linearity in it's game progression.
Through the jungle.. full of vibrant sounds and colours, Lizards scatter here and there, a bird chasing an insect flys through, foilage brushes past you. You stop to check out some ruins only just visible covered in jungle growth.. you notice a skeleton holding something that simply crumbles when you touch it. You go on your way.. Using the compass and matching landmarks with those on your map you find your way by yourself.
With Binoculars you are able to check out the flora and fauna in detail, rendered with love..
With your handgun you know you are safe from any predators that roam the island should one attack you, though you don't see any for now.
After a period of time you move into a clearing and find a set of ruins. This is the place your local informant had marked on the map. You investigate the ruins for a while and decipher that certain markings mean the stone floor may be able to open up somehow, you get to solving it. The puzzle is not obvious or unnatural. Blocks you need to move are not all square, ledges you need to climb are not all straight and cubic. It is a natural feeling puzzle created in a natural environment. You solve it and the floor opens, you stand in awe as it opens leaving nothing but a pool of darkness. You switch on your flashlight and descend..
45 mins gameplay or more. Only one major puzzle encountered. No enemies encountered yet.
Real feeling of exploration and wonder? feeling of achievement because the game doesn't hold your hand to do anything, you are the explorer? atmosphere? fun? ..I think it would be.
Trading some of the development time that goes into having constant action, cutscenes, setpieces, hordes of enemies etc and putting it into atmosphere, diversity, animation, rendering etc. Could this help recreate some of the success a game like endless ocean is enjoying? Would it not totally fit the Tomb raider franchise? (which has been suffering from an addiction to action for too long)
To gain a real sense of fun exploration we need natural feeling environments that are 'alive', good writing combined with level design. Environments should tell stories that are not all related to objectives.
Lastly we need surprise. Give us something amazing to discover now and then, keep us exploring further. Don't do it with a shining alien gem that can turn back time and calls forth atlantis to deliver you a gods power in the form of a giant stone penis. Do it instead with some amazing new environment or some amazing ancient mechanical architecture, or stories we can piece together from the environment of the explorers who have come before and how they perished..
Get creative and I believe it could work.. I'm interested to see where the next official Tomb Raider game can go.